My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the spring. He was lucky because he caught it fairly early. Although he had options, he chose surgery over radiation, due to a family history. In September he had his surgery and is doing fine.
The timing of his diagnosis coincided with some pretty serious stressors in my own life, including some anxiety issues which lead to me quitting my job and taking the summer off. My parents were reluctant to tell me about my father’s diagnosis. They didn’t want to worry me, which I understand. But when they did tell me, it was okay. I wasn’t even worried about it. I knew he would be fine, I knew they had caught it early, and I knew that he would pull through surgery just fine.
Fast forward a bit to August 22. We were on our last day of our family vacation. We had spent the night in Salmon Arm British Columbia, when I heard the news. Jack Layton, the leader of the NDP had passed away from cancer, which started out in his prostate. He was the same age as my dad. He had just run a political campaign better than his wildest dreams, done what some would say was the impossible, and in my opinion, it cost him his life. Although I may not have agreed with all of his political ideologies, he was someone I admired and had respect for.
Mr.Layton’s death affected me more than I thought it would. When we arrived home early that evening, and my husband and I sat alone for the first time in two weeks, I started to cry. And the tears kept on coming. I was afraid for my father, I was afraid for myself. I wasn’t ready to even imagine a world without my dad. I had put it out of my mind and all of a sudden I had to deal with it.
I took the day after my dad’s surgery off from work so I could go and spend time with him. There are lots of times when nurses and doctors come in, and my mom and I would slip out in the hall. There was a man there on his cell phone. It became clear that whoever he was there for, was not well. They were moving them to the palliative care ward that afternoon. He sat 5 feet away from us, with his head in his hands. His sister came out of the ward and sat down beside him. They discussed the move to the other floor and all the people they should let know. They spoke about how their loved one didn’t know they were there visiting. Then they sat silently for a while.
A nurse came running out to get them, to tell them that they had been asked for. Their brother had woken up, and asked where they had gone, and for a glass of water. A wave of relief washed over their faces. The woman turned and faced my mother and I and said “It really are the little things that are miracles sometimes, aren’t they?” before she left to see her brother. I felt blessed to be slightly included in that moment.
The funny thing about hospitals, is that almost seem to level the playing field. In the two days that I was there visiting, I met a variety of people, who normally we would have passed without a glance. But there, we shared something. There was something more we had in common. Each person there had faced or was facing the fragility. Be it through birth, illness or death. We could share that.
In everyday life we lose that. We forget that common thread, that shared depth of emotion that each of has with the people we love. We are not so different. We are all fragile.