A year ago today I sat in the hospital, waiting with my family to hear any news about my father's surgery. The scans were unclear, so the last two months were spent in a haze of uncertainty. Today was the day we found out whether the cancer spread or not.
Leading up to the surgery, the phrase I heard too many times to count was that, "it's going to be okay." People tend to think those words are comforting, but they're not. It's a lie. There's no way to know what will happen. How do you know it's going to be okay? What if it's not? Whenever I heard those words, I tried not to cringe. I tried not to show how painful they were, because I knew these people were trying to help. But it hurt too much, so eventually I spoke up. I realized that they don't know they're making it worse if I don't say anything.
I remember being really upset that the surgery was scheduled for the second day of Pesach, but in a way, it was the best thing that could have happened. The weeks leading up to it were filled with all the preparations. And while my thoughts never strayed far from the surgery, things were so crazy… I wasn't able to dwell on it.
I have never been so happy to be surrounded by my family. The sedarim were beautiful. The second night my brother gave a d'var torah that had us all in tears. It was very bitter sweet. We all knew that it could be our last Pesach together.
The day of the surgery crawled by. Some parts of it blur together for me, but other moments are hard to forget. I remember lots of tears, but there were none from me…I felt like I had nothing left. I remember kissing my father before he was taken away for prep. It's easy to picture the waiting room, filled with people anxiously awaiting news about their loved ones. I remember every time the front desk called us up for an update. Those were the scariest moments. I remember watching my sister from across the room. I stayed seated while she went up with my mother to hear the update. When I saw her burst into tears and hug my mother, my stomach dropped. Thankfully, those turned out to be tears of relief.
Yom tov was almost over by the time we were allowed to see my father. I desperately needed to see him, I needed to confirm that he was okay. I remember him lying there with his eyes closed. I thought he was sleeping, so I slowly walked up to his bedside and slid my hand into his and gave it a gentle squeeze. He started talking, but it was hard to make out what he was saying since his voice was so hoarse from the anesthesia. After a moment we realized he was giving us directions! The hospital, while known to be one of the best, is not located in the safest of neighborhoods…he was worried about us getting home safely. That's the type of man my father is. He just had major surgery and he's more concerned about us getting home.
I have always thought that my father was invincible. No matter what it was, nothing could bring him down. Before this ordeal, I could probably count the number of times I've seen him cry on one hand. Now, I've seen him cry more times than I can count. He's gone through so much pain. The surgery was just the first hurdle. It was followed up by many months of chemo and radiation. It seemed like a never ending hell. Our roles changed. He has taken care of me my whole life and now it was my turn to take care of him.
Friends have pointed out how strong I've been throughout this whole nightmare, but the truth is, I couldn't have survived without their support. They kept me going during the times I felt close to breaking. I feel blessed to have so many people who care about me. I'm so fortunate to still have my dad. Even after all of this, I still find myself thinking that he is invincible. He's the strongest person I know. He's a survivor.