Today is my dad's birthday. When he was diagnosed with cancer, he was 55. Today he's 58. 3 years.
3 long years full of surgery, tears, waiting, chemo, sickness, doctors visits, infusions, blood work, picc lines, Mayo trips, and lots and lots of memories. Some of them hard. Most of them treasured. Memories none of us will soon forget - and honestly, memories none of us want to get forget. When we forget, it feels like it never happened... and it did. So we cling to these memories, all of us in different ways. Mine is photography. Each photograph I take is a memory - a way to remember that it did happen, and that this isn't without a reason.
Last week, when my sister, Melissa, had her baby, I flew to Minneapolis (the flight was a gift from a generous friend of ours!) to photograph Leo and see them all. When mom and dad picked me up from the airport they were on their way to one of dad's last days of radiation. Here is that story.
Every weekday for 6 weeks my mom and dad drove 45 minutes to the University of Minnesota for radiation. They usually get there early, park in the radiation patient reserved parking spots, and pray together. (My mother told me that they often smooch a little too, but I promised her I wouldn't put that on the blog.)
Because we were there extra early, we went to visit a friend - a nurse they've gotten to know in a different part of the building.
She beams when she sees them - mom and dad spread joy wherever they go.
She asks how they're doing and what the latest news is. They tell her the good news, and make light of the bad news.
They have always had time to laugh.
From there, we walk to the familiar waiting room...
Where we meet their two friends. Since dad's appointment is at the same time every day, they've gotten to know other radiation patients. Mom proudly tells them about her new grandson, born early that morning.
The doctor interrupts their conversation by calling dad's name and we wander down the hallway to wait by the radiation door.
There isn't much to say at that point, except for wonderings about what Leo looks like, how Mel is feeling and how soon we'll be on our way to see them.
Dad is used to it.
The radiation door has a caution sign on it... and it makes me wonder why we use such dangerous medicine.
The doctor kindly lets me observe as dad gets ready for the treatment.
Lasers, sensors, all the newest technology.
He's in good hands.
But it doesn't seem to comfort me.
I stay out of the doctor's way and wonder how my mother is doing. She's never been allowed in this room.
This is dad's 28th time... he's a pro.
Dad has marks where they line up the lasers. They tattooed them there so they wouldn't wear off during the time of his treatment. We tease him that he, out of all of us, got the first tattoo.
Seeing as it's Wednesday, we head off to meet with the doctor.
Somehow, with the end of the treatment just a few days away... the next step seems scarier when it's unknown. Words like "surgery"... "maybe".... and "painful" stick out to me.
Soon we leave... and we all breathe a sigh of relief.
Another day is done.
We stop at Whole Foods to get some lunch and stock up on some fruits and veggies for dad's daily smoothies.
Dad gets the salad bar, and mom and I split a chicken salad wrap.
I linger over my food... excited to see my nephew, and yet not wanting this moment to end....
Not wanting to forget this day.
So I'll keep taking pictures. So none of us ever forget.