November 11, 2008

Sandwich woman: Spread between cancers

Cancer now links my daughter and my father. I am equally helpless with both. Jelly.

I watch my daughter joking, hearing between the words the fear of the unknown.

I watch her face as she shares an update on my father that comes through my brother indirectly as he warns us to no longer consider a hospital recommended the week before. Now, my brother is unsatisfied with the care given my dad as he lets it slip that there is no feeling below the arms, that he expects The Call any day.

I think of the last conversation with my dad, the day I had to tell him what my daughter had. I heard his voice, and wish I had not. I wish I could have held forever the memory of what his voice was, not what it is. He spoke for a long time and I could feel love and fear, even as it was impossible to decipher the actual words.

I am not the perfect daughter. Not even the good daughter. I thought there would be more time, that first I had to be strong. And then, when I was ready to hear more stories, ready to make more decisions, I had to leave again. We are good at postponing, it is our tradition.

News of test results slip into conversations between my daughter and nurses or receptionists. But, then, as if they realize what was just revealed they stop reeling off the results and say the doctor will explain all of this on Thursday. Thursday can't come fast enough. Thursday should never come.

We talk of hoping that her hair will grow back curly, of a friend's offer to turn her mane into a wig, the weirdness of where hair grows and where it doesn't.

I listen. I worry. I collect information, I help where I can, I answer the emails and phone calls. I debate - how much truth can she hold now and what is the truth.

For years, it has been my father and my daughter who have visited me at the hospitals, who offered their own brands of humor and caring to nurse me through challenges.

It is hard to believe that now I am to be the strong one, the filling between the two generations stung by cancer.
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