A year ago I moved to New York City. Moving to the city was easy, I sold all of my belongings, arriving with just two bags and a backpack. It took me a few weeks to settle in, get familiar with my neighborhood, find the closest coffee shops, and Trader Joe's but overall, I was feeling right at home. What I didn’t expect was becoming emotionally paralyzed; handicapped and unable to make room for anything other than my survival.
Two years ago, I found out that my dad has a very aggressive type of prostate cancer and that surgery wasn’t an option.
I have never had to face the possibility of losing someone close to cancer before. There was so much I didn’t know — What options are available if we don’t want to do chemo? How much time do we have left if treatment doesn’t work? Oh my gosh, what if my dad’s not around for... I think you get the idea. Lots of questions, lots of unknowns and a lot of fear.
They put him on a hormonal treatment, and life went on as normal. My dad was feeling great, his PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) levels stopped rising and all we could do was wait, pray, and hope that the numbers would go down; that the cancer would digress and ultimately disappear.
Then, last spring, we got a report that his PSA numbers were rising, which meant that the treatment was no longer working. All the fear and all the questions came rushing back, but this time it was worse.
Not to discredit the reality at hand and the emotion that cancer ensues within its victims, but I let fear cripple me beyond what it should have. I was overwhelmed with anxiety, allowing worst case scenarios to play on repeat in my head, not to mention the added stress from all the change I was dealing with.
Fear may have caused me to hit pause on my ambitions, but this wasn’t entirely regrettable. It’s sad that it often takes something like this to make you realize what’s important to you, and not that family was ever not important to me, but it certainly increased the value I place on the time I spend with them and the conversations we have.
So instead of working on Tapered, I spent all the extra time I had on an unforgettable year with my family. Simply enjoying them and enjoying life as we waited on test results and a new treatment plan for my dad.
Last fall my dad received a blood transfusion treatment that is proving successful. He is not cancer free yet, but his PSA levels have dropped well below what doctors expected.
There will always be things in life that cause pain and fear to rise up. There will always be unpredictable situations that drive us into uncharted territory emotionally, physically, and mentally. But there is also always hope and the choice to live knowing that God is good regardless of what happens. Even when the worst of the worst happens, He is still good. I have made my peace with that and have made a commitment to choose to live in that place instead of letting anxiety paralyze me the way it did.
Regardless of what you believe, we all have a choice in what we dwell on. Thinking about what life would be like without my dad and all the things I would hate for him to miss, only increased my anxiety. I don’t mean that we should live in denial but that we should lean into hope so as to live above the “what ifs” and to engage with the people that matter and the work that matters.
My heart goes out to anyone who has ever dealt with cancer. This is no easy thing that we all process differently and time is all we can give ourselves. As much as I want to feel disappointed in how little I produced last year, I needed time to feel and to process and that’s ok. The fear of losing my dad is definitely not gone, but I would rather be grounded in goodness than immobile from anxiety so that I can laugh, love and still pursue the things that may seem fickle in comparison. Finding joy, even in the midst of pain and uncertainty, is so hard but it’s possible and it’s important.