At first, the chemo worked. At least it seemed to work. We didn’t know what to expect. My dad was holding up pretty well. His spirits were high, & his attitude belied the fact he was a sick man. “When you see me panic, then you know it’s time for you to panic,” he once told me. In all my years, I’d never seen him get flustered. Never seen him sweat anything out. He was cool as a cucumber. He was part Indiana Jones, part Cool Hand Luke. A throwback from another era. My dad was all man.
He never complained about the hand life had dealt him. What spun inside his head may have been a different matter, but his thoughts & emotions never broke through the surface. He went about the biggest war any one person could wage like he was waking for work. He rolled his sleeves, squared his jaw & got down to business. If there was anyone who could conquer this, anyone at all who could figure a way to overcome, damn well I knew it’d be my dad. He wasn’t going anywhere.
I firmly believed it with all my heart, even if no one else did. I wasn’t being naive; I stuck to my faith. Sometimes in the darkest of hours, the simplistic of ideals burns most brightly. I admired the way my father carried himself, & I set out to emulate his example; to do otherwise would’ve betrayed the strength of his character. My father displayed no signs of weakness or cowardice, & I sure as hell wasn’t about to, either. When we spoke, we spoke only of what he’d accomplished that day, & what he’d be conquering tomorrow. When our eyes met, I made sure belief burned in my eyes. I wanted it to blind him.
Yes, at first the chemo worked. My dad started losing his hair, so he shaved it, just like me. He looked pretty good bald; he joked that he was still the better looking one. The chemo made his fingernails brittle & discolored. He joked that they now resembled the shell of a New Zealand mussel. His appetite was sound, but the days after chemo treatment really sapped his strength. He still managed to putter around his yard, although now he sat & rested for longer moments on his bench, relishing the sun upon his bare scalp.
My father told me one day that he’d researched pancreatic cancer online. He said nothing afterward; the silence hung thick between us. I knew what it meant. I knew he’d read the numbers, studied the statistics, just as I had. “Numbers can’t measure the fight,” I said quietly. “I just wanted to know what I was up against,” he replied and left it at that.
There were tough days for him ahead. Even the times I could only speak to him by phone, I could hear it in his voice – a man strained from effort, gritting his teeth in preparation for the next round. After awhile, I didn’t know what to say. Our conversations were about improving his diet, simple exercises at home to help keep his strength, what day & time chemo would be the coming week.
We had a significant snowfall at one point over the winter. My dad didn’t have the stamina anymore to run his snowblower as he’d been used to; he wouldn’t admit it & put up a pretty tough struggle when he learned I’d be coming over to shovel his walk & driveway. In the end, I won. Barely. But something occurred that day that has haunted me since. As I was shoveling, I happened to glance at the house & there, silhouetted against the curtains, was my father looking back down at me. I’ll never forget the expression upon his face for as long as I live. He looked like a child who’d been told he couldn’t go out to play. His eyes were so sad; he didn’t want to be in his room, he wanted to be out in the snow, clearing his own property, chugging his snowblower along the block in search of neighbors to help. I turned away as quickly as I could, but the moment had been seared into my mind forever. I felt a spear go through my heart. It was the first time during my father’s fight that I felt the enormity of the situation.
“What’s that?” my dad questioned one afternoon as I came to visit. I was holding a football jersey in my hand. As I said earlier, my father had been an amazing football player. He was also a New York Giants fan. But much to his chagrin, I veered off course. I’m a New Orleans Saints fan, as big as they come, & have been since I was six years old. “I’m going to hang this here,” I said, lifting the very first authentic Saints jersey I ever owned into the air. I had it customized to read PINTO on the back. “When you’re feeling down, or if you’re feeling weak, you look at the jersey & make-believe that I’m blocking for you. You’re going to score a touchdown. Never drop the ball.”
That Saints jersey would make all the difference in the world later on.
And then the chemotherapy stopped working…
(Part Four soon coming…)
And now quickly about my contest. Ok, to be fair, it is a contest, but it’s also a fund-raiser. If you’d like to make a difference in the fight against pancreatic cancer, then please purchase my novella, “Dusk and Summer,” written to honor my father & used by the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research as a “gift that gives back.” You don’t need to know me or my father to enjoy the book; I wrote it as a source of faith & inspiration for all, regardless the circumstance. If you’ve already purchased it, perhaps you’ll consider extra copies for friends or family. Details about Dusk and Summer & the story behind it are soon to come.
A portion of each purchase is donated to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. If you order a book, please send me a message here on WordPress, Facebook, or at my personal email with your name & mailing address. I’ll be putting all names into a box – winners will receive an additional copy signed by me, as well as matching your purchase donation. I’m hoping that for every 10 purchasers, I will have 5 winners.
You may read an excerpt from Dusk and Summer here: http://www.josephpinto.com/dusk_excerpt.php
You may purchase Dusk and Summer in paperback form from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Dusk-Summer-Joseph-Pinto/dp/0615250645/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1290049336&sr=8-3
You may purchase Dusk and Summer in Kindle edition here: http://www.amazon.com/Dusk-and-Summer-ebook/dp/B00361FBSQ/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1290049336&sr=8-4
You may read Dusk and Summer on the Lustgarten Foundation’s webpage here: http://www.lustgarten.org/Page.aspx?pid=520