My Superhero

October 20, 2018

I always thought of my dad as this invincible superhero who could defeat anything in his path, and protect me from all the bad things in this world. But I learned at an early age that no one, not even the strongest ones are invincible, from cancer. I was six when my dad first became diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He didn’t fit the description of a person who got lung cancer, he wasn’t an avid smoker, he didn’t drink; nothing about this diagnosis seemed to add up. I remember when I was first told those words, I had no idea what they meant, and thought cancer was like a cold, it could get better. But then I heard the word six months to live and high chance of death, as my mom was talking to the doctor and I knew that this thing called cancer was something much more serious. In the first months, my dad didn’t seem different, we still went to the donut shop together, him getting an apple fritter and me a maple bar. We still drove in the car listening and singing along to the radio while going to the grocery store. He still went to my dance recital and took pictures with his favorite camera, the only thing that changed was his lack of hair. Then that normal I always knew was gone, as he now sat in a wheel chair as we went to Kanas to visit his family. The flight attendants were telling me to call this button if there was an emergency, and in that moment, I knew that he was sicker then I first thought. Those half way normal moments were gone once we got back, as if they were just from my imagination.
My dad was now lying in a hospital like bed in our living room, nurses going in and out of our house as if it were an actual hospital. He could not get up and walk, or play catch, he could not even eat by himself. The strong superhero I once knew, was now weak and fragile. As if once touch could break him. The night of fourth of July we were all watching the fireworks on the TV in the living room. My dad asked me if I wanted to sit with him on the hospital like bed; I hugged him, but I chose to sit on the ground. That’s the moment I regret the most, I would go back to that moment in a heartbeat and sit with him if I could. I would ask my superhero father every little thing about him, and write everything down. The last full memory I have of this time is the night before, the disease ended my superhero dads fight. I was lying on this Dora sofa as my mom was reading to my two little brothers, and I turned to her asking, “Is daddy going to die” it was as if my mind finally accepted the truth even though my heart did not want to. I fell asleep before my question was answered, though my mind already knew the answer.
The brain is a complex thing, some memories get erased from the mind as if they were never there at all, and some memories stay glued to your brain no matter how much you want to forget. My embedded memory was the day of my dad’s death. I was watching Joel Osteen in the kitchen, when there was this scream, and then people were rushing into the living room in a panic. The paramedics arrived, but I never saw what happened next as we were rushed out the door to go the aquarium with a neighbor. I did not want to go to the aquarium as if everything was ok, I wanted to stay to make sure my dad was ok. That afternoon when I returned from the aquarium all of the equipment was gone, everything was silent, and my mom cried as she said daddy died. I could feel tears waiting to splash out of my eyes, and I was angry at myself for hoping he was going to live, the doctors for not being able to cure him, and I was angry at my dad for giving up and dying. But mostly I was angry that I never got to say goodbye, and tell him I love him. That was the worst part never being able to say goodbye, and what sucks is that there will never be anything I can do to
change that.
The funeral was a blur, all I really knew was all of these people were here, but they didn’t have the aching pain in their chest, they didn’t know how hard it was the past four months. All they said was your kids are young, they’ll probably forget. They didn’t see how much I had to grow up, and face the hard truth, how I had been robbed of my childhood. I didn’t want their condolences and pity stares I wanted my dad back. I wanted to go to the park and have him push me on the swings, I wanted to laugh with him. I would give anything to go back and have just one more moment with my dad.
After my dad died it was hard to accept that he wasn’t coming back. I had to remind myself everyday he wasn’t at the grocery store picking up food, but he died and is not going to walk back in the door. Realization is hard because brains want to daydream about the impossible possibilities, but to accept my dad is dead and he’s never coming back took a long time. Knowing my dad won’t see me graduate, get married, teach me to drive, breaks me and sends me into tears. The heartache of losing my dad never ends. It’s always there, the pain, the guilt, the suffering, the constant ache in the back of my throat that threatens the release of new tears. But I learn to live with the loss, and remember that my dad would have wanted me to enjoy and cherish every day. Growing up I believed my parents would always be with me every step of the way, so I never thought one of my parents would die. My dad dying from cancer taught me a lot of things from living life to the fullest to having no regrets. But it also made me realize what I want to be when I grow up; an oncology doctor. I want to prevent families from going through what I had to go through at such a young age, I want to save people from these horrible diseases that rob one from their entire life. I want to create a safe space for kids to go to when they feel no one understands their situation, because there are people who went through the same thing.
Watching someone die from cancer, I believe is the worst way to watch someone die. Cancer is not sudden and quick, but long and drawn out, where you see this whole, full of life person disappear into a weak, pale, almost deathly figure. You forget this person was full of life and happiness once. With cancer you can’t blame anyone, because it’s really no one’s fault, though it took me a while to see that. Cancer makes you doubt your emotions, because on one hand you want this person to live but on the other, you just want them to escape the pain. Cancer takes deserving people away from this earth every day, and until a cure is found deserving people are going to continue dying and leave their family in heartache. My dad will always be my superhero, because to me he still is invincible, the cancer was stronger than him on earth, but I believe he is still fighting for me and my family up in heaven.
Sarah Irion