Peggy Post recommends we begin our letters with “Dear,” but I struggle to find one thing dear about you. The pain and suffering you forced upon my father, my family was a nightmare.
Cancer, because of you I am haunted by my father’s screams. Do you know what it’s like to hear your real life superhero screaming in pain? It’s horrible, that’s what it’s like. You made me stand there helpless, trembling in fear as he screamed for Jesus to help him. You made me question my faith.
Our entire family suffered because of you. Throughout my father’s illness there was nothing you didn’t demand from my father, my family and me. We lived on the edge daily, never knowing if you would take him or just another piece of him. You stole my ability to behave normal in a life. Going to restaurants, special events or basic family dinners with my father was impossible because you stole my father’s ability to eat and drink. Do you have any idea what it’s like to eat in front of a person who hasn’t eaten in years? Or to quench your thirst on a hot summer day in front of someone who cannot drink? It’s torture. Because of you I cry at the sight of Italian pastries, I freak out at an abundance of food.
Cancer, you are horrible. You are violent. You are vengeful. You are spiteful. I often wonder what our family has done to cause you to take your wrath out on my father. You gave us front row, non-refundable seats to watch my father die. We never asked for those seats!
For seven years, we watched your fury eradicate his body. Seven years of treatments, medications and procedures, complete with countless doctor and hospital visits. You raided his body, hijacked every part of his being and gradually ransacked his quality of life. When you finally dismantled him, you reduced him to relying on a mask for survival. I stood by his side, grasping his hand, sobbing like a helpless child watching him order his doctor to remove the mask, the mask that could only give him perhaps a few more hours to survive on a machine. We removed the mask and waited as my father took his final breaths. Beep, beep, beep – the machines hooked to his dying body were deafening and agonizing. The gut wrenching sounds of our hearts shattering and our muffled sobs filled our tiny little hospital room that fateful evening in January. We kept vigil that night praying for mercy as my father was freed from the body you vehemently destroyed.
Because of you when the day comes that I walk down the aisle, I will do it alone. Because of you when I see a father daughter duo out in public I instantly feel a lump forming in my throat leaving me with tears rolling down my face and my heart breaking all over again. Because of you I am reduced to visiting a grave once a week, placing fresh flowers there. Because of you I am a fatherless daughter.
Cancer, you robbed my family of precious memories. You were horrible to my Dad, to my family. Despite all your fury, you never were able to steal his ability to always be my biggest fan, my protector. As frail and sick as you made him, he was always there guiding and protecting me. Even on his death bed he was offering fatherly advice, reminding me to pray, to be kind and stay strong. And now, in death my father is still showing me that God is good with his tattered bible that he left behind, his bible that he carried with him throughout his illness. Just yesterday, I was flipping through the pages and found notes in his shaky penmanship. Although I no longer have the opportunity to sit at the table with my father, hold his hands and listen to him read the bible, I have my Dad’s tattered bible to remind me that God is always with us.
So cancer, you may have made me question my faith but in the end I have realized God is much bigger than you. You may have taken my dad physically, but as long as his legacy lives on, as long as I have breath in me you didn’t win. Because unconditional love is stronger than any illness and love never dies.
Al’s daughter, Lisa