nels is across my lap and i’m spanking his tighty-whities to the beat of his favorite lily allen song

I’m nervous about tomorrow morning. My parents are meeting with my father’s oncologist to discuss his recent PET scan. I have been sad about something but haven’t yet said anything: we have some not-good news as of a couple weeks ago. My father’s CEA count (which is basically, a cancer indicator – read some medical jargon here if you really want to) jumped 20 points at the last test (hence the diagnostic PET). One thing this probably means is he will be off his “nice” chemo soon and back to a nasty one that makes him sick most of the week. Really sick. And full of rashes and nausea and all sorts of un-fun things.

I am dumb and superstitious about that CEA number. If it jumps, I think, He’s going to die. It feels like as hard a blow as it did seven years ago when he was first diagnosed. I am just as upset, and I have just as much of a denial reaction, I am angry at anyone who doesn’t understand what this feels like (which is a lot of people).

Yet I also feel like I’m supposed to have some sort of perfect balance of support, optimism, faith, and gritty realism. Somehow I’m required to have this perfect attitude that will tip the balance towards: longer survival. If I don’t stay vigilant (doing what?) then he will get sick and die. Then there are the days I know that no one is assured any number of days, the moments I am at peace with the inevitability of death, they days I am just glad to have another day. These are the days I walk with the kids in the sunlight and am filled with joy. But then the “can do” attitude admonishes me – not to give up, not to get complacent. Be a winner! – somehow… or… he’ll die. I will be partly to blame. It’s exhausting.

It’s also a helpless experience, because as much as I follow his health and ask how he’s doing and try to be there for him, I can’t help him. Not really. First off, he doesn’t ask for help in any clear way (very few people do). Secondly, I can’t take away the sickness and the poison in his veins no matter what I did (I just add other nourishing things like homemade meatballs and fresh lemon meringue pie).

We moved here in large part to be with family while family was sick and struggling. I am daily glad of this choice although it meant leaving things we loved. If I hadn’t moved here I’d get to avoid experiencing these troubling and exhilarating times. That would probably feel more comfortable than it feels right now. But I’m not really a person who seeks comfort above all else.

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