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1.18.2012

Forget talking about drugs and sex... how do you tell your kids you have cancer?


Sorry for disappearing for a few days, dear readers, but I ended up back in the hospital for emergency surgery to unblock my intestines. After a resection surgery where they cut 10 inches off my bowels and the hernia surgery a week ago, that makes 2 major abdominal operations in 8 days. Kinda takes the poop right out of a fellow, if you’ll pardon the pun. I got released from the hospital yesterday and I’m still reeling. It was an adventure of multilayered proportions, not the least of which was pain and sudden midnight skulks to the emergency room followed by days of dazed and confused. Sifting through the rubble like a forensic examiner has given me several stories to share here. I’ll start with two.

First, a trauma in the family is a game changer that you simply can’t prepare for. You can’t say “Grampy’s going to be very sick for the next 2 weeks so buck up and deal.” Instead, the urgency of now takes precedence when an unspeakable pain or injury forces you to the hospital. Now, instead of prepping the kids for a shock they wake up in the morning to find Grampy’s been spirited away in the night and no one knows what’s wrong. This happened twice inside of one week.

The boys did alright considering. They shut down. They’ve each had so much trouble and change in their lives that continuing their lives as if nothing happened is the only protection they have. Buddy stepped right up and took time off work, took the boys completely in hand and made sure nothing changed at home for them while I was gone. However, underneath it all is a subdued tension and agitation that isn’t normal. Tio is displaying concern but he doesn’t know where to place it.

This was a real wake up call to how quickly change can put the lives of everyone into a completely different place. Which brings me to my second point: the CT scan found several iffy nodes and tumor-looking-things inside me, not the least of which was the one obstructing my bowel. I may be the next victim on the cancer merry-go-wheel that we all spin at some point in our lives. I planned to keep this part from the boys until we had the lab results and could have better answers to their questions. Not to be. This new world we inhabit has no rules that we already know. They asked Tish the “Big C” question and, in good faith, she didn’t lie. She told them it is a possibility that we are still waiting to learn.

When she told me the cat was out of that bag, I better understood Tio’s heightened attentiveness and anxiety. I did not want him to think I wasn’t able to talk about it so I sat down with him and laid it all out. The pros and cons, the possible bad and hopeful good. “I’d rather you knew the real dark side, than invented one that could be much worse,” I said. He had questions. I gave answers. They’ve just lost a grandmother, Tio’s mom has moved away again and I may have cancer. So much for a 13 year old to grasp and accept.

No matter what happens next, our lives have started down a new path that none of us has much experience in. I’m going to spend a few days blogging the ins and outs of what happened and how I see us going forward. I told Tio that I’m not afraid of death. When my time comes, I’ll be ready but I’ll not go easily into that dark night.

But, man, I don’t want to pull my family through a meat grinder of pain and uncertainty. Here’s hoping we just had a scare and no more.