You know how when you break up with someone and suddenly everywhere you turn you are reminded of them…and it totally sucks!?!? Well, that was life after my dads cancer diagnosis. Every billboard, commercial, radio ad. Cancer was everywhere! It seemed as if every person I met either had cancer, knew someone with cancer, or lost someone to that filthy disease.
My family owns an Italian restaurant in Astoria (Portalia) – come check us out! – after my dads diagnosis, every single one of our loyal costumers would ask how he was doing. When I first moved home I joined the local gym, and even my workouts would be interrupted by people asking how my dad was. In many ways, I felt like all of Astoria had him in their prayers, on the other hand… I couldn’t escape. — I stopped going to that gym, by the way.
Up until early March, I did a lot of sugar coating when it came to answering those questions,”He is doing ok” “he is hanging in there”. After a few short months I had my responses memorized and would repeat it time after time like a script. It was the only way I could talk about his illness without forming that massive lump you get in the back of your throat when your trying so hard not to cry…It’s how I became numb.
For me, I was already loosing my dad. Sure he was still here, I could hug and kiss him and hear his voice; and don’t get me wrong I’m incredibly grateful everyday for that. But he wasn’t my dad anymore. Cancer stole his soul.
My father Antonio, is 53 years old, originally from Portugal and raised in an orphanage, he is incredibly resilient. He’s tough from the inside out. He has worked his way from the very bottom and is incredibly proud of all he has accomplished, including raising my brothers and I on his own. For as long as I can remember he has always been hardworking. You know those crazy bike messenger guys zooming in and out of traffic down 2nd avenue? (New yorkers know what I’m talking about) that was him, commuting from client to client as he raised us on his personal training salary.
I always remember my dads hands being so rough, covered in calluses and peeled cuticles, they were the hands of a man who had some depth. Months into my fathers sickness, his hands turned smooth, the calluses had healed. One day he joked about it in his accent “soft because I don’t do shit anymore’ he said. — After radiation and chemotherapy he slowly stopped going to work, we barely saw him around at the restaurant. I cant even remember a time when my dad stayed home sick from work, and suddenly he was spending all his time in bed. The most difficult part was watching him loose interest in the things he once loved. Then he dropped weight, became weaker, for a few weeks he lost his voice due to the extended hours of coughing. He was slipping away, there’s no other way to describe it.
This is what cancer did to our dad. In future posts you will learn how it changed our family, our relationships, and how it changed my life. (Aside from the fact that I’m now a year behind in grad school) *eye roll. The good news is that he is doing better…MUCH BETTER! and maybe thats why I can finally write about this, no lump in my throat… FYI!