Out of the Mouths of Babes

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Starting in 2006, Cancer Pathways of Seattle, Washington started a unique program called Cancer Unwrapped Writing Contest. This program uses the power of writing to allow the children of families undergoing cancer treatment the opportunity to write about their own emotions and experiences. Ten years later, this writing contest is still successfully helping families cope with pain and the stress of cancer. We want to thank Anna Gottlieb of Cancer Pathways for sharing some of these heartfelt stories with us. Search Out of the Mouths of Babes for more stories.

Coffee, Bedpans, Rehearsals, and You, Daddy by Sydney Kaser

I am ashamed of how I feel and I’m not afraid to admit it. I blush at the thought of what I want. The thought of what I pray to God for every single day. Pray to the God that I don’t think exists; but I do it anyway. I won’t pretend that I’m OK. I won’t tell you I’m fine when I know you know I’m not. I won’t smile just to shrug you off. I won’t tell you lies just to get you off my back. This is my reality and you’re welcome to it. My father has leukemia. Yes. I said it. It doesn’t make it any less real or any better. It just is.

It’s always something. It won’t make me forget the nights I stayed up listening to the vomit hit the bedpan. It won’t make me forget the look on my mother’s face that day in November when she told me my daddy had cancer. It won’t make me forget the stringent smell of antiseptics that seemed to follow my daddy when he hobbled around the nurses’ station after his second round of chemo. It won’t make me forget the crushing sensation in my chest every time I walk through the doors of the hospital, holding my sister’s hand. Just like we used to when we were little. It won’t make me forget the smell of acrid coffee that penetrated my clothes every time I left his room in search of crackers and a Diet Coke. It won’t make me forget the fight I had backstage with my friend on our last dress rehearsal. The day I lost it. The day I couldn’t stop crying for two hours. The day I lost control of my senses and became weak and frail. And I wasn’t the one with cancer.

It’s really always something, isn’t it? I know that I should be strong and supportive of my daddy; should do everything my mommy wants me to do. But sometimes I just want to curl up under a rock and die. Make this all go away. Dear God, make it all go away. Let him die so he won’t feel any more pain. Let him die so our lives could start to stabilize again.

Stop these constant trips to the Emergency Room in the middle of the night that wake me up when all I want to do is sleep it all away. My father screaming at my mother because he can’t open one container or another. Yelling because I did the dishes like he asked but forgot to put away the clean dishes in the dishwasher. Yelling because he can’t function like he used to.

He is now reminiscent of a small child: unable to do everything for himself. Sometimes he can’t make it to the bathroom in time. Then he cries when we try to help. Dear God, please. Make him better or make it all go away. Daily I see my daddy give himself insulin shots. And he is deadly afraid of needles. I see him choke down pills, a dribble of water running down his chin, and then he smiles at me when he can breathe again. I see the bloody protuberances from his eyes glisten in the light of the T.V. that is almost always on now. I look into his eyes and imagine I can see the floaters that are starting to blind him.

It’s always something, one thing or another. But, this is my daddy. The daddy that used to drive me to rehearsals for a play or for orchestra. The daddy that I used to have long talks with on the way. The daddy that came to every flute recital or concert, regardless of how inconsequential it was. Now he can’t get along very easily, and he can’t be around big crowds because he is immune-suppressed. This is the daddy that cried one day when I came up to say hi after school. He said he loved me and he said sorry for all of the things he’d said and done in the last few months. The things that were hurtful, and scary. The things that I just wish would stop happening. I believe him when he says they won’t happen again. But I know that I can’t really trust him. It will just happen again on another day when he isn’t feeling well. Oh well. It’s always something with him. Always something new each day. A new bruise, a new cut that opened up on his friable skin. His skin just like aging paper. Maybe it’s a new pill. A new pump to attach to his Hickman catheter line.

A new infusion mommy needs to give him. It’s always something about daddy, about mommy, about my sister, about leukemia. About me.

One Comment

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    Michele Wheeler / January 15, 2019 at 7:52 am /Reply

    Anna, this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. Thank you for having the guts to put your full self out there. I have stage IV cancer, and twin daughters that are 15. And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your honesty, even about, especially about the hard parts. It is the greatest gift.

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