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[personal] Fatherhood in the time of cancer

Driving home last night from dinner, I was listening to NPR. Terri Gross was interviewing Scott Simon about his book on adoption, Baby We Were Meant For Each Other. Simon was talking about the mechanics of the adoption process in China, which are very familiar to me as that is how the_child joined our family. Then he started talking about child abandonment and orphanage life in China, which saddened me. Those are realities with which I am reasonably conversant, in the context of being a complete outsider, and they are certainly the realities of my daughter’s early life.

What really broke me was when he then started talking about being an older parent (Simon was 50 when he and his wife adopted their first daughter), and what it would mean when he passed away and left his children behind.

When you peel back all the prognoses and tests and procedures and psychotherapy and family support and love, underneath it all, I truly no longer expect to live to be old. This conviction didn’t emerge until the first metastasis in my lung. The second metastasis which I’m currently dealing with in my liver has only deepened my sense of fatalism. These days, I define a successful life as one in which I survive in reasonable health long enough to see the_child graduate from high school. She’s about to start seventh grade, which means I need to hang in for six more years. Or, given the current metrics, through six more recurrences of my cancer.

None of this is logical. It’s probably not even all that mentally healthy. On a day to day basis, I work at being positive, and I believe I largely succeed at it. (Though calendula_witch might beg to disagree.) But when I’m being honest down to the bone, I don’t see a long future for myself.

That just is. And in some ways, I think I’ve accepted my sense of mortality. I will fight for every inch, all the way to full cure or to the end, whichever comes first. If it does come as I fear, I will have many regrets — books unwritten, places unvisited, people not yet loved, the grief and loss of my parents. But what I want the most is to see the_child into adulthood in good order. What I fear the most is never being able to do that.

Sometimes love is a bitter cup.

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