Sunlit Water

July 28, 2006

Father Of Mine

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 6:56 pm

Today is my dad’s birthday. He’s 59.

I have a lot of respect for my dad. He’s the only person I know who’s equally comfortable talking to professors and truck drivers. He’s very shy (like me), so it’s really more that he’s equally uncomfortable, but the point is that it’s equal. He’s like me in a lot of other ways, too; I’ve already mentioned that he’s more comfortable around women than men, but he also rarely cries and is afraid of birds. A lot of people seem to have difficult relationships with their fathers, but I’m not one of them. My father and I don’t talk much to each other, but that’s mostly just because neither of us talks much at all. Overall we get along quite well.

People who only like happy posts should probably not click through to the extended.

My dad has cancer. He was diagnosed a little less than a year ago when he had intense abdominal pains and had to be rushed to the emergency room. It turned out he had a tumor that completely obstructed his colon. They took it out and did a temporary colostomy, but the cancer had already metastasized to his liver.

He’s been on chemo since then. They started him out on a regime that included a new drug as part of a clinical trial; it seemed to work very well at first, but later its effectiveness started to diminish so they switched him to a different mix of drugs and took him off the trial. The main side effect he had was fatigue, which seems to be pretty common; he didn’t even lose his hair (although he might with the new regime, which he just started). He’s actually doing quite well, and the short-term prognosis is pretty good.

The long-term prognosis, however, is a different story. Although it’s quite likely that the chemo will work and the cancer will go into remission, it’s very likely that it will come back. The way the doctors have been talking to my parents, it sounds like for this kind of cancer a life expectancy of 5 years is optimistic.

We try not to think about that, though. It’s best just to go on with life. He’s doing well aside from being tired a lot, and we’re thankful for that. He’s even applying for a job, and it sounds like he has a good chance of getting it. He hasn’t been able to work lately for obvious reasons, so it would be good if he could have something to occupy him.

It feels like there’s been a lot of cancer going around lately. I don’t want to drag everyone’s spirits down, but I felt like I should share my own story.



  1. I am so, so sorry, Teo. He sounds like he has some of the best western qualities, that indifference to social class. I really hope that the long-term situation turns out better than you expect.

    Comment by bitchphd — July 28, 2006 @ 9:02 pm |Reply

  2. Thanks, b. It’s interesting that you mention western qualities, because I do think of him as representing a certain kind of western masculinity (though definitely not in a traditional way) that you don’t see much in other regions.

    Comment by teofilo — July 28, 2006 @ 9:07 pm |Reply

  3. I’m so sorry to hear about your father, Teo. From your portrait of him, he sounds like a great person in addition to being a good father.

    Comment by Becks — July 28, 2006 @ 11:45 pm |Reply

  4. I am sorry to hear about your dad, too.

    Comment by winna — July 29, 2006 @ 12:24 am |Reply

  5. Thanks guys.

    Comment by teofilo — July 29, 2006 @ 12:25 am |Reply

  6. Oh. I’m so sorry. Like B, I hope that you’ll have more luck with the long-term prognostic than is currently, surely dourly, given.

    Your description of your father isn’t far from how I’d describe my own: equally uncomfortable with all classes, trending classless. Mine also doesn’t talk much, or at least certainly not about emotional matters. We talk sometimes about politics, and sometimes I prod him to explain some matter of science to me, purely for the pleasure of hearing him speak with confidence and expertise. My mother has consistently been the emotional go-between, an arrangement which poses its own problems. Someday I’d love to hear my father’s version of his own stories, but I can’t think of any way, even with a grim diagnosis, that he’d be able to tell them. And even thinking about ways to persuade him into doing so feels wrong.

    Still, write down what you can. Write down what your mother can tell you. Write down everything, and feel free to pry, a bit.

    This may be the Mormon in me surfacing–collect your family history! But, still. When my grandad was dying and then died a few years ago, his barmy memoire, which would have been 20 handwritten pages without my mother’s Mormon family-history ethos, helped me mourn. And that was finished some twenty years before he died, and it helped me to understand, as I was growing up, what motivated him. Writing as many memories down as possible can only be a good thing.

    I’ll be hoping for your family.

    Comment by Jackmormon — July 29, 2006 @ 12:25 am |Reply

  7. Your descriptions of your family have always seemed familiar, JM (except for the Mormon stuff). My dad’s not quite as uncommunicative as yours sounds; he does tell stories, and it’s a pleasure to hear him hold forth.

    I’ve mentioned at Unfogged that genealogy is a hobby of mine (me and the old ladies), although I haven’t done much of it lately. I try to collect all the stories I can. It’s hard, because my dad’s family went through a string of deaths when I was a little kid that included most of the older generation, including my grandmother, who was the keeper of the family stories (and heirlooms). She loved family history. My dad isn’t as interested, but he tells the stories he remembers.

    Thanks for the support.

    Comment by teofilo — July 29, 2006 @ 12:31 am |Reply

  8. I am sorry to hear about your dad, teo. Hopefully he’ll be able to get that job.

    Comment by eb — July 29, 2006 @ 12:47 am |Reply

  9. Thanks, eb. I hope so too. If not, he could probably do some more adjuncting.

    Comment by teofilo — July 29, 2006 @ 12:52 am |Reply

  10. If you’re already interested in the family history, the very nerdy Mormon advice would be to try a taped interview with whoever is on hand: just get them talking, ease them past the awkward “for posterity” part, and be interested in what they have to say. Very nerdy, very awkward.

    I’ve never done it; it’s a very intimidating project, and I’ve so far reaped the benefits of my relatives’ family-history fervor.

    (I’m not sure I’ve been fair in my depiction of my father; he’s uncommunicative about almost everything relating to his own emotions, but he isn’t silent. But this isn’t the place for that.)

    Again, Teo, best of everything to you and yours.

    Comment by Jackmormon — July 29, 2006 @ 1:07 am |Reply

  11. Hey, Teo, hang in there. It’s hard as hell, but the hard times are worth a lot in their own warped way. FWIW, we just finished a very nice dinner with my sister-in-law and her boys, among others. She was diagnosed with Stage IV appendiceal cancer, which I gather is a close but unusual cousin of colon cancer, six years ago, and she’s going strong. The sword’s still hanging there all the time, but you can do a hell of a lot of living while it does.

    You’re doing it right. Best wishes. Don’t know how to say it to convey that I really, really mean it, but best wishes.

    Comment by DaveL — July 29, 2006 @ 3:39 am |Reply

  12. Sorry about your dad, téo. Not much more to say than that. Best wishes to you and your family.

    Comment by Cala — July 29, 2006 @ 4:03 am |Reply

  13. Oh, teo, I’m so sorry. In my experience, the “cancer comes back” is the worst part of it. I can only imagine that knowing that in advance makes things (a little?) easier.

    You, your dad, and your whole family have my best wishes.

    Comment by mrh — July 29, 2006 @ 10:38 am |Reply

  14. Thanks everyone for the good wishes and support.

    Comment by teofilo — July 29, 2006 @ 1:15 pm |Reply

  15. My father and I don’t talk much to each other, but that’s mostly just because neither of us talks much at all. Overall we get along quite well.

    This describes me and my father fairly well. Best wishes for your father’s health.

    Comment by My Alter Ego — July 31, 2006 @ 8:28 am |Reply

  16. Best of luck to your father, and to you in dealing with all of this.

    Comment by washerdreyer — July 31, 2006 @ 10:46 am |Reply

  17. Thanks for sharing your story. My family are waiting to hear results of my father’s biopsy, which he should have this week, so I found it particulary moving.

    Comment by emr — August 1, 2006 @ 1:00 pm |Reply

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