Friday, February 26, 2010

Two Weeks In

I almost feel normal again.

It's a new normal though, not the normal that I felt slightly more than two weeks ago, when my biggest worry was why the hell hasn't Dan's W2 from his last job come yet, when words like glioblastoma multiforme and chemotherapy and DCA weren't part of my vocabulary. But I have whole blocks of minutes where my stepfather's diagnosis of inoperable and incurable cancer isn't the primary thing on my mind.

Two weeks in, and the thing that sticks most firmly with me is this: the difference between both of your parents being healthy and fine and one of them being sick, really sick, is like night and day. You can feel as new normal as you want to, but the thing is, you know you won't ever feel like you did before again.

We went over on Saturday for a quick visit. Tom looked the same--he looked eerily sunny, even--but he had trouble getting the word celebration out. It was almost like he was translating from a language he knew well to one he didn't. "Cell...cele...celebrate? Celebration." He had trouble earlier in the day with the word vacuum cleaner, my step-sister-in-law said, and he mimed vacuumming so that they could understand what he meant. Any time he mentioned someone's name, he had to go through a list of names before he got to the one he wanted. "Max...no, Dan...no, David...no, Nathan," he finally managed to get out. Mom said that he'd called her everything from Wendy (his daughter) to Gloria (the cleaning lady) before he finally arrived at Mary. The step-sister-in-law, who's a social worker in a school for autistic kids and used to working with people who have trouble expressing themselves, made him an illustrated guide to people he knew to help him.

I think maybe the hardest thing about this is how Tom was fine one day and sick the next. And he is definitely sick. He walks with a walker. Sometimes he falls down. He takes a lot of Percoset. But our days are taken up with a lot of chatter about Duke University, and University of Michigan, and a schedule for radiation and chemo, and DCA, and trials he might qualify for now before his Karnofsky score deteriorates further.

My advice to someone whose parent is diagnosed with an illness like this: don't expect to get over it. Don't expect things to look the same again. Ever. The sooner you realize it won't, the sooner you can start to fall into your new normal.

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