Brain Cancer Turned My Dad Into An A**Hole

Once upon a time, there was a 24 year old girl.  Her dad got diagnosed with cancer.  Her boyfriend proposed.  Six months of life left was her dad’s prognosis.  Instead of waiting to get married, they planned their wedding in 5 days.  Dad walked his little girl down the aisle.  He died two weeks later.  She got a tattoo of one of her and her dad’s favorite quotes in his handwriting to remember him by.

True story.

I heard it from a girl in yoga.

Thank goodness I wasn’t sitting near here because I wanted to both cry and yell at the same time.  Something along the lines of “You are so lucky to have that kind of relationship with your dad!!” to “Aren’t you lucky you don’t have an Asian dad?!”

You will recall my last post consisted of our pros and cons list on moving out.  But as of 4/4/14 (ominous, no?  In Chinese, 4 = death), we have officially decided to move out.  No turning back like we did before.  I won’t go into too many details but it started and ended with a conversation between Terry and my dad.  I chose not to be involved because I knew I wouldn’t be able to control my words.  Apparently my dad has a similar problem.

My dad has always been a stubborn man in the sense that he thinks he’s always right and will not believe a thing you say unless you say it at least 3-4 times with usually some proof or another person to back you up.  It could be a debate on the color of ketchup or how the universe works.  The conversation between Terry and my dad started out about certain bills but progressed into overall home repairs to why we are living there.  Every time we explain to my dad that we moved in to help take care of him, two of his favorite responses are “You didn’t even ask for my opinion before you moved into my house.  You just did it” and “You guys didn’t help me do anything.”  It’s one thing when someone says words clearly out of anger but he so nonchalantly INSISTS that he could have done everything on his own.  Driving to all the pre-op/post-op appointments, communicating with doctors post-surgery when he couldn’t say anything coherent, cooking for himself (he microwaved tiramisu), filling out his retirement documents, etc. etc… he says he could have either done them by himself or asked his friends.  It’s ironic because the day after this conversation, he expected me to drive him to two appointments.

Okay, so technically we didn’t ask him if we could move in.  We did it because 1) my dad had stage 4 brain cancer and 2) they estimated he would have at most a year to live.  Now that it has been two years cancer free, my dad has passed the mark that 97% of people with his cancer couldn’t.  But I can’t tell you how hurtful it is to readjust our life, our newlywed life, for almost two years taking care of him and for him to act like we did it out of our own self interests.  I don’t know what it is about this whole cancer experience that has changed him into this negative, awful person who says the most subtly malicious things.  Things that hurt DEEP, that I will never forget.

Sacrifice does not always result in recognition.  I know that.  Maybe when I become a parent, I will know that even more.  My dad has gone through a lot in his life and has done a lot for us.  But I feel that it’s unfair for him to continue to use his life experiences as a reason to treat us the way he does.  I will never be able to go through a cultural revolution in China, to immigrate to a country with little money and little understanding of the language, to work graveyard hours for 20+ years, to be the primary caregiver for an ill wife, and whatever else he likes to mention during our arguments… but I am doing my best here.  So we decided to move out asap, as soon as we can find a place that will accommodate Terry’s car child and my two dog children, in hopes that having space will make our relationship with my dad better.  It certainly can’t get any worse.

I’ve been really torn about sharing our family junk.  I know that on one hand, I need to honor my family and protect their image (whatever that means) but if my experience with this can be a second of comfort for another, then good.  My work is done here.

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Brain Cancer Turned My Dad Into An A**Hole

7 thoughts on “Brain Cancer Turned My Dad Into An A**Hole

  1. It is hard to know what to share and what to keep private, but I think you have done the brain cancer community a real benefit by sharing this information. Even when someone is doing well like your dad, they are not the same person they were before the tumor. It affects who they are and how they react forever. It must be so hard to hear the things your dad says, but remember that they are out of frustration with the situation and the disease. It is easy to lash out at people who love you because you know they won’t abandon you. It is incredibly unfair, but that is the definition of brain cancer. You are doing your best to be a good daughter, and deep inside, your dad knows this. Good luck with your new home!

      1. The brain cancer community frequently refers to itself as the “brain cancer family”. It is unlike any other disease. To me, it is comparable to having dementia and cancer at the same time. Those who have dealt with it want to help others however they can. In small ways or large, we are here for each other.

  2. frailb says:

    Even though I have no clue what it’s like to have my dad stricken with brain cancer, there’s something very familiar and almost “of course” about your relationship with your dad – mostly because of the Asian part of it. It almost seems that you could create an ad lib, and replace “brain cancer” with something else more or even less serious, like gout.

    Two other things strike me:

    1. There’s love that we show in hopes that our love will not just be appreciated, but maybe also result in some change. But there’s also love that we just keep showing because it’s the right thing to do – as family, as Christians, etc.

    2. We all have human limits and needs that need to be tended to if we are going to have chance at sanity, as a baseline, but also to love. I think this is hard in an Asian context because, as you illustrated, how can we talk about limits in the face of seemingly unlimited sacrifices and sufferings that our parents went through just get here and build this life for us? And it seems like it’s not just the their voice, sometimes even this internal filial voice that keeps overwhelming our need for limits. But it’s a need nonetheless, since we are limited creatures. Hope the move works out.

    1. Brian, I like point #2. It makes me think about the mental effects our parents’ generation might have incurred by repeatedly not tending to their own needs. Or am I just a big baby?

      1. frailb says:

        Maybe both. I think out parents were amazingly resilient – but they had no choice (I’d like to say we would too, but you don’t see us risking everything to cross an ocean; nor do we know much about real poverty or war). I also think that part of discipleship is a combination of honoring our parents while learning/developing new redemptive family habits from our Heavenly Father.

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