Around Thanksgiving, when I finally was to get a moment to breathe from life as a graduate student, I found out that my father was in the hospital. He had been having a lot of trouble walking and was falling down a lot. I got a call from family to tell me he was in the hospital and that the doctors suspect that he might have cancer. Being a crazed, tired grad student who also works and is trying to be an artist and a business owner at the same time, I quickly tried to figure out what to do and was on a flight to Florida from Chicago before I knew it.
Right before I got on the plane on the evening I was set to go, I was told that it was cancer and that he started radiation treatments that day. I can’t begin to tell you the feeling of finding out something like that in the middle of the airport. There’s a small part of you that goes off. You feel nothing and everything at the same time. I didn’t cry. I couldn’t feel sadness. It was a weight that became a part of my body, as if a new organ sprouted in the middle of my core. I had something new in me, my own kind of growth that probably operates similarly to what was happening in my father’s body.
Being a writer, after calling my mother and probably hearing her shed more tears than I could possible feel, let alone shed at the moment, I opened up my notepad on my phone. I wrote this while staring at some girl’s stupid designer overnight bag: “He started chemo today at Chicago O'Hare airport. Next to gate K20 in front of a Kate Chopin bag. The Awakening of his daughter's ribcage starts on his spine, the lights flashing for take off ‘your emotion and sit back for the fight.’ ” Makes no sense and I still don’t know why I chose Kate Chopin and The Awakening as signifiers for anything in a line, but my brain was buzzing and only words could quiet it down for a moment, even if they didn’t make sense. But I do know that it was the beginning of waiting, choices, and struggle.
My father has Stage 3 Multiple Myeloma in his spine. He went through 14 rounds of radiation and is currently in remission as of the end of December. But his legs are not in great condition. He is still in the hospital as of March and is in physical therapy, trying to regain strength in his legs so he can walk again. He is improving, but it is a slow and painful process.