Cancer Eats The Life Of The Living – A Daughter’s Love Of Father

by Dr. Karen Ruskin on June 28, 2015

Till death do us not part…

Cancer eats away at the life of the living – A daughter’s love of father

Cancer doesn’t just eat the life out of and is destructive to the recipient of this body invasion, it is a disease that hits those who love the person who has been shot by this bullet of hell. My personal story right here, right now. 

My father – a man of whom I have always felt such a love from that my beaker of love is full to the brim and overflowing. My father – a man of strength, courage and power- always has been. A man who had protected and served in the military, and then in the police department in NYC for 30+ years. A man who gives to his family, is loyal to the core, and who has been indestructible regardless of whatever life has hit him with for 81 years. A fighter to his core. Now… as he approaches his 82nd birthday which is coming up this September, he has been hit and hit so hard that even he, the man of whom his family lovingly refers to as ‘Superman’ cannot combat. He fights, oh yes he does, like any super hero does, though unfortunately he is really only a mere mortal. The day to day damage that cancer brings is a moving target that each moment of each day brings a new and painful set of symptoms and challenges to combat.

Being the daughter of a father experiencing such a tragedy at the ending months, years (??? Uknown/TBD…) has brought upon thoughts that others of whom are touched by cancer know all too well. Below are just but a few of those thoughts…

This desire I am feeling and yearning – to want a painless death for my father, is never something that crossed my mental framework, till now. A special pill that a person can take, like how we put animals to sleep, instead of them suffering would be an interesting option, if the option is not simply for this type of suffering to not exist. Never have I considered this thought as a proposed consideration to be explored. For to watch this invasion of his body, the snatching of who my father was to whom he currently is, no person should have to go through this transformation of self. As my father communicated to me today, as I sat on his hospital bed rubbing his arms, holding him as I looked into his eyes as he was shaking from the cold hell he is experiencing that no quantity of blankets could warm, “THIS is my kryptonite”, he stated. Clark Kent’s experience of life in contrast to Superman’s, when being hit by the enemy is what his existence, his reality of his life now is until … well, until death.

With this, really what I yearn for as his daughter, what any person yearns for, for their loved one is rather simply; not to have cancer. Since that’s not an option, the flash in my mind then becomes the yearning that he would not have to suffer. For this is just the beginning of his indefinte suffering to come. We do not have a crystal ball, nor a time machine to tell us the future. One thing is for certain, suffering for him will continue to be his new norm as his body continues to break down no matter how hard he fights. Man down…

The kick in instinct and my burning desire and need to cater to and take care of each moment to moment item that arises for my precious father, and to instinctively want to put a book mark on all other aspects of my life is indeed being experienced. Not an uncommon reaction for those touched by this tragedy, this trauma, this reality. Balancing of the other aspects of one’s life is currently in direct contrast to the overwhelming desire to want to be there for my beloved precious father 24/7. Yet of course, all must continue to be balanced. My dear husband, my son, my business, all so precious to me and is my life, my world, in addition to navigating the reality of my father’s circumstance and as such my parents’ reality. All must be balanced, for all is important and anyone going through such a tragedy knows the importance of managing and coping in a healthy and productive way is a must.

Flying back and forth to Florida and swing shifting family support for my father and for my mother as she lives through watching her husband of 50+ years go up in flames, with my brother and my sister in law also taking turns flying in – certainly helps him, but it does not resolve the problem nor end his suffering. To leave my father in the hell of his reality by himself each night as I leave the hospital breaks my heart. To leave him and as such rely on the good will of nurses and doctors is infuriating to me. For the kind of care that I yearn for him to receive simply is not the level of attentiveness nor up to the standard of care I desire for my dear father. To see him suffering breaks my heart. Anyone touched by cancer knows this reality. An unfortunate club of sorts that no one wants to be a member of.

The quick story is: My father was supposed to receive bladder surgery. His bladder was to be removed since it was riddled with cancer. After him being cut open to perform the surgery the doctor determined that his cancer spread in such a way that they could not perform the surgery until he has chemo in order to hopefully shrink the cancer, and then and only then can the bladder be removed. Yes, the plan now is to receive the gift of surgery post chemo to remove the bladder to hopefully live another day, days, months, years….Unknown/TBD. That’s of course IF the chemo shrinks the cancer, and… we are still waiting on the results of a bone scan that was taken today. Never a dull moment.

Let’s back up ever so slightly to just short of a few weeks ago. My brother was in the hospital when the doctors informed us of this news  that the removal was unable to be performed (as my bro was on swing shift), he handed me the cell phone as I sat in the room via face time, as I was in between my client appointments in my Massachusetts office, and my father in the hospital in Florida looked at me, his face on the screen, just he and I in that moment, a one-on-one face to face moment with my father as others were around him talking and he said to me: “they cut me open but they couldn’t save me”. Yup… and there it is. This breaks my heart, my precious father reliant on another to save him so he can live to fight another day. But… to no avail. So with that, his days, his weeks, his months, his years are numbered.

I type this today while I am in Florida, knowing that in less than 48 hours I will be on an airplane going back to Massachusetts. Since the surgery was unable to be performed, yet he was cut open, he gets the luxury of fighting infection after infection, medical issue after medical issue, in and out of the hospital (well, in the hospital the past several days, we are hoping he gets out, when: TBD), as he prepares for the eventual chemo that hasn’t started yet as he fights for his life to increase his kidney functioning, increase his potassium level, fight his blood infection and urine infection, all to have the luxury of needing to have his stents removed any day now (as their shelf life is up), and new one’s put in, in preparation for chemo. The statistics are not looking promising for his journey ahead. In the meantime, his 12 inch gash from being cut open from the butchering continues to leak… the list of medical issues keeps coming at him like enemy ships invading planet earth in a Sci Fi movie.

I type this at 3am, knowing I need sleep, but sleep unfortunately is not to be had this evening…

Anyone who has been touched by the reality of what cancer does to the recipient of this web effect on that person’s body, of which cancer is truly a vine crawling up and into one’s house, can but only begin to understand the reality and truism I write here and now.

It is not often I share my own reality. For in my profession my reality is in a box for my focus is on the reality of others. For those who know me know; rarely, do I share the reality of what goes on behind closed doors. For we all have challenges, and it has always been and continues to be my philosophy that you cannot let challenges, you cannot let traumas stop you. At this time, on this day, on my blog for my readers, I will share, as a reminder for others going through a loved one’s life-to-eventual-death experience, simply to say to you; you are not alone.

Signed,
Karen Ruskin – I am a woman who was and is so fortunate to be loved with such depth by my father. To see him in such pain, I wish I had a magic wand to wave over him, or pixie dust or some special powers to stop the suffering… The madness that is now the reality of his existence that is for an undetermined period of time is unacceptable to me and unfortunately I cannot provide solution resolution for him. And that, that… is unacceptable and yet I cannot change this reality for my precious father.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Lee G June 28, 2015 at 6:28 pm

Karen, I just read your message with tears in my eyes. Dad and I have been jogging and walking buds for about 10 years. We had many discussions about our two special daughters. How proud and happy we were for both your accomplishments. Saturday was our day, and I looked forward to our hour together. I also had an opportunity to also jog with Mike. Please tell Neil “Pee Wee” is thinking of him. He’ll know who that is. Give him my best from Rita and me! L. G.

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Dr. Karen Ruskin June 30, 2015 at 7:23 am

Lee,
Thank you for taking the time to share your words. Much appreciated. I read your note to my dad, my mom was there during the reading. Your words put a big smile on my dad’s face and really meant a lot.
Warmly,
Karen

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Marjorie F June 30, 2015 at 6:14 am

Karen, Your heartfelt thoughts are shared by those in the family who also wish we had a magic wand to ward off the ills that beset any member of the family. I signed up on your website in hopes that your part of the family will still be in touch with us as has Mom all these years. She celebrates her 80th birthday on 8/10 as we celebrate our 68th anniversary. (We had a birhday cake for her at our wedding in 1947)!! I will call Vivian later this morning (it’s only a bit past six a.m.) and try to lend my moral support. As you know FAMILY is the most important word in my life!
Aunt Marge

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Dr. Karen Ruskin June 30, 2015 at 7:27 am

Aunt Marge,
Thank you for lending your emotional support. It is meaningful and absolutely matters. Both the person afflicted with a medical illness as well as the family is affected indeed. Thus, your calling my mother is appreciated, sincerely, thank you for your plan to do as such.

She may not always call back promptly, which is quite a common scenario for the family member balancing it all, though please know your call is appreciated.
Hugs,
Karen

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Rene & Ann July 1, 2015 at 9:32 am

We have been friends for many years, your parents have always been special to us.
We are hoping for a miracle
Your loss will be shared by us

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Dr. Karen Ruskin July 1, 2015 at 4:42 pm

Rene & Ann,
Thank you kindly for your words of hope. I know your friendship has always been special to my parents as well.
Warm Regards,
Karen

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MEL W July 10, 2015 at 7:26 am

Karen,
I am in a state of shock,I had no idea,and no one has told me what he is going through
We have been friends for over 65 years,and I am at a loss for words.
Please stay strong and please keep me up dated
Mel W

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Dr. Karen Ruskin July 10, 2015 at 7:47 am

Mel,
Thank you so much for your kind words- staying strong- indeed is important, always…

As far as your state of shock, if I may speak on behalf of my father and our family, we are all just barely getting out of the “shock” phase and into the confronting of the reality phase. We thought it would be a slice and dice and then all is well. We have come to discover, unfortunately it is not that simple. My blog article is certainly representative of confronting the reality of what is, yet it is not uncommon to go in and out of shock, denial, and back to reality whenever a trauma that is out of one’s control occurs. It sure is shocking, agreed.

You know my father, and as such, you know that perhaps he is a bit of a vault. In addition, it is a shock for all of us. Thus my blog article I have discovered since writing it has been a way to inform family/the closest of friends of what’s going on. Which was not the intent behind it, though it has certainly been a helpful way for my parents to connect with friends/family to inform. As emails to me, calls/emails to my dad/parents, and several special comments on this blog, have all allowed my father/my parents to feel the warmth of others. For my father is not of the style to inform others of his status, never was when challenges came his way. He is not a ‘reach out’ type of guy, lol. It’s no wonder I became a therapist, ha ha. I learned from a young age about confidentiality (AKA be a vault), I learned to keep on fighting on, to be strong despite challenges that come your way, and I learned that there’s skeletons in everyone’s closet.

Anyway, please feel comfortable to reach out to my dad, as it is very comforting to have those close in your life for all these years reach out. I know how much he appreciates it. It is hard to have the person going through the trauma do the initiating to others given these circumstances, and not uncommon for those who are not feeling like their best version of selves to reach out to others to “inform”. As I am sure you understand.

Thanks again, I’m confident he’d love to hear from you.
Warmly,
Karen

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Barney C July 10, 2015 at 6:17 pm

Karen, as you know your father and I go back a lot of years. I only wish him the best. I call him and speak to him and we try to have some laughs. My prayers go with him and Vivian, also the rest of the family. He’s a fighter and will do so as long as he can. Love Barney and Phyllis.

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Dr. Karen Ruskin July 10, 2015 at 8:07 pm

Indeed Barney, many years. Thank you very much for your well wishes. I am so glad that you take the time out of your day to speak with him and laugh when possible. Connection/interaction with friends and family is oh so important during this journey vs. isolation/disconnection.

So again, thank you for making the point to reach out and continue to reach out to my dad, and your kind thoughts to my mother and the rest of the family. Appreciated!
Warm Regards,
Karen

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Deena and Stephen July 10, 2015 at 7:28 pm

Dear Karen and Family;
We are so sorry to hear this tragic news. Reading your blog has brought many tears to my eyes. Your father is a special cousin to me and is someone i look up to and respect. He is an amazing man and always fought a good fight, and I know he will continue to do the best he can. My heart and prayers go out to Mom, your brother, you and the grandchildren he loves. Tell dad that Deena loves him and I am thinking of him.
Love Deena and Stephen G

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Dr. Karen Ruskin July 10, 2015 at 8:19 pm

Hi Deena and Stephen,
Thank you kindly for sending your love and thoughts. I will absolutely be sure to share your exact words with him and my mother. Each person’s words and well wishes on this blog commentary are truly welcome and I know genuinely appreciated by my parents as individuals and as a couple unit. For my father to read these comments, and/or for me to read them directly to him are truly special and meaningful for all of us.

Indeed I strongly agree with your words, my father is truly amazing and a fighter, thank you for that. Thus, to be the “patient” contradicts every aspect of who he is. A tragedy indeed, and fight – oh yes, he is and will.
Warmly,
Karen

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Jerry F July 12, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Karen and family:
I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up with many wonderful friends in the Bronx years and still keeping in touch with some including your father. We were very close in those years. Over the time, some have “Crossed Over The Bridge”. In my way of thinking you never die as long as you have memories. I went down Memory Lane over these past few days with Neil on my mind. Your father enjoyed a wonderful life and watched the accomplishments of you and your brother and the extended family given you and your mother. You wrote it very well when you mentioned, “The Bullet From Hell”. Not a way to end a life. I had no idea or I would have kept more in touch. We did have a conversation at one time regarding PTSD and OCD. You gave me some good advice. Give your father a Hug from me.

Jerry F

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Dr. Karen Ruskin July 14, 2015 at 10:44 am

Hi Jerry, Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. What a lovely way to look at death with regards to memories. That’s very special that you went down memory lane in your mind, our mind is a cherished place for thoughts indeed.

Awh, please don’t beat yourself up regarding “keeping more in touch” had you known. You know my dad keeps things close to the vest, and, he hoped it would be a – cut the cancer out by cutting out the bladder scenerio – and then he’d be back to his usual self. In essence, no one would even know about it. He’d just recover and bada bing bada boom. Unfortunately we recently discovered that it is not that simple. In essence, you could not have known. So, on that note, now that the scoop is out there’s always today and the future tomorrow – whatever those days shall bring. I’m sure if you haven’t already popped on the phone with him between the time you wrote this and I responded, that he’d enjoy a call from you as you so desire. It is quite common for when friends and family find out about someone they are connected to/close to has an illness to think about what they could have said, or might have said, or think that they should have kept more in touch, etc…

As far as the other topic you mentioned: I’m so glad to know I gave you good advice at one time.

As far as giving my father a hug from you, I am so sure he felt it right through your commentary, awh, lol. Thankfully he is home, no longer in the hospital, now that the next phase of his journey of treatment shall begin, and thus you can give him that hug right through the phone, chuckle snicker. Sometimes in these types of circumstances, friends/family don’t know if they should call, when to call, how often to call. For anyone going through this and reading this blog commentary who may have a friend or a family member in a similar circumstance, the fact is that there’s no rule book as to how to be a friend to someone in this circumstance. The bottom line, play it from the heart, reach out and all is appreciated.

Warm regards to ya,
Karen

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Edward F July 23, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Dear Karen,
I just had lunch with cousin Larry and read your blog. I pray that your dad will beat this terrible disease and recover. I lost my wife, Thea, to a very rare cancer, leiomyosarcoma, last year after 3 years battling and undergoing countless chemotherapies. I certainly can empathize with you and what your family is going through. If there is anything I can do to help please reach out to me.

Ed F

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Dr. Karen Ruskin July 23, 2015 at 6:19 pm

Hi Ed,
Thank you for your prayers and wishes of recovery for my father. I sincerely appreciate it, as I know my family does. I am so sincerely sorry for your deep loss of your dear wife Thea. That is heart breaking! She sure did put up a fight, 3 years in battle! Traumatic for you, I am sincerely so sorry. I am sure each day is filled with coping even 1 year later, always and forever a journey and creating a new norm.

Thank you kindly for your empathy and your invitation to reach out. We take each moment day by day and any good news we embrace as it comes, and the pains we confront. As is the reality of any family experiencing medical illness. The latest positive news is that current reports show that the cancer did not spread to the bones. Unfortunately though he does have cancer of the bladder and as such he is but another member of the chemo club. As to what that means in terms of longevity, obviously there’s no way to know. Your precious wife – she fought for 3 years. Everyone’s story is different. So, one day at a time….

Thanks again for your words.
Warmly,
Karen

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Stanley K July 24, 2015 at 11:48 am

Hi Karen, I also live in the same community as your dad, and I am retired from the NYPD. Like Mel and Barney your father and I go back a long time. While having breakfast with dad this morning the conversation was mainly about you and your brother. My wife is a breast cancer survivor, so I know what Neil and the family are going through. The pride that Dad showed this A.M. about the caring of his children for him was overwhelming. If I can do anything for you or Dad please contact me. I live nearby. Stan K

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Dr. Karen Ruskin July 26, 2015 at 11:23 am

Hi Stan,
So great to hear from you. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this. It is wonderful to know that my dad has a special friend such as yourself. Socialization is oh so important for all humans, and when a person is going through a medical journey of which the journey is uncertain, connection and activities whether it is a chat at breakfast with a friend, a walk with a friend or a movie with a friend – these moments are the difference that makes the difference in one’s life. I know how he enjoys getting together with his buddies from the past, and his buddies he met in the community, they are all special indeed, and I appreciate that he has that. You are special, thank you.

In my line of work, I always share with people going through trauma how important it is to have people you enjoy spending time with and to connect with them, spend time with them. Sometimes it may be hard for the person going through the trauma to initiate. I am thankful on a personal level that you are in his life.

Indeed, his children care for him deeply, and I am so glad that he feels comfortable to embrace that and share that with precious friends such as you, at this phase and stage of his life. For such a private person, it is funny on some level that at the end of his life cycle (let’s hope years?) that me as his daughter is implementing an exposure experience, and some of his family and friends are engaging in that via this article. Apparently my dad’s vaulted self has opened up a bit through this blog share, allowing people to know. And I am so glad for that. I have found that when it comes to humans, acknowledging to others one’s reality, allows one to confront it to one’s own self and helps with the journey as one lives with self actualization.

Sometimes people don’t know what to say when someone they know has an illness, whether it is a friend, a family member or an acquaintance. Just talking brings the opportunity for connection. Thanks for chatting with him, awh…..

I am so very happy to hear that your wife is a breast cancer survivor! So happy! Though my heart aches for you and she and your family that you have gone through that pain in your lives. I am so sorry you all had to go through that. Ah, survival, that is a mission accomplished that is like no other. For a friend to have another friend who understands a piece of the puzzle from their own life experience is special, thank you for sharing that with me.

Much appreciated that you are offering if there’s anything you can do. As you know, my dad is definitely not an “ask others” for anything type. Now I know where I get that from, lol… Though it is so nice to know the offer, and that you “boys”, make the time and take the time to get together with each other. That is special, valued and appreciated. Friends that go way back that are still around, ah, what a gift!
Warm Regards,
Karen

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Tzippy July 24, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Dear Karen,
We are praying for your dear Dad. Please remember that you are supported and loved during this challenging time.
Love,
Tzippy

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Dr. Karen Ruskin July 26, 2015 at 11:29 am

Thank you so much Tzippy. I/we appreciate your thoughtful words and your prayers.
Karen

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Kathy August 1, 2015 at 10:34 pm

Wow! Thank you so much for this….we are just beginning this stage…with fast growing prostate cancer. I sold my house to move out of state, and then find out my Dad is dealing with this unexpected diagnosis. So hard ….I am feeling such guilt! I know so many others are dealing with the same thing….hate cancer like everyone! Totally in favor of that pill that would put people out of their misery…..because I do believe for sure that there is a better place where believers will go! My prayers to you and your family!

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Dr. Karen Ruskin August 3, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Hi Kathy,
Thank you for your prayers, right back at ya – to you and your family.

It’s an interesting feeling, wishing for either: a) a magic wand to heal (ideal scenario), b) never having cancer at all (well, this is really the ideal scenario), c) or a special pill that allows the person to no longer experience the days, months, years (however long per the person’s particular medical situation is for) of suffering. The question is: if there were such a pill, would one take the pill? If the answer is yes – at what point in the suffering process would one take a pill to end the suffering? After days of suffering, weeks of suffering, months, years? There’s always hope, right? Hm. I will share that many years ago I was in a very serious accident of which it was questionable if I was going to live or die. Once it was determined I was going to live it was questionable what type of damage I experienced. It was questionable if I was going to be paralyzed. It was questionable if, if, if . . . well, you see the point. I fought the good fight. And as such the outcome? I lived! Not only did I live through it, I walk, I talk, I breath on my own after being attached for quite some time to a machine that helped me to breath during that tragic time. It was in my instinct to fight. I was lucky, I am not paralyzed. Luck, a blessing, my mental fight to health – whatever it is, I am here. Most people have no idea that there was a time that I suffered so, that I could barely walk. I will tell you that during that time period never did I once think of such a pill. All I thought of was to fight, to live, to not just survive but to thrive. The very first time I ever thought of such a magic pill was during the hell I saw most recently as I watched my father suffer. So, let’s go back in time to my late 20’s (I am currently 45 as I type this on 8/3/2015) when I was in the hospital in critical condition. What if a family member of mine while seeing my suffering were to give me such a pill? I would not be here today to tell the story. So again, I ask, at what point if there was such a pill would it be used? How can one really know when the suffering is too much and for too long and when there’s no more hope left?

Well, an interesting topic to say the least. So, here’s the question: If the pill ends the suffering and the person can go on living would they take it? Well then the answer is obvious: take the pill immediately. For that special pill, that magic wand is a given. But… what if the pill ends the suffering and ends the person’s life? Hm, now is where this gets tricky. When we see a loved one in pain, a parent to a child, or an adult child to a parent, or a mate, etc., we do not want this person to suffer. But, in reality, every day is another opportunity to fight. And the crazy thing about cancer is that a person can suffer for a certain number of days or weeks or months, and then be stable for a period of time where they and their family have the gift of spending time together. Well, in some cases, not all . . .

In my case, in my father’s case, we are fighters. Any and all tragedies that have come our way we fight to survive and then to thrive. Though I am still human, and when I saw the kind of suffering he was experiencing in the hospital, I certainly wanted that suffering to end, and hence the flash to a desired magic pill. Right now, for the moment, as I type this today anyway, things are calmer, thank goodness. Unfortunately though as many know who are part of this horrific cancer club, each day is either an opportunity or a tragedy, and one does not know which. So, as I do, as you will, as many daughters before us and after us, we each shall take one day at a time and experience all of the oh so normal emotions, thoughts and feelings.

Well Kathy, thanks for taking the time to write in. We do not know one another, though I will say that I am so glad that you found my blog so that I can say to you; Oh honey, guilt? No. Balancing living your life while being a loving and supportive daughter means different things to different people. And you will figure out what that looks like in your life. I hope your father’s medical experience is as best as it can be and I am sure he feels loved by you. I hope that you and your family find peace during such a turbulent time. And know, all of your thoughts and feelings are normal, it is what we do with it that is the difference that makes the difference. Again, my prayers are with you and your family.

Warmly,
Karen

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Cheryl October 8, 2015 at 4:59 pm

Hi Karen,
Just read your blog, and it also brought tears to my eyes. Having to go through this myself with my dad at the young age of 19 years old, is something I will never forget. I hope you can stay as strong as you can, and I wish only health and happiness for your dad! He sounds like a fabulous man! Reminds me of my dad with his military and law enforcement background!
Much love and prayers,
Cheryl P.

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Dr. Karen Ruskin October 9, 2015 at 8:34 pm

Thank you for this very kind note Cheryl. I am SO sorry that you had to go through such pain at 19 years old. A forever memory indeed.

As I receive your commentary and as I respond, the journey continues. As you experienced when you were oh so young, a journey it is. I wrote this blog over the summer, your comment is in October and my response to you as I type this is in October – the update is that currently to date my dad has been undergoing chemo. He is holding up, he is a fighter indeed. He is not interested in “being fillet again” as he words it. Specifically the notion that after several months of chemo to then go under the knife again to determine whether the bladder can or cannot be removed is certainly no picnic, though that’s the recommendation of the doctors, for the time being. Thus that is the plan, for now… As anyone who has been through this challenge knows that each day is a new day of information.

Thank you again for your kind words, and may your life be filled with the positive memories you have of your dad, and the life you have created for yourself and your family.
Karen

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