Friday, 4 July 2014

Telling Dad

I spent some time on the phone to my sister last night, working out how to tell my Dad.

It's an interesting question: how honest should we be with the ones we love?

My father is in his eighties.  I know he will worry terribly about this news, all the more so because there is nothing he can do.  My mother is more or less bed-ridden and my father is a full-time carer.  I have no idea how my mother will take the news... but I know my Dad will have to break it to her and he will be left to deal with any fall-out.

There's a generational issue here too.  The word cancer still sends a chill down the spine of my peers but, for my father's generation, cancer pretty much equalled death.  (It's a happy thought that for our children's generation, cancer will have lost some of its terror.)

If I could, I would say nothing at all until I have a better idea of what I am facing.  But I can't: the kids and I are supposed to get on a Eurostar early next week and travel up to Durham to spend a few days with my parents.  And now I will be spending most of next week at the hospital, having tests.
So I have to say something.

Several of my friends have advised me to make something up.  Say the kids are ill and we can't travel.  Claim that I need a 'procedure' but keep it vague and imply something highly feminine that will discourage any questions.  Say just that I am having tests.

I'm not very comfortable with that and, to be honest, I don't think I have the energy to maintain the story.  So I called my sister for her advice and she said simply, "I don't think there's ever a good reason for lying."

She's right.  Omission is one thing, but we can't start lying to the people we love.

The good news is that my father has travelled down to be with my brother and sister this weekend so he won't be alone.  The bad news is that they are supposed to be having a family celebration of my brothers fiftieth birthday and my Dad will have to drive himself home at the end of the weekend.  

So do I call at the beginning of the weekend and throw a grenade into the family celebrations but give my Dad time to get used to the idea before he drives home?  Or wait until Sunday, when he will be spending a quiet lunch with my sister, and hope that he is not in too much of a state to drive home afterwards?

Who knew that a cancer diagnosis could make life so complicated?

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