A couple days before I went back to New York, most of my siblings and my Dad’s girlfriend accompanied Him to get the test results. We anxiously waited for what felt like hours before they called us in to see the doctor. The nurse joked about my Dad’s fan club as we paraded in behind him and squeezed into the tiny examination room. We were messing around and trying to laugh, totally unprepared for what was to come. The nurse did some routine checkups and the doctor came in shortly after. He tried his best to be as upbeat as possible. He was a kind man and it was clear that what he was about to deliver was going to be painful for everyone, himself included. The nurse tried to fight back tears as she looked around the room at our frightened yet hopeful faces. He told us that things were not looking good and it wasn’t possible for any traditional medical intervention. The cancer was extremely aggressive and had already spread to his lungs and chest. He wanted to scan my father’s head and was pretty sure it had also reached his brain. My Dad refused. He said he didn’t want to know, that it didn’t matter anyway. He was very calm until that point. He told the doctor that he was going to seek alternative treatment. Time stood still. I could feel the empathy pouring out of the doctor and nurse’s hearts. My Dad broke down. He burst into tears and cried for us. “But my kids have already been through this once.” I had honestly only seen my Father cry on a few occasions and each time it shook me to the core. It always stopped my tears because it scared the shit out of me. He was the rock, the one that reassured us everything was going to work out. He was society’s definition of a “strong man”. Seeing him cry shattered my heart and made me sick with fear at the same time. The room was silent as we watched him weep. I remember meekly trying to tell him that we were going to be ok. I still wonder if he heard me. I almost hope he didn’t. My shaky voice was evidence that I didn’t believe what I was saying.
The doctor went on to say that he fully supported any alternative medicine that would make my Dad comfortable. We thanked the man as my Dad regained his composure and temporarily convinced everyone that things were going to be fine. We left the hospital and made our way home. He called his Mom and brothers over to the house. His mood was extremely light when he told them the news. He said he was convinced that alternative treatment had been the way to go all along. He lit a celebratory cigar in the house and even let his Mom puff a cigarette inside. Smoke filled the living room air. My sister and I hid in the basement, completely numb. Life as we knew it was slowly rising up in flames.