Monday, April 27, 2009

A diagnosis.

My father has leukemia.

It's a statement that doesn't get less strange each time I say it. My father has leukemia. It's called Chronic Lymphocitic Leukemia (CLL) It's a blood cancer, where the healthy blood stem cells develop abnormal lymphocytes and don't become white blood cells. In turn, people with CLL don't fight infection as a normally healthy person would. This, actually, explains why my father has been continually sick (unable to fight off even the smallest infection) for an entire year. With this type of cancer, the lymphocytes increase in the blood and bone marrow, which leaves less room for healthy white and red blood cells.

While it's a strange concept to me, this type of Leukemia is the most common type for adults. And, the chances of developing this type of cancer increases with being white, male, and over 50.

In the "Leukemia and Lymphoma" world, this type of cancer is known as the "watch and wait" cancer because treatment is postponed until the chromosomal mutations occur. So, depending on how long my father has had this cancer (without knowing) will determine when treatment will begin. (I'll know on Thursday how advanced his case is)

It's such an odd thought - knowing that the blood that is running through my father's veins is contaminated. The very thing that is keeping him alive is also killing him. Irony. heh.

In truth, I feel numb about the whole thing. When telling people of this diagnosis, the words sound like lies coming out of my mouth -- in a way that I haven't convinced myself that it's real. Not that cancer is something that is extremely rare in my family, but just that it's my father - MY FATHER! My father, who is caring and kind, witty, and a bit of a smart-ass. The man who can find humor in any situation. The one who can fix anything. My father has leukemia.

Of course, it's difficult for me being away from my family during this time - but what is more difficult is trying to talk to them about it. It's like my family has gone in to "Crisis Communications mode channeled by Mr. Rogers". I understand that they want to paint a pretty picture of the situation to help us all feel better - and I understand that until we know what the treatment will be (and when it will begin) there's not much reason to be completely engulfed in emotion, but feel SOMETHING, please?! I can handle crisis. I can be upset and still be okay - but it seems that my family is trying to protect me from feeling anything with this diagnosis.

Call me crazy (and some have) but I think that it's okay to be upset, it's okay to be scared - in fact, it's probably healthy to feel that way. But why can't my mother and father admit that they're scared? I'd rather know that they're worried than to get the "Oh we're fine! Don't be upset, we're all just fine!" when I know it's not completely true.

The thought of one day losing my father was something I wanted to bury in the back of my mind for many many years - now, the realization that my father will eventually be taken by cancer is in the forefront. I understand that he's got time - depending on the diagnosis and treatment, he could live 30 or 40 more years! (This, is what I'm hoping for) But it's still crippling to imagine a life without him in it. I don't want to.

For now, I will continue to pray for his heath (both physically and emotionally) and do whatever I can to help him in this journey - it's going to be a long one.

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