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The Dreaded “C” Word

December 13, 2005

Today my daddy is going to the doctor. It’s a follow up visit to find out the results of a bone biopsy he had last week. We have all be dancing around the subject for months, when some routine bloodwork showed that his white-cell count was dropping.

Two weeks ago, another blood test showed that his white-cell count is still dropping. My incredibly healthy, strong, amazing daddy has something wrong with him, and the doctors don’t know what it is.

What makes it even harder is that he feels fine. He’s still volunteering his retirement away, leading talks at national parks and doing trail maintenance. Heck, he’s probably still riding his bicycle in those century rides, where crazy guys pedal 100 miles in a day.

When my mom called to tell me about the scheduled biopsy, I said “What does this mean??” I couldn’t wrap my head around what she was saying. She said “well, the doctors think it could be something really bad, or it could just be that his body isn’t making enough white blood cells. They have shots to fix that.” Never once has either one of them talked about what it could really be. Some form of leukemia. Of cancer.

My mother is a breast cancer survivor. I would think she could say the “C” word, but no. She and my father talk around it like if they don’t say “cancer,” it won’t really be a possibility. It drives me crazy. For weeks I was floating around thinking … oh, it’s not that bad. Really, it could be that bad. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer.

It’s hard for me to imagine my father having leukemia. In my mind, leukemia is a disease of childhood, characterized by poor bald-headed children on the television, playing with tricycles and trying to look lively while celebrities ask us to be generous to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

It is not a disease contracted by 67-year-old men who can fix anything.

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