Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Beast Rears Its Ugly Head

The news that I have been dreading arrived yesterday in a phone call from my mother. My father has cancer.

During exploratory surgery yesterday, the surgeon removed a 1x2 cm lump from the lower part of my fathers right lung, along with several lymph nodes from the upper chest. The cancer diagnosis on the lump from the lung came within a hour of the surgery, and confirmed the suspicions of my father's primary care physician. We will have to wait another day or two for the test results on the lymph nodes. The key to his condition are the lymph nodes. If they are not cancerous, then my father's chances of survival are quite good. Otherwise, he faces an uphill battle for recovery.

My father took the news well. Since he was first informed in January about the shadow that appeared on his chest x-ray, he has been in complete control of the situation. He speaks with his doctors regularly, and asks relevant and informed questions. All of the medical decisions are his, although he calls me and my sisters frequently for advice.

Earlier this month, he was given the choice between surgery or a minimally invasive procedure called a needle biopsy to determine the nature of the lump in his lung. After some agonizing and many discussions with my uncles and cousins (several of whom are physicians), my father made the choice to go ahead with the surgery. It turned out to be the right choice.

For the past three years, I have been working sporatically on a project to document my parents' life through videotaped interviews. I've also been bouncing around the idea of writing a book about them as well. The consequence of my father's diagnosis is the realization that I need to accelerate these projects, perhaps by taking a leave of absence to visit my parents or even through technological means (video conferencing?). My children need to know about their past, and I am afraid that I am running out of time to complete the job.


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