Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The unexpected

I read this yesterday:
The official diagnosis by Oncology this AM:"Adeno Carcinoma of the pancreas which has metastasized to my liver"*In other words - I have Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer which Metastasized to my Liver. *My prognosis WITHOUT future Chemo therapy is 6-12 months.

This is not the facebook update you want to read from anyone, let alone your friend who is a 35 year old single dad with a bright five year old son. I'm heartbroken and thankful that because of his age and relative health (other than the stage 4 cancer) the doctors are willing to start an aggressive chemo program. It won't be easy and no matter what, miracles included, he's looking at a 5 year window. I'm traveling next week for work which will put me within an hours drive of the VA hospital where he's been the past 2 months during the diagnosis process.

We have a date to visit, but he has the option to wave me off at any point - including if I'm standing at the door and he's not up to it. I hope I get to see him, but naturally I'm nervous that I'll say the wrong thing. ;My instinct is to take him comfort food or a cozy quilt for his next few months of chemo, but I think I'll just go an listen to him.

 We worked together at MegaBank and our relationship was good, I liked him from the start even though it was mostly us on the phone, email, and Instant Message. I think we only were in the same city four or five times in eight years. When things at the bank started to go south, he would call and express his worry, stress and fear and after the bank died we continued to talk from time to time but mostly in the "TP is a great listener" way. So, since my gift to him has always been the ability for him to unload I'll sit and listen as long as he likes.

This visit won't be about my sadness or fear for him but in this venue I can share here that it scares the heck out of me.

Jason and I started doing our estate planning in November and are finally wrapping it up with the attorney this week, which has resulted in phone calls to our most trusted family members to ask the horrible question "will you be willing to take Lucy if something happens to us?" Monday, when I made the phone call to the back up I said "not that we'll ever need it." But, you can't know that for sure... no one can. Seeing someone realistically faced having to work out who will continue the job of raising his beloved child is awful, and almost too real to think about.

I know that Lucy would be loved and nurtured by anyone in our family who took her in. Financially she would be fine, but naturally I want to be there to give her "the" talk when she thinks she ready to date. I want to be the one to talk to her about why it is important to be nice to all the kids, not just the popular ones. I want to be there to talk her off the ledge after her dad tries to teach her to drive. I want to be the one to tell her when she's crossed the line, or when she needs to push herself harder. I signed up for that, willingly.

Lucy has an email account and I send her mail from time to time. I told her all about her first birthday, I write to her when I'm traveling and have tried to encourage the grandparents to write to her. I hope that when she reads these messages that she doesn't think its silly, but I like being able to tell her stuff when I'm thinking about it and not wait until she's eight or ten to tell her these little things.

Our wise #2 Lucy adopt-a-parent suggested that we leave with our wills a letter that talks about our intentions for her regarding religion, morals, money, that sort of thing. I'm not sure we could sum it up into one letter and it would change from year to year, but maybe I'll try. I have faith in the folks we have selected for Lucy and there are no conflicting values that cause me any worry, so a care and feeding letter isn't forthcoming from me just yet. A current where to find the insurance, who to call at our employers, where the will is located and who our attorney is letter is forthcoming.

I think it's natural to look at other people's suffering and want to help and I think it's honest to say "whew, thankfully that isn't me". I don't think we need to live under a shadowy cloud of "oh it could be me at any moment" but learning from others and accepting a wake-up call is important. I'm praying for my friend and his son.

I hope I get to see my friend next week and I hope that he is at peace and ready to battle. I also hope that if there comes a point where the treatment is doing more harm than good that he'll have the courage to stop and simply be with his son. I hope, I hope, I hope...

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