About two years ago my dad was diagnosed with what we thought was terminal oral cancer. The day before Christmas 2011, we were told he had two months to live. My 24th birthday was exactly two months from that day.
Lucky for us not only was my dad there for my birthday two months later, he beat the odds and he was in remission about six months after that devastating prognosis. However, this Christmas we discovered my dad's cancer has returned. While some of the feelings I've experienced are all too familiar, I've decided to handle the situation differently this time.
My dad's oral cancer treatment
My dad endured several rounds of chemotherapy followed by radiation. The treatment left him unable to talk or even swallow for a long time.
Seeing the pain my dad was living in was unbearable. It's very hard to see someone who you've spent your entire life looking up to, and thinking is invincible, in such pain. The support we received was overwhelming, in the absolute best way. People brought meals or movies, gardened our yard and just sat with my father when he was unable to speak because of his oral cancer treatment.
I know the love and support my dad was given played in a large part in the strength he showed us all.
I'll never forget the joy I felt when my dad called me and told me that he had beat the cancer. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was ecstatic.
A second cancer journey
My dad continued to amaze us. He learned to swallow again and was back to a fairly regular eating schedule, when two years later to the day of his first diagnosis, oral cancer came back. This time it metastasized to his lungs.
My initial reaction was confusion, anger and devastation. However, after those hard first couple of days I, along with my family, chose to live with hope.
Cancer brings a roller coaster of emotions. There is no right or wrong way to feel, but after having been affected so directly for more than two years, I know that the best way to live is with hope.
Everything that I've been through the past two years has put me at peace with whatever happens in the future. I've learned that the power of love, prayer and support are significantly more influential than I ever knew. I've also decided to live in the present, one day at a time.
Just before my 26th birthday, my dad received good news: the tumors in his lungs are shrinking. It's hard to get ahead of myself and get too excited, but this is undoubtedly the best birthday present he has given me.
To quote my dad, "Everything turns out OK in the end. If it's not OK, it's not the end."
Carla Fallick is the daughter of a patient at the MD Anderson in Katy. She works and lives in New York City.