Last Tuesday, I was in afternoon didactics. It was right before the beginning of didactics, and I was talking with my colleagues/friends about random topics. Laughing at random things. Typical things that happen when medical students are not on rounds. Didactics begin. I’m having a blackberry greek yogurt from TJ’s trying to soak in all of the high yield information as I could. Then I get a text from my mother. “Your father has been having bad stomach pains and he is yellow. Please call me as soon as you get a chance.” In that near moment, everything I was doing, went into a complete blank. My father has jaundice? Abdominal pains? All I could think was, PLEASE let this be gallstones. I leave lecture pretending that I’m not in a rush. I leave and call my mom and she tells me that my dad has been having dark urine and light poop. My heart drops. In my head, the only two things in the world that could cause this are 1) Choledocholithiasis or 2) Pancreatic Cancer. Sphincter of oddi dysfunction came to mind but this was just uncommon and least likely. I talk to my dad, the stoic hispanic, saying that he will be out of the hospital tomorrow and he will be leaving for Dominican Republic as if life has not changed. I being the over anxious medical student ask a million questions. They take a biopsy from his pancreas and this sets off the spidey sense of hell. I asked my mom quickly, “WHY THE FUCK DID THEY TAKE BIOPSY FROM HIS PANCREAS?” Of course, my mom doesn’t have a clear cut answer. So, I sit and think, “okay, maybe they’re just ruling out cancer. What is the harm in that? My father, who has ran or biked 10 miles every day, only eats healthy and has never smoked a single cigarette in his life or had pancreatitis SURELY cannot have pancreatic cancer.”
Cut to Thursday morning. Ive finished morning surgeries and now around town running errands before afternoon surgeries. I get a text from my sister in law saying, “hey, call me when you have some free time.” I look at my phone and I knew what I was going to hear. Hesitantly, I call her. She asks if I’m by myself to which I reply “no, I’m at costco.” I run to my car and say, “It’s cancer isn’t it?” and she says, “Unfortunately, yes. They found pancreatic cancer in your fathers pancreas.” I immediately felt the whole world around me turn silent and all I could think was that my father has one of the top 2 deadliest cancers. I immediately begin to cry. I cry like I’ve never cried before. This isn’t accidentally falling down and hitting your knee or breaking up with someone you love; this is the man that has been there for me since day 1. The man that helped me a change a flat tire when I was skipping class in high school. The man who told me not to be afraid of going to medical school; that, I was one of the most intelligent people he’s spoken to. The man that even though grew up in Dominican Republic and lived a strict Orthodox lifestyle, had come to accept me as his gay son. The man that would do anything for me. This man has cancer and all I could do was cry. I leave costco and think maybe I shouldn’t go back to work. I’ll be a mess. I text my chief and within one minute he says, “Take the week off. I am so sorry to hear that about your dad. Please text me if you need anything.”
I go home and all I do is cry. I open the bedroom door and I fall to my knees crying like I never have cried before. All I could remember was his final statement to me on the phone, “I need you to be strong for me. I need you to be strong for your mother because she may only have you and your brother to keep her strong in a little while. All I hope is that I’m alive to be at your graduation for medical school.” I lost it. That night, I go out to take my mind off this. First friday Art and maybe some drinking after. I ran into the guy I was dating or as he recently called, “hanging out.” He pretends as if the two texts that asked, “How was the rest of your vaca” and “How are you doing” asked DAYS apart never appeared on his phone. He then tells me that the guy he’s hanging out at the bar is straight and not bf. I replied, “Did I ask you that?” Right then, a gentleman nudged my shoulder to hand me the drink that he said he would buy me. Jonathan then looks at me and says, “Whatever. Sleep with whomever you want.” I was shocked. All I could think about was how much this guy had ignored me for 4 days and the only communication I receive is a snap chat video of his friend booty dancing for 10 seconds. I got this snap chat a few hours after learning my father was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Guess what, asshole? If you took your head out of your ass for 3 seconds and replied to how your vacation was and how I was doing…. maybe you would’ve learned about this shitty day I had. Maybe you would’ve been a friend to me. Not a guy I was dating. Not a guy I was hanging out with.
The next day, I spent the entire day walking down brookside ave thinking about how my life is going to be without my dad. I hated every mean thing I said to him as a child. I hated that I wasn’t the son he probably wished he had. I hated that I had to question whether my idol would be present at important life events.
Few days go by and things are starting to get better. My dad had a PET scan and it showed NO metastases. My day was brightened. Even though pancreatic cancer has one of the worst prognosis’, lack of spread means he could have a whipple procedure and possibly live longer than 5 years. That’s all I want. I’d love 30 years but I have to be realistic. I have to show him that he is the best man I will ever know. If you ever have someone that close to you in your life. Don’t be afraid to call them and remind them how much you love them. Because, as I never thought my father would be inflicted with cancer, I never had the chance to tell him continuously how much he means to me. I hope that I have many years to remind him.