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Why Does That Uninvited Guest Keep Showing Up?

This past February on my birthday I posted about the Uninvited Guest that showed up at my birthday party a few years back.

You know the guest; the one who is never welcome, never knows when to leave and can’t seem to stay in its proper place for very long.

Recently that uninvited guest made another unexpected appearance at my dad’s 85th birthday party. This time the uninvited guest was quieter, more just lurking around in the background. I don’t think anyone else noticed, but I did.

Yes, that “uninvited guest” was cancer.

I would really like to know, why can’t “cancer” just stay away? Why is it always there, as if waiting for the next opportunity to pounce on somebody’s happiness?

A few weeks ago my siblings and I decided it would be lovely to mark my dad’s birthday with a bigger than usual celebration. I mean turning 85 years old is a really big deal.

When the big day finally arrived, I found myself feeling a little apprehensive. Why you might ask? Well, because this event was going to be attended by family members who had not seen me since before, you know, before my cancer diagnosis.

Even though everyone invited to the party was family, I still felt slightly ill at ease and I’m pretty sure some of them did as well.

Why was that?

Well, obviously it had something to do with the fact that I look different now.

I also wondered, do I act differently too?  

Just how changed am I?

Do I make others uncomfortable? Maybe, maybe not.

Of course, that anxiety led to a little bit of guilt. I felt bad for putting a tiny bit of a damper on a birthday party. I felt bad for being that reminder; the reminder of cancer, silly I know, but…

The next way cancer butt its head smack into the middle of the festivities was when I looked at the birthday cake, or more specifically when I looked at the words written in green-colored frosting on the birthday cake, the words that simply said “Happy 85th Birthday Dad.”

Instead of simply admiring the cake, that uninvited guest seemed to rudely bump into me again as if to remind me that living to 85 is not necessarily something I should be counting on. I mean how many people get to live to be 85? How many people with cancer get to live to be 85? Hmm. I wondered what my chances were.

Of course, such thoughts were ridiculous; nobody knows how many birthdays they’ll get.

And I missed my mom at the party. Family celebrations still seem to be missing something without her conversation, without her cooking, without her smile, without her presence. I wished cancer hadn’t taken her away from our celebrations; away from everything.

I also did a lot of observing of people’s faces during the party, especially my dad’s face. His face looks older, of course, more worn down. It now has deep lines and more than a few brown age spots. His hair is almost all gray now. He moves more slowly, but still has a bit of a bounce in his step.

My dad’s a man of few words, well compared to me anyway! He knows more than I’ll ever know about history and a lot of other things too.

He also knows things he shouldn’t have to know; like what it feels like to have a wife with cancer and now a daughter with cancer.

I wondered which was harder for him… I wondered if he sees my mother when he looks at me.

We took lots of pictures at the party. We ate lots of good food, we watched grandpa blow out his candles and we enjoyed that cake with all its gooey sweet frosting. We made memories.

We were just a family celebrating a special day.

And it was a good day; even an uninvited guest couldn’t spoil it.

Happy 85th Dad!

Do you ever feel like you make others uncomfortable for any reason, not just cancer?

How do you keep any uninvited guest away?


25 thoughts to “Why Does That Uninvited Guest Keep Showing Up?”

  1. The uninvited guest has put a damper on a month that should be a celebration of one of the happiest in my life. In 2005, after numerous tests, I received the doctor’s call wanting me to move my appt up to June 22. My response, if it’s bad news, that is my wedding anniversary and I’d rather not. Even hearing this, the doctor was insistent and the diagnosis of breast cancer came on our 31st. Chemo, radiation, baldness, fatigue, aches & pains, life went on.

    Fast forward to a cancer survivor’s landmark goal~year 5 cancer-free, claim remission! Family & friends discussed a celebration for June 2011 following our Relay for Life event. For a few weeks prior, I was experiencing flu-like symptoms & discomfort attributed to a fall. I was only able to make the survival lap, but little more. Symptoms were changing, everyone had an idea, but an ER CT scan 3 days after the walk revealed not a broken rib or pulled muscle but a mass on the right ovary and collection of fluid throughout the abdomen. Our 37th anniversary…had the fluids drained (the tech thought 1 liter, ended up 4.5) and prepared for surgery.

    The surgery was extensive, the cancer staged at 1C, 1 chemo down with 5 to go, and the head has been buzzed. I didn’t ask why me again ~ well, maybe just once. I did wonder why I was so blessed with my outcome & the surgeon was surprised by it as well. Perhaps it is because I am such a shy, reserved person — NOT :-). I was sharing all thru Sept with it’s teal for OC.

    Hubby has suggested that we skip the month of June for awhile; someone else said renew our vows during a different month. I look at June as a celebration still ~ another year with a wonderful person at my side, loving family, & awesome friends. And since the two cancers weren’t related, we are planning the remission party.

    Enjoying your blog ~ Pam

    1. Pam, Wow, thank you for sharing your story and what a story it is. I’m sorry you have had to deal with cancer twice. Have you had the BRCA test? I probably would have asked why me more than once! I can understand your apprehension regarding the month of June. It’s great your hubby has such a sense of humor and has been such a source of support through this stuff. I have been lucky in that department as well. Good for you for still looking at June as a celebration, that’s as it should be. Good luck with the rest of your chemo and thank you for saying you enjoy my blog. Hope to “see” you back.

  2. Oh, Nancy! I identify with this so much! I love how you say that your dad has endured having cancer strike his wife and his daughter–my dad too! Thanks for expressing the hazards of the uninvited guest.

  3. Nancy,
    Long ago I got over my breast cancer making other people uncomfortable. We haven’t done anything! It, cancer, has been done to us. Let that one go, friend. There are other things for you to worry about.

    I imagine your father is broken-hearted about the death of his wife and the fact that she struggled with cancer. He’s broken-hearted about you as well, but in a different way. We always want to protect our children and a cancer diagnosis is one of those things that’s out of a parent’s control.

    Like your father, I’ve aged a lot since my spouse died, and I have yet to get a handle on it. I imagine if I were your dad’s age, I would be thinking I’m that much closer to seeing James, again. I don’t fear death because James is already there.


    1. Brenda, I know what you mean and it’s not like I actually worry about making people uncomfortable, but I do think about it. It’s a fact; cancer makes people uneasy and it’s always sort of just there, like a heavy fog that never entirely lifts. I do sometimes wonder about the effect all this has had on my dad. It’s a lot for a spouse and parent to handle. I think you’ve been coping pretty well, Brenda. I know losing James was a terrible terrible loss for you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Nancy – I get what you feel. I feel that too sometimes. And then I think – why should I? It wasn’t MY fault… uninvited guest is the right expression.
    Glad you had a lovely day and 85 sure is a great age to get to! Lucky him having a daughter like you.
    Best, Sarah

    1. Being Sarah, Yes, you always “get it.” Of course, even when we know our thoughts and feelings are misplaced or even irrational, that doesn’t always stop us from having them does it? It was a lovely day and yes, 85 sounds pretty awesome indeed. Thanks for your comments and for the kind compliment too!

  5. Nancy, I relate with so many points I don’t know where to begin. Wondering if I’ll live to an old age like my dad. Seeing family for the first time since I was diagnosed, wondering if they’ll think I changed and then the biggies you mention — Do I remind my dad of my mother? Does he worry I have the same fate? And just remembering that the loss of my mother is his great loss as well. Teary again… love this post.

    1. Stacey, Thank you for your compassion and for your comments. I guess we can drive ourselves crazy with all the wondering and all the questions can’t we? I’m moved that you related so well to this post, but it also saddens me that you do.

  6. Nancy, great post. I understand. My hubby has had to endure the BC experience twice… his 1st wife died of BC after battling it off and on for 10 years. Then just 2 1/2 years into our marriage… BAM, I got diagnosed too.

    How can this happen to the same man twice? What are the odds? How is this fair? It’s not.

    Know what he said to me after he sat with my news for a few minutes? “Now I know why [1st wife] sent you to me. She knew I would take care of you.” Makes me cry every time.

    1. Renn, Thanks for sharing some very poignant comments. It’s so unbelievable your husband faced this disease with his first wife and is facing it again now with you as well. He has a truly remarkable way of looking at it. What a comment for him to make! It brings tears to my eyes too. He must be an amazing man.

  7. My uninvited guest that turns up each year at my birthday, Christmas, family celebrations, is the secret grief I carry in my heart, that the the babies I miscarried over the past 3 years should be there too. I wish I could say that I knew how to handle the uninvited guest, but sadly I haven’t learned how.

    1. Marie, Oh my, this comment is so touching, Marie. I fear your grief will always be there, but I hope the rawness of it lessens a bit over time. Your babies, though unborn, were very loved and wanted and that is a miraculous thing in itself. They are remembered forever in your heart, Marie. That will never change. Thanks for sharing about something so personal and painful. Wish I had better words of comfort and advice.

  8. Nancy, this beautifully poignant posting brought tears to my eyes. Yes, cancer always seems to be the uninvited guest at times we don’t expect it, huh?

    I wish I could say I’ve moved on, but truth is, every day I think about cancer. It’s always with me, and it will always be a part of who I now am.

    Wonderful posting!

    1. Beth, Thanks for your comments. I know what you mean about cancer being a permanent part of who you are now. I feel the same way. I think we do move on after a diagnosis, or try to, but we never entirely move away or separate ourselves from those words “you have cancer.” It’s not possible, at least not for me.

  9. You give “it” too much credit calling “it” a “guest.” A “guest” is someone you put out the nice hand towels for in the powder room, and actually put the olives in a serving bowl. At the very best, cancer is a flatulating pink elephant that has taken up residence in the middle of your life. “Tt” does not deserve hand towels or serving bowls. But YOU do! And so does everyone you care about.

    (BTW…I used to love October…pumpkins, nutmeg, cinnamon, my bday. Now I find myself mentally screaming and gagging at every pink ribbon that flies in my face. I want to wrap my pink elephant in pink duct tape and plop it in front of the HQ for SGK.)

    1. TC, I think you might be right. I probably should have called the uninvited guest the unexpected “intruder.” Although I totally understand, I also think it’s really sad that you used to love October and now you find it to be such a negative month. I just posted on that exact topic. My feelings about October have changed too, but I still call it my favorite month. I’m not giving it up to pink. I just won’t. Thanks so much for commenting.

  10. Nancy ~ enjoyed your October post. Love, love, love the pics. Last October was not as bad as this one. And, my comment was left on AZ’s Race for the Cure day, so the pink ribbons abound and my ire was up. This October is “new” because of the rediagnosis of mets this summer. If I make it till next October without a further encroachment I may very well be able to re-embrace the month more fully. I will have something to rejoice about…I will have made it to another bday without burdening my family. All the best, TC

    1. TC, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on October and I’m happy you liked the photos. There really is no time like fall for great outdoor photograhy opportunities. I’m so sorry about your recent mets rediagnosis. I don’t blame you one bit for having your “ire up.” The October madness seems to forget about the mets community in my opinion. That gets MY ire up. I certainly hope you make it to next October and to many more after that as well. My best to you too.

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