Please Don’t Tell Me Everything Will Be Okay

You don't know that

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A young Jim Perry holds his daughter Mazey. Mazey was 15 months old and sitting with her dad was one of her favorite things to do.

On Wednesday, October 5th, 2016, I came home from dance to find my parents sitting at our kitchen island. I came in and hung up my bag just like I do everyday. They looked at me in a way that I had never seen before. My mom’s eyes were puffy and soft, my dad’s were slightly sad but hard at the same time. I sat down to ask about their day, like usual, but that’s when my mom cut me off. She said she and dad had something to tell me. I asked what it was, concerned but not especially worried. What came next was something that I never could have expected.

My dad was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. I kept asking myself how this could be happening. My dad, the athletic, healthy-eating, non-smoking man I knew, had cancer. I couldn’t piece it together. For days my head was clouded with a gray haze. Within the first week of my knowing, I received texts and calls from relatives telling me they were sorry, and that they would always be there for me. For a while, that was enough. The constant support each person gave me made me feel like everything was going to be okay.

Four months into his chemo treatment, I hit a wall. I couldn’t handle watching someone who had always been so strong be beaten down by the chemicals the doctors prescribed. Every other week, the chemo would take over his body, and my dad disappeared into the void that was his dark bedroom. Nobody could understand what I was going through, and every time I would voice how I was feeling, I was met with a “don’t worry Maze, everything is going to be fine.”

In those early months of treatment, the words “everything is going to be fine” were enough. They made me feel better. Now though, those words are numb. They lost their meaning. I just kept thinking, “How can you tell me everything is going to be fine? You have no idea what’s even going on with my dad.” Yet still, deep down, they gave me the smallest glimmer of hope that maybe, he would be okay. That at the end of these six months of hell, he would come out clear and this nightmare would become a distant memory.

The memories are what made those six months so difficult. The cold was too much for my dad; skiing, sledding, and all the other winter activities we used to do were gone. The carefree afternoons we would spend together became less and less frequent until they were almost non-existent.

After half a year of missed dance recitals, half-tried holidays, and no winter activities, he made it. In June, we got the all clear. The cancer was gone and I had my dad back. All summer we went up north, and did all the normal things my family does in those three easygoing months.

The school year started, and I was ready to have a normal year. Everything was going as planned until Sunday, December 16th. My parents called me into their room and had me sit on their bed. They told me they had to talk to me about something. I again, could not have prepared myself for what was about to come. My mom didn’t even try to hold it in this time. Tears filled the bottom of her eyes as my dad told me it was back.

It was back.

I always wondered what dying was going to feel like. I’m pretty sure I can tell you now. My body just collapsed and the sound of my heartbeat filled my ears, as I tried to get the words that just came out of my dad’s mouth to be taken back. Make it stop, take it back, please, were the thoughts that flooded into a never-ending whirlpool inside my head. I couldn’t breathe.

“Okay” was all I could manage to squeeze out of my dry throat. I was asked if I had any questions. Did I have any questions? I had endless questions. How did this happen? Why did this happen? How are we going to go through this again? These were just a few of the thousands.

This time it was different. I didn’t want to tell anyone the news. I didn’t want to talk about it. Eventually, my mom made me tell some of my friends just so that they could be aware of what was going on. People were nice, and I got those same texts and calls from relatives.

“Don’t worry, everything is going to be fine.” Over and over again. The first time those words were numb, but now I knew they weren’t true. The cancer came back, so everything wasn’t fine, and now, I still question if things will be fine. This time, the doctors don’t have a set length of time for treatment. It has been six weeks, and we don’t know how many more there are to come.

 I get asked if I’m scared or worried about my dad. The first time he was diagnosed I would have answered with yes, but that I was sure he would be okay in the end. Now when I get asked that question I say yes, but I don’t have the reassurance in the back of my head anymore. I sat down with my dad a few weeks ago and told him that if he thought he wasn’t going to make it, that I wanted him to tell me so that I could prepare myself. That conversation was one that I never want to have again.

The thought that the cancer could eventually win is one that is constantly there, and until he has been clear for five years, it always will be. Bad news is something that I can deal with now. As hard as it is to have the thoughts of cancer in my head all day, every day, it’s now just part of me. I have the sad, happy, funny, and loving parts in my head, and my dad and I have always shared those, but now we both have a cancer part and it is just something that we live with and deal with. Knowing my dad has it too gives me a sense of comfort, because I know I’m not alone.