Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Why I'm Not Allowed to Read The Fault in Our Stars

I've mentioned numerous times that I'm not allowed to read The Fault in Our Stars (click here for a full recap of every mention).  But it's about time that I get over my fear of this book.  It's just a book.  A book about teens with terminal cancer sure, but a book none-the-less and if I can read marginal books about teen pregnancy and werewolves, I think I can handle one little book about teen cancer.

But maybe I can't and here's why:

My mom and dad both had cancer.  Here they are at my wedding in 2009.  That's almost 6 years past my dad's second round with cancer and three years before my mom's diagnosis.  Dad was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2000 and liver cancer in 2002.  Mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2012.  I should have a huge ALFAC cancer policy right about now, but I don't.  Kim does because she's the smart one.

Dad's first round of cancer caught us all off guard.  He was 47 and otherwise healthy so he was treated very aggressively.  It's not fun to talk about, but I saw my big strong dad reduced to skin and bones and laying in a hospital bed for weeks at a time.  I was a senior in high school and staying at the farm by myself while my mom stayed in the hospital with him.  It made me tough and it made me appreciate my family in a whole new way.

Dad's second round hurt because we thought this was over.  The diagnosis came right before Christmas and shortly after New Year he had 75% of his liver removed.  I was away at college during the worst of it, but I came home for Spring Break and he was back down around 120 pounds.  Being over six feet tall, that's not much to go around.

But he rallied.  It wasn't easy on him or my mom or our family.  It's still not easy today because there are some everlasting complications that give him pain, but he's here.  He walked my sister and I down the aisle, he met his first grandchild and now he gets to enjoy retirement with his wife of 40 years.

Then right before Christmas again, mom was diagnosed with cancer from a routine pap test.  It's amazing really that a simple test like that actually detected her cancer, but she got lucky somehow.  To deal with her diagnosis, mom repainted the house.  I'm not kidding.  She painted all but two rooms in her three bedroom ranch, and only left two alone because Doug and I had painted one last summer and the other got a paint job recently too.  If the weather had been fit she would have been out painting sheds and silos.

I went with my parents when mom had her surgery this February and that was a tough thing for a daughter to do.  I couldn't help but think who had it worse, my mom or dad.  Dad knew exactly what she was going through and now mom had a better understanding of what it was like for dad.  And I just sat on the outside and watched and tried to keep it together.

To say that my mom was a trooper is an understatement.  She was actually pretty incredible at this whole thing.  She had the surgery then found out that she would have to have chemo.  She took several six hour rounds of chemo with time off in between treatments.  My sister and I had to schedule our visits around her treatments because the week she was just too tired for company.  But when we did finally get to see her, she was doing great.  The only giveaway was that she lost her hair.  Dad managed to keep all of his through his treatments, but mom lost hers.  My brother in law shaved his head for her, and then my little nephew shaved his head too.  I am still letting my hair grow out because I want to donate to Locks of Love again (and let's face it, I'm not brave enough to be bald).

I've known plenty of other people with cancer-friend's parents, church members, other family-but this is how it effected my most private life.  And this is why cancer is a tricky subject for me.  It's not something that I have experienced at a distance and it's not something that I can take lightly.  I know that even a book-just words on a page-about this subject will reduce me to tears in no time.

So, I'm counting on you, John Green, to make this worth my time, effort, and tears.  I'm going to read The Fault in Our Stars this summer and I'm going to let you know how it goes.  I can't hide from a book just because the subject scares the bejesus out of me.  Although I'm still not reading any books about zombies.  Or opossums.  They're just really stupid overgrown rats.  Why aren't more people terrified of them!

If you are reading this, then I encourage you to hug your family and hold them tight.  Today might look beautiful and bright, but tomorrow might be full of clouds.  Excuse my while I call my parents to tell them how much I love them!

I love you mom and dad!!