Life’s Autumn

Some of you are aware that my dad has been battling non-hodgkins lymphoma for the better part this past spring and summer. This is the third time he’s had it. They caught it pretty early, the treatment has gone well, and he’ll be going in for his last round of chemotherapy this week. He currently has no evidence of cancer, and his short-term prognosis is good.

He was given the opportunity to embark on radiation therapy or a bone marrow transplant to make sure they got it all, but either procedure would’ve carried its own serious risks, and would’ve most likely lead to a substantially reduced quality of life going forward. He decided to opt out of both procedures, saying he’d rather drop dead on his feet than languish in a hospital bed for weeks or months. I don’t blame him one bit; I would’ve made the same decision in his shoes.

Unfortunately, this means that the cancer has a good chance of recurring within the next seven years or so, and when it does it will be much more difficult to treat. After this last round of chemo, the plan going forward is to maintain regular screenings and take things as they come. I ask for your good thoughts, prayers, positive vibes, or whatever you feel inclined to send his way.

I could also use a few good vibes for myself… My dad and I didn’t have the best relationship growing up, and now that I’m being faced with his morality, a lot of complicated feelings have been stirred up. This has been a particularly rough year for people in my life anyway; last fall an old friend from Boston took her own life, my grandmother (who is one of the few people in my family who I felt particularly close to) continues to languish in a nursing home with advanced Alzheimer’s — she barely knows her own name anymore — and just last night I got the news that a beloved cat had passed away after a long battle with cancer.

(photo: Sara Pocious)

(photo: Sara Pocious)

Autumn is normally my favorite season of the year. I love the crisp air, the smell of a wood burning fireplace or campfire, and long drives through through the country while the leaves are turning. This year, though, autumn seems to be more about life’s inevitable decay. I’ve reached that age where various bits of my past are no longer present, and I feel like a little bit of myself is dying each time. I’m almost done with my professional credentials as an architect (I honestly haven’t given much thought to what I’ll do with myself once I’ve cleared that hurdle), and I’ve never had the slightest desire to have kids of my own. That gets me thinking about what I’ll leave behind when my own life reaches its twilight; I’m nearly 40, and facing the fact that I probably have fewer days in front of me than I do behind me. I don’t have any ready answers to that question, but I suspect it will occupy a great deal of my thoughts going forward.

In the meantime, though: Please, people and pets, do me a solid and stop dying for a bit, will you?

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