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Heather Von St. James Headshot

Here We Go Again...

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"You may want to go home and get your affairs in order."

Those were words my parents were told by a doctor who had no business saying such a thing to them. This doctor was simply the guy on duty who was making rounds, and after looking at an incomplete chart, basically told my dad that he wasn't going to live long.

Let me give you a little background. My dad went in for back surgery, and during the routine MRI, three tumors were found on his spine. The surgeon figured they were secondary tumors resulting from a mass on his kidney. It was not great news, but at this point, it was all they knew. There was no official diagnosis yet.

It was during this time, this hospitalist, as he is known, came in and blew all hope out of the water.

Our family had gone through this before... eight years ago, to be exact. The only difference was that time, it was me. I was the one sitting in a doctor's office, and I was facing a mesothelioma diagnosis. They gave me 15 months to live if I didn't do anything. This was not the news I wanted to hear after just giving birth to my daughter three months earlier. My husband and I didn't take that news very well, and we did everything we could. We threw everything we had at my cancer to beat it. Now 8 years later, I'm cancer free.

So now we are going through it again, but this time it's my dad. He was finally diagnosed with clear cell renal carcinoma. The surgery on his spine was a success. It's been three weeks since surgery and he is doing really well. They will meet with the oncologist in a few weeks to plan the next step in his treatment, most likely radiation, and possibly more surgery, depending on what they find. I will tell you this much. We are not the "Go home and get your affairs in order" type of family. We are fighters. So this diagnosis is just another bump in the road for my family. My dad isn't letting it get him down, and anytime he feels like maybe giving up, he gets a sign, like a card in the mail from someone wishing him well. Lily, my daughter, is a huge reason that my dad keeps fighting. All he has to do is look at the fleece blanket she made for him, and it gives him the strength he needs. It was the same with me when I went through it 8 years ago. I just had to look at pictures of my baby girl and it gave me all the resolve I needed to fight. I did it all to make sure I was here to raise her.

So now I go from being cared for by my dad to being caregiver of my dad. My dad and I can compare surgery scars and radiation tattoos. I'm able to talk to him about post surgical issues... appetite, and mobility, things that frustrate us and things that will get better. We talk about how tired the simple act of having visitors is, and how healing is hard work.

A whole new world has opened up. I don't look at this diagnosis in a bad way, just a way to bring us all together again.

So say what you will, Dr. Negativity. My dad will beat this, just like I did; and we will once again prove you wrong. Maybe next time, you should get all the facts before you dash someone's hopes into the ground. But maybe you did us a favor: you put the fight in my parents, and I can't wait to see you five years from now, when both my dad and I have beat the odds.

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