Within a week of being diagnosed with lung cancer, my father, Gordon Watson, passed away on October 1, 2019. There was not even enough time for the testing to be completed to establish his prognosis. Just like that; one second, he was here on this earth and the next he was gone.
Cancer of any type is terrifying for the patient from the moment they are diagnosed until the end, but what about the families? We tell ourselves that we have no right to feel certain ways. We have no right to think we know what they are going through; we are not the ones facing death and we have no right to have an opinion. But we do have a right to all the thoughts and emotions that come with cancer. We can be just as scared, we can feel as though we were the ones diagnosed, we have a right to feel as though we are the ones facing death; because we are. It may not be our physical death, but it is a death of a part of our hearts, our spirits, and our minds. We face this disease with the ones we love. We fight with them until that last breath is taken. We worry, we pray, we cry, we fight, and we bend. It is not easy for us to watch the ones we love die in any situation, and cancer can be a slow and painful to watch. A part of us leaves with them; regrets are experienced, and there is never enough time to say what needs to be said or do what needs to be done. We are the ones left behind to carry on and deal with all those emotions without them.
My dad and I did not have the best relationship for most of my life. He was an old school farm boy from West Virginia, and I was a new wave artsy punk head wanting to run away to the city. He couldn't understand me, and I had no desire to understand him. For most of my life we fought each other. At times we said hateful words to each other. Neither of us was adult enough to say, “I am sorry”. We eventually changed as individuals and learned to treat each other better. Now that he is gone, I regret that severely. So many things were left unsaid and questions were left unanswered. Truthfully, that may not have been different if he was still alive. We were just so different. I am a very loud person who expresses myself in a blunt way; he was very quiet and did not choose to avoid confrontation. He was a truck driver and on the road for most of my life; I was home with what I viewed as my only parent, my mother. It was not until his death that I understood him and realized we were similar in many ways. He had an adventurous spirit and so do I. Both of us wanted to travel and see the world. He was a race car driver and worked in the pit with my uncle on the days he was home. I am an artist and musical guru that writes poetry and gets lost in words. We were both rebels. He loved outlaw country, I loved rock and roll. He loved his family so deeply that he never knew how to tell us, and I am the same. I am still coming to terms with all these things. Though it has been months since his death, I still have days when a piece of me dies all over again, but his pain is over.
None of this is easy. Not the diagnosis, not the process, not the aftermath. We are never ready to lose someone we love. There will always be moments of I should've, I could've, and why. If you are a family member of someone battling cancer, allow this daughter to give you some advice.
You are just as important as the person battling this. Your emotions and mental well-being are just as important. Your feelings, whatever they may be, are valid. Do not forget to take time to communicate with all your loved ones. Do not forget to take time for yourself, to break down, pull yourself back up, and continue the fight. Do not forget that you are important to this world as well, and you will be the one that continues forward. Do not forget that when it is their time, their pain and their suffering is over and that is a blessing though it may not feel like it.
We are facing so much in the world right now. Cancer continues to affect millions and now we are fighting against COVID- 19 and racism. People are in a state of fear, anxiety, and depression. But please remember that we are all in these fights together. None of us are alone. You are not alone. We must turn our thoughts to ones of hope and victory. We must weather what comes our way and fight back no matter what the outcomes. We are all warriors in this life. You are warrior. May the peace and love of the Lord rest inside of your hearts and your minds. We can get through all things together. You are not alone.
* If you are a caregiver of an adolescent or young adult diagnosed with cancer, the Jamie Phillips Cancer Memorial Fund Inc. is here to help you in any way that we can. Please contact us on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/jamiephillipsfund , or on our official website, www.thejamiephillipsfund.org.
We are in this fight together. You are not alone.