Thankful for dad after cancer battle

Ali poses with her dad, Christopher, at VTSU Castleton.

December 29, 2021 was a normal day. 

I was a senior in high school on Christmas break. I went out with my grandma to get lottery tickets and Starbucks, something we did regularly.

 I went back to her house because my grandpa needed help with setting up Paramount Plus on the TV, and she wanted to show me her father’s penny collection.

Very exciting…

I spent the rest of the day watching YouTube and making jewelry, my current hobby at the time. 

The house was quiet. My sister was in her room and my mom doing the dishes.

Then I heard crying.

I had a typical life growing up. I lived in a nice house, a nice neighborhood, my parents had good jobs, school was fine, and I was happy.

In April 2014, when I just turned 10, my parents sat my sister, Lucia, and I down and told us they were divorcing. It was not shocking as they argued often, but I was still devastated.

That summer we moved out of the house I spent the past seven years making memories in.

They did the co-parenting thing and although it was rocky the first year or so, my relationship with my parents became stronger. 

Everything was fine until January 2018, when we were told my dad was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer, which had spread to his liver. It was so far along he started chemotherapy at once, meaning my mom had to take over the role of mom and dad. It resulted in my mom moving us upstate to her parents, leaving everything behind. 

Toward the end of the year, he got so much stronger although he was still sick. Since then, he has had countless surgeries, chemo rounds, colostomy bags and so on and so on, but he has been able to take us on trips and play the role of an active father. 

November 2021, he is getting surgery at Sloan Kettering in New York City. Surgery to remove the itty-bitty lesion on his liver, one he has had several times prior. 

Monday after Thanksgiving he went in, and it went well. He stayed in the hospital for the rest of the week and then released that Friday. 

The days he was home, I didn’t really communicate with him as he was resting, but the few times I did he wasn’t recovering the way he did in the past. He ended up back in the hospital with an infection.

We didn’t really know a lot but, but he ended up getting sedated a few days later. 

I found that out through a text from his friend. That was not ideal. Luckily, my aunt, who is his health proxy, started to give us daily updates on how he was doing though they were not that eventful. 

Until that night. 

I heard sobbing from my mother. 

I can only count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen my mom cry, and I just knew. 

My heart dropped. I felt sick. I ran downstairs not even pausing the episode of Dance Moms I was watching and not even turning off the game I was playing on my phone. 

Mom’s face was all red and her phone was to her ear. Through my panicking I heard her say things on the line like “should we come down?” “Is his girlfriend there?” “Are your parents coming?” 

Lucia and I are both in the kitchen now shaking, begging our mom to tell us what happened. She sat us down and told us that dad had stool coming out of his side and when the doctors saw it, they said they couldn’t do anything else for him and called his sister to say goodbye. 

That one sentence changed my entire life. I was screaming, pulling my hair, this can’t be real.

 Mom kept trying to tell us that he’s been sick for so long and can’t do it any longer. I couldn’t breathe. I saw my little sister hyperventilating, something that still sticks with me this day.

Mom explains how she’s crying as she’s devastated for us and that he doesn’t deserve this. Explaining that even with the divorce eight years prior, that doesn’t mean she’d wish this upon him. 

We have never been the religious type of family. In fact, my mom loathed going to Catholic school growing up and despises when her parents try to include her in religion. But we prayed. We prayed for Daddy and Imp (the college nickname he has, what she used to call him until the divorce) that he’ll no longer be struggling here and for him being so brave on this five long battle of cancer that he was about to lose.

I lost track of time while waiting for my aunt to call back. I do remember it being almost midnight and I was thinking about how I would continue my life without my father? Who would walk me down the aisle? Who would be ‘Papa Imp’? All these thoughts racing through my mind not even knowing if he was still alive. 

My mom’s phone rings.

 This is it.

 Is he gone already? 

I clutch Lucia’s hand. We’re still shaking. I felt sick so I ran to the bathroom but when I came out, she said that they were able to get it under control and were going to do a procedure. 

He was still sedated for over two months after that. But he was able to somehow fully recover from this infection.

Almost two years later, he’s still fighting, but is doing great. Working full time. Taking my sister and I on vacation. Cooking for us. Things the way they were. 

We are still not entirely sure how my dad lived passed that night. We joke about that often. But it goes to show how special he is. 

I am so lucky he’s my father. 

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