In the days and weeks following Dad’s diagnosis, I found myself looking around at other people who weren’t dealing with mesothelioma and feeling jealous. I remember thinking that they were able to live their lives uninterrupted, unchanged, when my whole world had just been turned upside down. Then, I began to question things; how will I ever be able to smile again, how will I do my job again, how will I ever be able to do anything “normal” again?
The answer took me a long time to realize, but it was quite simple. You just do. At that point in my life, I would have loved to trade places with anyone else who hadn’t just found out that their father had cancer. I wanted to run from it and pretend that it never happened. But those things weren’t possible. It was time to “be a big girl” and face my new reality head-on.
There was so much to do and figure out, especially once we decided to go to New York City. Planning and being in a strange place seemed to distract me enough to focus my attention on what was important. Prayer brought me comfort and solace. My family and friends brought me strength. God brought all these things to me.
Once the surgery was over and we were back home, I wasn’t sure how to move on from all the trauma that my family had experienced. Adjusting to a new lifestyle was difficult. It’s easy to let yourself fall into a pattern of guilt. Why do I get to continue with things “business as usual” when Dad has been faced with this disease? How do I continue to live three hours from my parents while they are in such a tough spot?
Again, these answers took me a long time, and it was a more complex response. First, Dad wanted all of us to get back to our normal lives and not dwell on the mesothelioma, just as he wanted to move on from it. Secondly, you cannot let your life be completely consumed by a diagnosis.
Do I worry about Mom and Dad every day? Absolutely. Do I help with anything they need as much as possible? For sure. Do I feel guilty for living my life? Sometimes, but by and large, no. I was an emotional wreck for quite a while, and I really think that me getting back to my normal life was a huge relief for Dad. Mom and Dad know that I would drop everything for them at any moment and help them with whatever they need. That is what’s important. The love I have for my family, and they for me, is amazing.
I have said previously that before you can take care of someone else, you have to take care of yourself. That remains true in this situation. Be happy, be there for your loved one, and be present in every moment. Don’t feel guilty for living the life that God gave you – that’s what He intended it for!