The other night, my parents invited me and my brother over for a “chat.” We arrived to find champagne and a savory summer spread, so we knew something was up. Indeed it is: I swear my dad is healthier than I’ve ever seen him in my life. He has this glow about him and his blue eyes are so clear that they sparkle. Pretty rare for a 65 year old guy who’s spent much of his life running himself ragged. Pretty incredible for a guy who has cancer.
Eleven months ago, my dad was sucker-punched with an out-of-the-blue diagnosis: colon cancer. We were in shock. But our family – with my dad as the ringleader – decided to believe in miracles, to trust the right remedies were within reach, to view this as a journey through healing vs. a battle with illness. That’s not to say there haven’t been moments of despair or anger; cancer’s scary, chemo sucks and people say the dumbest stuff sometimes. It would be easy to spiral down while trying like mad to keep spirits up.
But in many ways, cancer has actually been a gift. For starters, it literally grounded my dad. For decades, he traveled like crazy for work; last fall, his doctors insisted he stop flying. It was a huge change for him – but it forced him to shift his priorities, to delegate responsibilities, to slow down and find a new groove. And there’s something about knowing my dad is always just a few minutes away – rather than far away in yet another random city – that gives me such comfort now.
Turns out our champagne toast was to celebrate some amazing news: after eleven months of treatment, my dad’s latest CT Scan showed some tumor shrinkage. Wow. His doctors, of course, credit the latest chemo cocktail they’ve been trying. But I suspect it has just as much to do with my dad’s decision to live fully rather than frantically, to expect good health rather than chase it.
Cancer inspired my dad to finally treat his whole self – body, mind and spirit – with TLC. He has altered his diet. He sleeps more. He meditates. He experiments with complimentary medicine, from healing touch to seaweed supplements. He adores qi gong. He loves my mom even more and recognizes all she does for him. He listens to his body and respects its limitations. It’s been amazing to witness.
I’m still mad at cancer and really want it to leave my dad alone. But I’m also oddly thankful for it. It has inspired him to live with a renewed sense of purpose and joy. And it has intensified my appreciation for everyone I love and the time we have together.
So, I raise my glass today to this dance with mortality, to the family and friends I so adore, to knowing what matters, and to my brave and beloved dad. Cheers.