My dad has stage IV lung cancer. Just last week, we learned that the cancer has spread to his bones. These are my dads final days. If I get to spend Christmas with him this year, it will be the last. When most people think of this disease, they think of someone who is bald from radiation, perhaps someone who is in a hospital bed or in a hospital gown. They think of someone who is skinny and sick looking. They think of someone who has wires connected to them or an oxygen tube in their nose. They expect to see grief, sadness, tears, sickness. Why yes, those are the things they picture when they think of cancer. What you may not picture? A man who is spending his final days at home, in his favorite reclinging chair in the living room, who prefers to wear sweats instead of some hospital gown. A man who has indeed lost weight, but still apears to be a significant size. A man who wants to remove his oxygen because he knows that his youngest daughter is taking a photo of him. He doesn't want her to remember him that way. A man who is still capable of smiling and being silly, because he knows that is what his family wants to see.
This photo was taken in my dad's recliner, the only place where he can sit or sleep comfortably. This photo was taken with his oxygen tubes laying in his lap, ready to be put right back on. This photo was taken by a daughter with shaking hands who had to force herself to press the shutter button. This photo was taken by a daughter because she was told that someday she would look back at these photos and be thankful that she took them, all the while wondering if that is true. Is this really how she wants to remember her hero? The man who took her on Harley rides? Who layed her concrete patio in 100 degree heat? Who threw his grandson over his shoulder with the ease of a man half of his age? Who was playing football on the beach 10 months ago?
No, this is not the most amazing photo that you will ever see. This photo will never win awards or be acclaimed for its greatness. This photo may be quickly overlook by someone who does not regognize the indentation on a man's cheek from his oxygen tube. This photo may be overlooked because it is none of those things that I initially listed.
This is the face of cancer. This is our face of cancer.
This is my grief.
This is my love.