This year a few more medical conditions made it on to my radar, courtesy of family members being diagnosed with cancer. Like many Internet-junkies, I found myself learning all that I could about these diseases. I wanted to know about the symptoms, prognosis, treatment, and causes. I looked for average life expectancy and in one case, if the condition was hereditary. In short, I wanted to know in a few hours what usually takes doctors years to learn in medical school and practice.
When I examine my reaction, what I see is that I wanted control. Information gives a false sense of security; it provides an arena where I can feel less helpless or hopeless. It is an illusion. The truth is, that although information can be powerfully important, it can also be a crutch. All the information in the world isn’t going to change the fact that my father has multiple myeloma, an incurable form of cancer.
Illness is a part of life. How we learn to deal with illness is all on the job training. When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and leukemia, I put my nurse cap on and launched into super-caregiver mode. I took charge, and in the process, I nearly missed the most important opportunity her illness provided—the chance to be her daughter.
Now I get to do it all again with my father, and I am doing it differently. I am his daughter first. If he wants me to look up medication side effects on the Internet, I do. Otherwise, I spend my time talking to him about books, movies, and life. He has doctors and nurses that will give him medical advice. He only has two daughters and one son, and I intend to occupy this precious daugher role until the end. After all, I only have one father.