Sunday 19th February 2017,
The Liz Army

So now my dad has brain cancer, too

This is how old I was when my parents divorced.

Yes, you read that right. Seven years after my own diagnosis, my dad now also has a large mass in his brain that is characteristic of a highly malignant brain cancer–most likely a glioblastoma.

By all means… Take a few seconds to utter some WTFs and holy shits.

I’ve written about my father in some depth in the past but I have never painted a complete picture of the man. I mentioned him briefly in Under my mom’s watch and went into more detail in Lobbying with my emotions. That last post caused a bit of discussion among my family and led to the unequivocal knowledge that “Liz doesn’t like her dad.” And it is true.

I don’t like my dad

Without writing an entire novel about how he has treated my family, let me just say that he was an abusive husband and father, a philanderer, an unscrupulous civil servant, and a “maker of deals” in all things in life. After my parent’s divorce when I was two, he never paid child support. My rare interactions with him over the course of my 36 years involved a handful of trips to Sea World, birthday cards from the ages of 3-20, and a AAA roadside assistance membership at Christmas when I was 26 (that’s a long story). He is the kind of man who only does things for people if it is to his advantage.

In the coming weeks I imagine I will have more to say about my dad and his dealings with brain cancer — as I have now become entangled in his care due to my intimate knowledge of this disease and my extreme curiosity of how much this disease may be related to my genetics now that there is a link. (Or as my friend Jay Sales recently pointed out, I am an outlier among outliers.)

Knowing I will be writing more about this in the future I felt it important to provide some back story as to why I am less emotionally impacted, and more intrigued, by him having this disease.

I also understand that this whole situation may lead to complicated feelings one way or another — I am not ignorant of the potential.

In fact, it has taken me two full weeks to complete this blog post because I am (still) conflicted about how honest I should be about a man who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer. It is my longstanding policy to be honest in all things here, on my piece of the Internet, but I feel guilty outing a man for his crappy behavior when a terminal diagnosis is involved.

Then again, I also have brain cancer and since my own diagnosis he has only visited me once (one week after the discovery of my brain tumor), never called again, declined an invitation to my wedding, and about a year ago insinuated that it was somehow my fault that I made a bad investment in a condo in 2007, just one year before the U.S. economy tanked and I got diagnosed with said brain cancer. It was after this conversation I realized I was officially done trying to maintain a relationship with this person who has never parented me, and that I would be OK never talking to or seeing him again.

So fuck him.

One more dad story

Last weekend I flew to San Diego to see him in the hospital. My dad has no friends and has turned off all his family members. I helped my siblings understand his diagnosis and what was happening in his frontal lobe: he has expressive aphasia (he can’t really talk), right-sided weakness, and is exhibiting bizarre behavior. I also helped set a plan in place to coordinate his care over the coming months.

While we were alone in hospital I told my dad that a friend just contacted me to tell me that he was recently diagnosed with cancer. Since going through my own cancer experience, I am often one of the first people my friends contact if they or a close person in their life is often dealing with a medical issue.

Even though my dad can’t clearly express himself right now, he was somehow still able to explain to me how I could “use” this role I play in people’s lives to my own advantage. I stopped him, looked him in the eyes and said, “No, that is not what I am going to do. I talk with people and share information out of the kindness of my heart, not because I think I am going to get something in return. That is the difference between you and me.”

And he stopped talking.

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  • Chris Fox

    Holy shit, and you are an outlier in your being an extremely wonderful person!

  • Sw

    Wow Liz. I can only imagine how complex this post was to write based on the multi-faceted nature of this disease, the relationship and the aspect of it being public. What is clear is your kindness and generosity of spirit, despite and in the face of being treated the opposite way.

    One thought that popped up, and I couldn’t help but share so I hope you don’t take offense is…wouldn’t it be an interesting turn if the bizarre behavior your dad starts exhibiting because of his disease is to return your kindnesses, because that definitely sounds out of character for him.

    Hugs! Oh, and love seeing your and your dimples in their childhood years. (:

  • Lisa Wentz Kinnison

    A little less violent, my own past with my father was checkered. I accepted him not as a father but a person of interest! Until his last five years. We reconnected, again not as father and daughter but rather just companions. My son was diagnosed with malignant brain cancer and a few months later my dad was diagnosed with ALS. Could have just as well been cancer, it’s still a fucked up disease. I’ve followed your blog for quite some time and I’ve just read and admired. I’m the caregiver. But when dad became sick, I was injected back into his life, where my siblings who have been much closer than I ever was were unable to do the things that needed to get done. I was more able to detach and git ‘er dun. Everyone in the family has a role, you may have never known your role and it may not be one you want but it’s still there. I wish you well and good luck with it. I too was accused for doing what I was doing for my own benefit, not by my dad or siblings but an extended family member. I felt right in my heart knowing there was nothing further from the truth. My dad passed away two years ago and my son is living life to the fullest the best he can. Sending love and happiness. Lisa

  • Janet Demeter

    Love and support xo

  • claire

    This must have been a shock Liz and thank you for writing such an honest post about it. It cannot be easy, given your history with your Dad, to go through this all. Thinking of you and wishing you all the best – you are one mighty strong and powerful lady!

  • Stephen Hathaway

    Hi Liz,
    I have been following your site since 2011, when my son was diagnosed with astrocytoma. Since then I have lost my wife to glioblastoma. I have the greatest admiration for your courage and wonderful support for those facing your challenge. I hope that you and your partner have a long and happy life! I am sorry to hear about your father, and hope you can find peace with your decisions.

    Best Wishes

  • Kia Wynn

    So sorry to hear about your relationship with your father and now having to also deal with his cancer diagnosis. Thank you for being so open and honest. I too am dealing with cancer, a rare form called Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. And although I do not have the same relationship with my father, he too has cancer (Multiple Myeloma). He was diagnosed about 5 years before me. Not sure how the 4 of us got so lucky. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m new at blogging but I’m blogging over at