On this journey called life we are challenged to learn and grow with every twist and turn that comes our way. My yoga practice taught me that.
So when my dad's surgeon told us he had an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer, I cried and I prayed and I asked, "what the FU¢K is the lesson in this?!"
It was not easy to see at first. This is downright inhumane. How could there be a reason for all this suffering and pain?
And therein lies the lesson. This is the lesson. How will you handle this crisis?
Will you numb the pain and pretend everything is ok?
Will you scream and fight reality?
Or will you breathe, accept the conditions of your life and stop resisting?
I stepped outside the hospital to let the cool air dry my tears and inspire deep breaths. I searched for my conscious mind and allowed it to observe the fear, anger, and sadness in my human form. I needed to scream. The elevator in the parking lot was my sanctuary for the time being. And then a calmness followed. I knew what I had to do.
I found my mother, who chose to take the news with a brisk walk. We are not a family of huggers; her Chinese culture was much too strong for that. I placed my palm on her back and she looked at me with unwilling tears. In that brief meeting with Dr. Dalal, six hours into my dad's eight hour surgery, we were asked to make a judgement call: remove the pancreas and make him a diabetic, or keep what's left - cancer cells and all. He would have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation once the procedure was complete, so we opted for a higher quality of life, knowing that was important to him. I recorded our conversation and when my mother later questioned what the surgeon had said, I played it for her and she felt reassured in our decision.
When my older sister arrived I let her listen to the conversation we had with the surgeon. She asked how I was able to respond so calmly, while my mom was asking questions that indicated she was still grasping to understand what was happening. In the moment, I remember breathing and listening with both my ears and my eyes. It was I who told the surgeon what my father would have wanted, confident in the choice based on conversations we had leading up to this day.
The procedure was successful, Dr. Dalal removed the tumor on his duodenum that had been blocking his bile duct which had made digestion painful over the past two weeks (resulting in the discovery of the tumor in the first place). It had been twelve hours since we last saw my father and when he greeted us with his beautiful blue eyes in the ICU, I smiled.
He is alive! And for that, I am grateful.