At the funeral, a friend of the family asked me if I had ever known someone with cancer. I shook my head no, I had never closely witnessed anyone go through something like this in my life. She went on to say that she had seen the signs early on, and had pointed it out to another neighborhood friend who hadn’t been so astute. Or whatever her point was in telling me this. I had definitely not seen the signs early on.
I still haven’t figured out how to talk about this, as I’m attempting to put it to words on paper now I feel the onset of emotion: throat closing up, tears welling in the back of my eyes. I wish I could say I’ve gotten better at holding it back, but I haven’t. I’m still sad. It’s not a debilitating sadness, I simply don’t let myself go there anymore. But sometimes, certain triggers pop into my head and I can’t help it.
Which is part of the reason that I feel like I need to write about it. Like an albatross around my blogging neck, I feel like this is something I have to share before I can write about my next vacation or Sunday by the pool. If, at the very least, to let a little bit of the pain flow from me onto the metaphorical paper that is this blog.
My boyfriend’s dad passed away in February after a very quick battle with liver cancer. When you hear liver cancer, you might immediately think alcoholic. In most cases you’d be correct, but not this one. This was one of the rarest forms: bile duct liver cancer. One that isn’t caused by the abuse of alcohol, doesn’t have obvious symptoms, and one that most often isn’t discovered or diagnosed until it’s too late.
Here’s the timeline from my perspective:
- In late October, when he came to visit California, his dad wasn’t feeling very well. He had some kind of bug, but for the most part still seemed like his usual jovial self.
- I went home with Nathan to Texas for Thanksgiving. While again, his dad wasn’t feeling 100%, he still partook in the all the traditions they had involving football, turkeys, neighbors and family.
- When Nathan when back home for the holidays in December, he called me on Christmas Eve and told me that they found lump on his Dad’s liver, so he was going to stay home a few extra weeks.
- In February, Nathan and I had planned a vacation to go to Canada for Valentine’s weekend. The night before we were going to leave, his Dad was hospitalized. We flew to Dallas instead.
- I came back to California on a Tuesday to go back to work. Nathan’s dad passed away the following Friday.
A lot of the time, I feel guilty for crying. For feeling this loss as deeply as I do. I find myself justifying my relationship with Nathan’s family: I have known Nathan since college, and we’ve dated for almost 3 years. Is this necessary?
Here’s the thing. Nathan’s dad was someone who I always assumed I would grow to know more of and better as the years went on. Someone who would be at our wedding, who would be in our lives and the lives of our future children for a long time. Having this person suddenly gone from not only the present but also the future is something that I have not come to terms with yet.
Throughout the countless articles I read, it’s taken a while for me to realize that it’s okay to feel this way. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Sadness does not have to be justified, and feeling emotion does not make me weak. It makes me human.