Cancer, Family, Growth

Father

Father – fa·ther \ˈfä-thər\ (n.) a man who exercises paternal care over other persons; paternal protector or provider

Sit down, grab your favorite drink, and get comfortable – this is going to be a long and emotional post. With Father’s Day behind us, I finally feel I can share my thoughts and emotions as well as some background about my relationship with my father.

My father and I weren’t very close for most of my life; he was a very busy man. He believed in working hard every day to provide for his family. It is because of his work ethic that I am the hard worker that I am today; I’m very grateful for that (my mom also has a great deal to do with that). He wanted to make sure that his family never went a day without food on the table and a roof over their heads. He was the paternal provider and protector, and he fulfilled that role to the best of his ability through working. However, this also caused a rift in our relationship because he often prioritized his work above all else. To an extent, I can understand that – I’m also extremely passionate about my job and want to give all of myself to it; the difference is that I see how this can affect my relationship with my husband, family, and friends. Unfortunately, my dad didn’t come to that realization until the last three years of his life.

Two years before my dad was diagnosed with cancer, he made several powerful changes in his life. These changes opened doors for me to build a true relationship with him – to get to know him more. Within those two years I truly identified as a daddy’s girl, even though he had always called me one. I learned that he was more than a hard working man. I learned that because of his upraising, he had a different understanding of how to show love; he rarely showed affection to me.  I didn’t understand that right away, and don’t fully understand it now, because I know he wanted to be a different protector and provider than that of what he was exposed to in his own childhood – executing it seemed to be difficult for him. His efforts, however, were redeeming and enlightening. And even after his passing, I continue to learn more about him.

In the fall of 2016 his right leg stopped working – it became paralytic. After a series of tests the doctors revealed that my dad had grade IV Glioblastoma Multiforme cancer – a very aggressive brain cancer. My parents had called all of our family to come to the hospital at one time, and I had no clue what was coming. I never would have guessed it. When my mom told everyone, all of us crammed into one small hospital room, I immediately started crying, and my daddy asked me sit with him in his bed. I remember being shocked because I was confused and angry; I kept repeatedly telling myself, this can’t be real. This can’t be happening – not to my family. But in that moment, my daddy was holding me, being strong for me, and coddling me. I wasn’t used to affection from my father, and in a raw moment of fear for himself, he was strong for me in a way that seldom experienced. That moment was beyond bittersweet, and I’ll never forget how it felt to be in his arms.

Based on current research, his doctors gave him a prognosis of about 14 months to live if he went through treatment. Going home that night I remember lying in bed beside Kaleb and crying before finally telling him that I knew daddy wouldn’t make it past 14 months. I understand how negative that sounds, but I was angry with God. He was taking away the daddy he had just given me. Kaleb and my entire family remained positive, but I knew that very night that he wouldn’t be one of the rare cases that lived on for five, ten, even a remarkable 15 years.

While he was sick, my dad was like Superman compared to the man I knew two years prior. It brings to mind the saying “you never know what you have until it’s gone.” I think he felt the loss of his children’s youth and needed to make up for it. And I quickly realized that I needed to embrace my father, through the good and the bad, before he was gone. Before the tumors consumed a majority of his brain, my dad made up for the 20 odd years of my life before that. It was beautiful and sad.

I remember so vividly what my dad said one night in his first few days in the hospital. There were only a few of us in the room, and between sobs he said, “God has let me do things my way all of my life, and now He’s telling me I need to do things His way.” My anger with God subsided. My daddy’s words helped me to realize that my emotions were so loud that I was drowning God out. While I still feel the pain and emptiness from the loss of my father, from the moment I wake up until I close my eyes at night, I realize that God is the only one that can relieve me of that pain and emptiness. I also realize that God granted me with three years that I didn’t expect to have. The thing I’m struggling with most for now is the last day of my daddy’s life. It’s difficult to shake the feeling inside the room with my siblings and mother. I was continually rubbing my daddy’s forehead while my siblings and I shared aloud our favorite memories with him because we truly hope he could hear us. The atmosphere in the room began to shift, and I knew it was coming. So I continued to stroke his forehead until he took his last pain filled breath. Ultimately, I’m grateful that my Heavenly Father nurtured me in the moments that my dad couldn’t, and even now in his absence. I’m also grateful that God blessed with an amazing mother, brother, best friend, and husband to support me in moments of weakness.

Moving forward, I cope with this loss in various ways. I first saw a therapist, before my dad even passed, and stopped my appointments because he insulted my dad when I was in a very vulnerable state. I then picked up on adult coloring books (yay!), but found that it wasn’t enough for me to channel my emotions into so much as it just distracted me for a brief period of time. I now rely on family, my husband, and two other very important hobbies: writing letters to my dad and playing loads and loads of Skyrim.

While I acknowledge this blog was long, emotional, and probably unorganized, it was very cathartic.

Thank you.

“Because someone we love is in Heaven, we have a little bit of Heaven in our home.” – Anonymous 

 

 

 

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Momentum

momentum \mō-ˈmen-təm, mə-\ (n.) strength or force gained by motion or a series of events

And what a series of unfortunate events. There’s a great deal of pressure on this first blog post. It’s new, it’s public, and it’s authentic. This all terrifies me. Vulnerability is one of my greatest fears, and yet I am opening myself up to the public to be judged. I don’t know what it will create, but I’m forcing myself to open up to whatever it may be.

For now, I feel the most appropriate place to begin is with the singular event that hurled my life into the direction that it has been heading for the last three years. (Hello there, Momentum!). It all started with a very expensive consultation with the only (and “best”) TMJ specialist in my region of Southeast Tennessee. My jaw had been giving me trouble for years, my headaches were building, and I found that it was difficult to distinguish whether the increasing headaches were from the stress of college or my jaw. My mom felt it was best to invest in the consultation fee of the aforementioned doctor because my headaches were accompanied with absurdly long naps. Several months and several thousands of dollars later we discovered that the small cushions that lie between the “hinges” of your jaw had slid into a pocket behind said “hinges.” Basically my bones had been grinding on one another for years (insert raunchy hip hop music video here). That’s right, years of popping, locking, and grinding had left my jaw brittle and arthritic (although the rest of me keep rocking until I’m 90). And can we talk about the fact that my damaged muscles, joints, and jaw aren’t covered by dental or medical insurance?! No, not for now – I’ll save that rant for later (for the sake of keeping up the momentum and whatnot). After phase one of treatment, the doctor determined the continuity of my headaches must be the result of something else and referred me to a sleep specialist.

Now enters the abhorrent sleep doctor. After a series of very annoying tests, I was diagnosed with Narcolepsy – the neurological disorder/autoimmune disease that most people don’t understand or deduce to laziness. I’ll get into all that lovely jazz in another post – I mustn’t sacrifice my momentum. After this event in my life, my health plummeted and continued to waver until about sixth months ago. Before my health stabilized (only as far as Narcolepsy is concerned – that’s right, there is much more fun ahead!) I lost three family members, began a career teaching, and got married. What a bittersweet three years it has been – and I’m still riding on the waves of the moment of that one very expensive consultation.

I have yet to decide how much I am willing to share on this blog, but I’m very adamant about being entirely authentic – it’s cheaper than a therapist. There are some people in my life that might disagree or dislike the choices I may or may not make in the posts to come, and that’s okay. I’ve learned that in this world you’re always going to offend someone regardless of how hard you try not to. Since writing is my passion, and also my therapy, I’m making the decision to continue with the momentum and invite others to experience it with me. As a teacher, I feel that the following are some of the most important life skills I can model for my students: embrace your authentic self, own the choices you make, and follow momentum past any resistance that tries to keep you stuck in the past. I may falter – I’m human – but with the love and support God has blessed me with, I’m pushing forward toward greater things.

“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” – C.S. Lewis