Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I knew it...

I knew it when I first heard the diagnosis: metastatic lung cancer. (I understood metastasis.)
I knew it before I looked up the symptoms and statistics at the NCI Web site.
I knew it when I figured out it was stage 4.
I knew it wasn’t lymphoma, the progress was just too fast.
I knew it as I watched him decline, as he suffered.
I knew it when I sat with my parents in Dr. Cainin’s office this morning, and held my mother’s hand. (Dr. Cainin is a very thoughtful, kind man.)

But now it’s official: My father is terminal.

My dad is going to die.

The only issue is when. 50% of lung cancer patients are dead within eight months of diagnosis. 98% are dead within five years, and most of the remaining 2% were young, healthy and caught at stage 1 or 2. More than 80% of its victims smoked regularly. Given my father’s age, health and advanced stage, it won’t be long.

For cancer victims like my father, chemotherapy is not a curative—though it may be a palliative. At best it is a retardant: It typically extends life 2–3 months, albeit some patients respond while others don’t at all: “The cancer doesn’t seem to notice it.” [Dr. Cainin] My father is having his first round of chemo even as I write this. We’ll know within two weeks if it is having any effect in retarding the advance of his disease.

Happy Thanksgiving.
Happy Chanukah.
Merry Christmas.
Happy New Year.

It doesn’t matter how much he has accomplished. It doesn’t matter that he will be 81 next Monday (yes, his birthday) and has had a reasonably long life. It doesn’t matter.... There is no consolation. I am going to lose one of my two best friends in the whole wide world. (My mother is the other.) My dad is going to die. Soon. And I have a front row seat. My pain is indescribable.

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