Dear Papa · Musings

Papa and I: This day last year [November]

The past few days have been rather… emotionally and physically chaotic? My health has been a bit meh and it warranted a trip down to good ol’ A&E. I’m alright, nothing serious. Waiting on a chat with a doc to get to the bottom of things, but I’m optimistic it’s nothing major.

Anyway, my health drama coincided with one huge major turning point in my life 3 years ago. Wow, 3 years? I shake my head typing this – I can’t quite believe just how much life has changed in a matter of t.h.r.e.e.y.e.a.r.s.

On this date, 3 years ago, I received the news that Papa had lung cancer. I tried my best not to let the sad feelings take over. My brain tells me ‘it was 3 years ago, you have to have built up some kind of immunity’. But it hasn’t. It hurts all the same.

Being in hospital overnight, having scans done and being prodded all made me think of Papa. When they said I needed a CT, my first thought was of him. How every few months we would desperately wait for the results to see if things had cleared a little. Even a little.

When sitting in the waiting room for hours, my thoughts went back to this time 3 years ago when Papa was called in to hospital urgent, yet we were made to wait hours in A&E before he was seen. I remember feeling the anxiety and responsibility to take care of him. He was very sick and in pain – seeing him have to sit on those plastic chairs for ages was just blah. I wanted to help, shake the receptionists and beg them to find out why he’d been called in and made to wait so long. Surely if it was urgent and related to his cancer waiting in A&E wasn’t right?

Eventually he was admitted, offered a bed and after another few hours – a student doctor was tasked with the impossible task of telling us that Papa’s cancer was much worse than initially thought. I saw the look on her face, it was clear it may have been the first time she was delivering such news. She fiddled with her hair, her ring, her lanyard. I felt for her.

But my heart constricted for papa as she asked: ‘do you know what’s wrong with you?’

I remember crystal clear, Papa nodding, his hands behind his head as if life was chill – he said ‘yes’. ‘Ok what’s wrong?’ She asked. ‘I have cancer.’ There was no shake in his voice. Of course there wasn’t, it was Papa.

I however wanted to cry. I wanted to leave. I didn’t want to be there. The doctor had put her notes down on the bed and I shook myself out of my emotions and scanned them from the corner of my eye. My brain needed to be one step ahead so I could react accordingly for Papa’s sake. Before she had even said it, I knew. The damn cancer was everywhere. Liver. Bones. Spine. And the mass in the spine was the reason why he was called in urgently. He needed urgent radiotherapy to reduce it before it caused any mobility issues. I went on autopilot from that point, shutting down emotions and asking when, where, how.

After she left, do you know what papa said to me? ‘Ye meri sher hain’ ‘This is my lion’

I felt a burst of warmth in my chest in that moment. As if I was doing this self appointed job right. I was doing something.

I feel for anybody navigating a sick family member or friend. The emotions that come with it are so deep, hard and exhausting that you find yourself thinking and feeling them for years to come.

I’ve been feeling that sadness, that exhaustion the past few days. The moment I saw ‘1 November’ my heart sink because the beginning of this month marks the point Papa was diagnosed and the end marks his passing.

I want to feel strong. I want to be writing. I want to feel happy, but I’m giving myself space to feel these hard heavy emotions. One day, a November will come and maybe I’ll welcome it a little stronger. With less of a shake in my step and stammer in my voice. But this November, I will let all those emotions come rushing back and allow myself to just be.

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