My dad just recently turned 50, birthdays for him have become more precious to our whole family recently.
In April of 2007, I dropped my dad off for a colonoscopy early in the morning before driving to school. In the weeks following that test, a rapid progression of event including a stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis, an invasive surgery, and the beginning of chemo therapy followed and then I found myself graduating from Perry High School in May.
I finally made my decision at that point in time to attend Malone College and commute from home in order to be there with my family. During those weeks between the diagnosis and graduation my dad and I talked about my perfect attendance thus far and he said it wasn’t worth it just to go sit in the hospital.
Spending my first year of college so close to home was the right decision at the time. I was there to take my dad to chemo and there to cook for him when my mom was at work. But toward the end of my freshmen year, I realized that I wasn’t experiencing college, I was going to classes and experiencing cancer. I decided to transfer to Mount Union.
Shortly after my transfer my father took a job at a church near Pittsburgh, where he could work and be close to treatment options. We’ve pretty much exhausted everything and the doctors have replaced the word “cure” with the word “treat.”
However, once I decided to experience college I started learning more than when I just went to class.
Having a family member with a serious illness on top of attending school full time and working is a serious struggle at times. But at times you have to do what you need for yourself. Only a few of my professors know about my father’s cancer. I do not take perfect attendance nearly as seriously as I did in high school. When your family needs you, people will help you out, classmates with give you notes and professors often don’t count it against your attendance.
Some of the adjustment has affected my organization meeting attendances and I leave my cellphone on my desk in class and have no problems leaving to take a call.
It is possible to positively deal with both coursework and cancer at the same time. It’s a struggle, but chances are you aren’t alone. Everyone is in some way affected by cancer.