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A change in perspective: How I’m learning to navigate my dad’s Cancer diagnosis

In early July, about a month into my time abroad in Dublin, Ireland, my brother texted me to

give him a call when I had the chance. From that moment on, hearing from him that our Dad had been diagnosed with cancer, my life fundamentally changed. There has been a lot of sadness, and a lot of grief, but most importantly, and most surprisingly, there has been a lot of joy and gratitude.

I am lucky enough to have a dad who raised me to cultivate a constant mindset of positivity and perspective. Anyone who knows me knows how important and special my relationship with my dad is, he’s my best friend! He has been my rock for my entire life as someone who could support me, listen to me, and offer the best advice. He always finds the bright side in any situation or curveball thrown his way, and he taught me to do the same. Yet when receiving this phone call, and hearing my brother’s voice telling me he had been hospitalized, my entire world came crashing down, and I could not find a single bright side to that moment.

While I had known many people in my life affected by cancer and had seen the emotional impact it can have on everyone involved, nothing in the world could have prepared me for that moment. The sheer fear, anxiety, sadness, and grief felt in that moment was enough emotion to likely cover a lifetime. My daily life would now be shifted, we would approach a new normal, and cancer would become part of our family. Being thousands of miles away from home, with an 8-hour time difference, I could not have felt more disconnected and afraid. Although the bad stuff is just as important as the good, and feeling everything associated with a cancer diagnosis is probably the healthiest thing you can do, this is not the point of my writing this post. In standard Burt fashion, I want to focus on the good and tell you the 3 main things I have learned so far from his diagnosis.

There is nothing more important to me than the health and well-being of my family.

Ever since my dad was diagnosed, my daily irritations have seemed so much more insignificant. Not to say that they are not valid, or do not matter, but recognizing that some things need less mental energy than others has been key in my healing process.

It is BEYOND okay to just be sad and grieve.

My dad and I have always been similar people, and when he got this diagnosis, I felt a part of me was lost. While cancer has changed nothing about my dad’s personality (don’t worry, he’s still annoying), it is okay to grieve the person they once were before the diagnosis. Whether he likes it or not, knowing that my dad has cancer caused me to grieve having a dad that didn’t have cancer. There doesn’t need to be a negative connotation associated with this grief, it’s necessary in learning to function as his daughter with this new normal. I have learned so much more about how to be in tune with my feelings and feel EVERY feeling that comes my way. The only way to work through all of these emotions was to feel them. I can’t count the number of times I have cried, laughed, smiled, and screamed over this diagnosis. This is all okay, it is all valid, and it is needed.

My dad always says that he is separate from his diagnosis, and that couldn’t be more true.

Seeing him approach this life-changing event with joy, humor, and gratitude has healed something in me because it solidifies that thought. When something so tragic happens, sometimes the only thing you can do is think positively. This has been the most challenging part for me, but watching him be positive inspires me to do the same. He’s the same dad he always was, and a diagnosis could never change that. His joy and gratitude have given me and my family so much hope and happiness throughout this experience.

It’s weird to say that my dad getting cancer has shown me more about gratitude and positivity than anything else in my life has, but it’s true. Having a dad who gets diagnosed with cancer changed everything for me, but that doesn’t mean these changes were all negative. I am so incredibly grateful for my life every day, my friends, and most importantly, my family. None of us would have been able to get through this or would be able to continue to get through this, without each other (cheesy, I know). Whether it be consistently checking in with my aunt, texting my brother more, or talking to my cousins on the phone more regularly, the most atrocious of situations brought us closer together. And lastly, to anyone who may be wondering, no matter the diagnosis, Burt and Romy will always be just that: Burt and Romy. We have many more singing car rides to go on, many more recipes to cook, many more TV shows to watch together, and MANY more people to annoy. I’m proud of him every day, and am so glad he is sharing his courageous journey with you all.

With love and gratitude,

Romy (daughter of Burt)

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