My father has a cancerous tumor.
Two and one half inches in diameter.
Lying next to the optic nerve.
Without radiation, he will go blind.
He will hemorrhage.
He will have brain damage.
“The tumor has been growing for at least
ten years, maybe longer,” says the radiation oncologist.
They make a mold of his face, then a mesh mask.
My father wears the mask during treatment so the radiation
beam will hit the exact same spot each time.
Possible side effects: exhaustion.
Burn marks on the face. Hair loss.
Sores in the mouth. The inability to swallow.
A feeding tube may be inserted into the stomach.
By eighty-seven years old, my father has had
a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm,
four heart attacks, three stents.
The radiation oncologist is encouraging.
“Six to eight weeks of radiation should shrink
the tumor to a small size,” he tells me.
“The tumor is growing so slowly,
it won’t kill him at his age.
Your father will die from something else.”