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So My Dad Has Cancer

So My Dad Has Cancer

So My Dad Has Cancer

So… My Dad Has Cancer

By: Mariam P.

 

My stepfather was just diagnosed with prostate cancer.  I felt winded when I heard the news. This incredible heart of a man raised me, loved me, and quietly and gently supported everything I did.  It's that moment in the stories you have heard your whole life, from grandparents, distant family, your parent’s friends and as you grow, your friends…. Come knocking on your door.  Mortality. You know it is coming, someday but you do not ever know how or when. Your parents are going to die. 

You hope that it is in a bougie recliner chair  at age 102 watching a favorite program on TV. 

 

Although my heart sank with the news, I am pragmatic.  I am a caregiver. I, myself, am married to a 91 year old man after all and my stepfather is 70 years old.  Why is the news so hard? My immediate reaction is alright, no problem, we stop the cancer, do whatever it takes, fight, change the diet, take the meds, etc. 

 

Then I took a deep breath…… 

 

I have been working on a start up for 2 years now specifically to empower aging people to live their years GLORIOUSLY from the comfort and preference of their own home.  To put them firmly in the driver's seat and support younger family members that struggle with guilt of not being able to do more, or living far away or fearing that something might happen to their parents.   Flipping the script society has on devaluing people as they age and finally treating them as the champions of their own journey at every age. 

 

I knew I needed to behave differently regardless of what my insides were screaming from the fear of losing my step father. 

 

It is  late stage cancer and he is very calm. So here is what I did. 

 

I asked questions and I listened. 

 

I asked him to tell me about the diagnosis. And I listened. 

When he was done (approximately 3 hours), I asked him how he felt. He said he felt fine. And I asked differently, how do you feel about knowing you have this diagnosis.  Are you scared? 

 

He said no, there is nothing to be afraid of. BOOM! I knew instantly that he gets to dictate the energy of the situation and I would mirror him.  How HE felt mattered. This was about him, his life, his journey and his emotions. Up front and center, in the driver's seat of this road trip. I was going to be the best passenger for him on this journey, keeping him company and offering any support or help he requested.

 

I said. Ok then. I love you and I want you to know that I want you around in my life as long as possible, but this is  your life and your diagnosis and I am here to support you in what you want to do. Is that ok? 

 

He said, thank you. That would be great, honey. 

 

Me: So what would you like to do? 

 

He went on to tell me about upcoming tests and doctors appointments and I asked if he would like us to come along.  (Full disclosure, he is in California and I am in Malaysia, so I was volunteering my two sisters at this point). He said he would love us to come if we would like to. 

 

I asked if I could call him a couple times a week and ask him how he was doing and if there was anything he needed and he said, “Of course, I love talking to you”. 

 

Listen folks, two years ago, I would have called my mother (his ex-wife), and my two sisters, decided what was best for him and fought with him the whole way until we got our way, always hailing that we loved him and we wanted what was best for him. We would have taken over his diet, his exercise, his privacy, HIS LIFE. 

 

The research my partner and I have done and the hundreds of seniors, olders, super seniors, adult children, caregivers and advisors that have taught us so much in the past two years has fundamentally changed the way I will walk in the world with my olders forever. 

 

Before I got off the phone, I asked him if he wanted me to tell my mother, and he said sure, I am not hiding it but don't feel like calling everyone and announcing.  

 

I called my sisters and my mother and repeated the call I had with him and shared what he would like to do and that we are honoring his right to decide for himself and we can show him love by supporting him the choices HE determines are best for him whether we agree or not.  Because that is what I would want for me, to make my own choices and be loved and supported along the way. 

 

It is tough, but he deserves it, my mother deserves it, your mom deserves it and I deserve to make the choices for my own health and life and finances for myself too…. At 46, 70, 90 or 105! 

 

 

LOVE YOU DAD !

 

Update: I wrote this over 16 months ago and he is doing GREAT!