Cancer Has Not Changed My Father
My father has stage IV renal cancer - chromophobe type. This type of cancer has a rather dismal prognosis. The odds of surviving more than a year were less than 5%. Apart from surgery, my father opted not to accept treatment. After my research, I believe that if I were in his shoes, I would have made the same choice. The available biologic agents for this type and stage of cancer rarely extend life for more than a few months and significantly decrease quality of life.
I thought that the experience of cancer and being faced with his own mortality would change my father in some way for the better. But cancer has not changed my father. Several years ago, my father went through a quadruple heart bypass. Right before the surgery, when he thought he might die, he briefly became a nicer, better human being. This quickly wore off once he knew he had survived surgery and would go on to live another day. A similar thing occurred when he was diagnosed with cancer. He talked about feeling the need to be more giving and less selfish. He seemed like a kinder person for a brief period of time. After his surgery and with some time passing, he went back to his old ways. I quickly learned that his brief periods of being a better human being were selfish as well. His reason for treating others better had little to do with any true, heartfelt decision to be a better person or make anything right with those he has wronged or hurt, but instead was all about getting himself into heaven. My father has rather simplistic notions regarding religion and faith and this was his way of being right with God should he be heading there in an imminent manner.
For as long as I can remember, my father has been an exceptionally cruel, abusive man. His words cut like knives. He is mean-spirited and judgmental. He is intolerant and impatient. He says whatever he feels like with no regard for the feelings of others. When others are wounded by his words, he throws out "just kidding" as if that could take back his words or accuses others of being overly sensitive. He physically abused me and my brother. His emotional and verbal abuse created even greater wounds. He went on to emotionally abuse my elderly grandfather. He is a horrible grandfather to his grandchildren who love him unconditionally. My father has not softened over the years. He remains a selfish, heartless, cruel man who belittles, judges, and goads others.
I work with cancer patients daily in my chosen profession. I have been amazed at the courage, resilience, and strength I have witnessed in the majority of the people I work with. I have seen many people closely evaluate their lives when cancer strikes. Many begin to live in a more deliberate way. They gain perspective. They realize what is truly important to them. They value the people in their lives even more. They tell others what they mean to them. I had hoped that my father would take a good look at his life when he was diagnosed. I had hoped that he would see the life that he has lead and wake up to the harm he has caused and use this as an opportunity to make amends or make different choices or do some things differently. This was not the case. If anything, cancer had made my father a more selfish person.
I have struggled with my own feelings about him since he was diagnosed. Since my father has been an incredibly harmful person to be around, I had distanced myself from him over the years. Since he was diagnosed, I have made many good faith efforts. I have provided help, support, information, presence, etc. I even offered for him to come for a visit. I gave him more chances after I believed I was long done with giving him chances. I believe I needed to know that I had tried and I did not want him to die without allowing him the opportunity for things to be better, even a little bit better. My father did come for a visit and it was a disaster. He was cruel and horrid and abusive. He was a tyrant. He said things that were unforgiveable.
I pity my father although I am not sure he deserves my pity. I believe it is sad that when he passes, the only person who will probably honestly be able to say that they love him and will mourn him is my mother. My mother is the only person my father treats well. My father will be remembered for the way he lived his life and the memories he leaves behind are ones that cause pain.
My father taught me well that life is neither fair nor just and that I should not expect it to be. There is no fairness or justice when good, wonderful, loving people die far before it is their time. As I mentioned earlier, my father's prognosis was quite grim. And yet, he is now almost a year and a half out from his diagnosis and there has been no recurrence, in fact he feels better right now than he had for years. Although I do not wish death upon him, there seems to be some kind of sick injustice in this as well.