How do you cope?

How do you cope with a bad situation? How do you cope when someone you love has a disease? What if that disease is a terminal disease? When my father was diagnosed with Cancer, I didn’t want to believe the diagnosis. Of course I went through the entire spectrum of emotions- despair, grief, disbelief, denial, hope…. I initially thought that it was a nightmare, and it was. The only problem is that I never woke up from that nightmare. I couldn’t believe that my father- the man who meant more to me than any other man-had Cancer. I couldn’t believe that we didn’t see it… Why didn’t we see the symptoms in time?

My father had a little accident at work one day. I believe it was a fall of some sort. Well he went to the hospital, and it was through their testing that it was discovered that he had Cancer. Had he not had that fall, who knows how long we would have been in the dark about his condition. It was after this discovery that he had to receive extensive treatments to battle this awful disease. Initially, I thought that everything would be okay. I figured that he would be cured, and then we’d go back to living our lives. I figured we had many more years left. I just knew that he would have the opportunity to see his grandsons grow up.

I was wrong. I watched as my father deteriorated. This big, tall, strong, healthy man now had to have chemotherapy sessions, and then his kidneys failed. How does one deal with that? Although the situation was dire, we still continued to smile and do our best to keep his spirits uplifted. That was really hard because all I wanted to do was cry. I felt like my world was coming to an end. I will never forget the day when he whispered to me “Dana, I’m dying.” Although it tore me up inside, I smiled and told him “No you’re not. You are going to be okay.” I remember leaving the hospital that day and driving back to Maryland where I was living at the time. I remember going back to work. I also remember getting to the end of the day- two days later, and my Principal telling me the news that my father had passed. Apparently my mom had called her earlier that morning and told her the news and asked her not to tell me until the end of the school day because she didn’t want me to be upset in front of my students.

I am thankful that she waited to tell me the news. I wouldn’t have been any good if I had known that morning right after it happened. Since then, I have accepted the fact that life is just not fair. Sometimes I still cannot understand why my father was taken from us so soon. I feel like I am missing out on so much. I know that my son and nephew are missing out on spending time with their grandfather and learning how to grow up and be a real man- a lesson I know he would have been the best man to teach.

During those long rides back and forth between Maryland and Florida to visit my father while he was sick, I had a lot of time to think. It was during this time that I knew I had to give some recognition to the most important man in my life. My father instilled such strong values in my sister and I, and he was such a wonderful person. I knew that I had to share him and his legacy with the world. “Bo John’s Train” is the beginning of my tribute to my father, Robert Lee Walton Jr. Sharing his life with others is what I do. Through “Bo John’s Train”, I am able to give others an insight to the man that he was. Seeing the response that others have when I talk about him or do presentations in schools makes me so proud. It took me a while to realize it, but this is the way that I cope.

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