Dan told me yesterday that he has pancreatic cancer. He's a older client that I've befriended. One of my co-workers found out in advance and gave me a head's up, trying to ease my grief, but it didn't make a difference when he looked me in the eye.
In his early 80's, you'd never guess it. Smart and quick witted, funny, and always on the move, Dan just doesn't slow down. He spent his working life as a man of finance and industry, made a fortune and protected it all for his kids and grandchildren. The last ten years have been spent in twice daily visits to a nursing home where his wife resides. She's long since forgotten who he is, but he goes morning at night to help her eat, to sit by her side, to just be there.
He told me that he's got weeks of chemo scheduled, then weeks of radiation, and then finally surgery to cut the remaining tumor out. Dan told me that he's going to remain positive, but he's concerned. His kidneys function at about 30%, and although he's been taking all necessary measures to mitigate any issue from that for years, his doctors are concerned about what impact the cancer treatment will have on them. He told me he's had a good run.
This caused me to get weepy and say that his wife needed him around, and that's when Dan quickly shut my sentimentality down. He told me that she was extremely well cared for in the nursing home. She wants for nothing. But she has no idea who he is. He comes and goes without acknowledgement and with no expectation. He said, Heather, she stares off into space, has a hard time swallowing and has long since stopped being able to dance with me. And at that last image, my facade broke and I had to stop looking at him while he spoke.
He told me about his upcoming plans and that I would probably not see a lot of him over the next couple of months, as he figured he'd be wiped out from the treatments. He also told me that he's going to a show downtown next week and he bought orchestra seats for himself and his daughter, figuring, what the hell ... why not. Why fuss and fret over the cost at this point, he said. He stood up and told me that he was going to be positive and that I shouldn't worry. Then he hugged me goodbye -- hugged me hard -- and whispered in my ear that it had been nice knowing me.
It feels some days as though the older I get, the more I say goodbye.