Petra's Parelli World - Follow my Journey as a Parelli Professional Instructor

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My dad was diagnosed with Cancer today

For the record, I wrote this blog post a few months ago, in June:

My mom seems to find it easier not to use the C word, but it’s a tumor, it’s in his lung and it is cancer. After hanging up the phone at 6:20am this morning, I decided I didn’t have the luxury and time to sit down and cry, so I finished breakfast, snapped at Dennis because I couldn’t find my boot cut jeans (I was sure it was all his fault, poor guy...) and somehow still managed to be 10 minutes late for the two week course meeting with Kathy Baar (Faculty Member), Pete (If you’ve been at the ranch you know Dancing Pete, don’t you?), Jarno from Belgium and Steffi from Lenggries, Germany, just half an hour away from where my parents live in Munich.

I remember having to ask things twice and when the meeting was over, I did participate in our morning Remuda with Pete and Steffi. After that I was running between the office and lodge like a chicken with its head cut off, forgetting what I wanted to do there in the first place. The tears I had swallowed in the morning refused to remain silent and I finally conceded that I would not be a valuable team member today.

I explained Kathy what was going on and left. My computer is still sitting somewhere in the corner of the staff office and my jacket is laying out on the bench at the fire pit. Of course, I noticed once I was home. Now I’m sitting here under the umbrella in the yard, eating Rock Ford ice cream, listening to the wind chimes and trying to figure out what to do next.

I am so glad I couldn’t talk to my dad today. Me crying my eyes out, him not being able to understand me on the phone… It would have been very unproductive. By tomorrow I will be back to my logical self, with a plan and being supportive. Life it too short to be unhappy. The fact that my dad smoked for 50 years, (he quit 10 years ago) and that I spent my childhood trying to get him to quit, cannot be changed. Somehow, in the end, we all live with the consequences we create for ourselves.

Several years back during my divorce, I could not deal any longer with my emotions and I started to go to counseling. I was asked to share my feelings about being mad, sad, glad and scared. I found out that my biggest problem was not being able to admit that I was MAD. Just the word caused my stomach to twist. I firmly believe that we create our own destiny, that emotions that we are holding back (like I tried to do this morning following an old habit) make us sick and that our thoughts become words, words become habits and habits form our character.

So, try this exercise with me…. What are you mad, sad, glad and scared about?
I am MAD, because my dad smoked for 50 years, afflicting his, my mom’s and my health. I am SAD because I love my dad and I don’t want him and my mom to suffer. I am GLAD because my parents love each other and my mom is my dad’s rock right now. I am SCARED because my mom said that my dad was devastated when he heard the diagnosis and in my whole life of 44 years I have only seen my dad devastated once. He is usually the one that says, “Oh, it will work out alright.”

So what does all of this have to do with Parelli? Parelli taught me to become emotionally fit, first for my horse, then for myself, my family and friends. Parelli Natural Horse Man Ship has also helped me to accept my feelings, to be ok with them, to turn frustration into fascination and to turn despair into action. Only if I take control of the situation can I be a leader, for my horse, myself, my family and friends.

My belief is whatever obstacles I face, I am choosing the road I walk on. Do you agree? I would love to hear, oh I guess “read” your thoughts…..

And this is what happened since then: My dad decided on chemotherapy. He had his 4th treatment this month, 2 treatments were postponed for low blood count and - shortly after the first treatment he came down with pneumonia and ended up in the hospital for a week. I was able to send my son Jani to Germany for 6 weeks, and he ended up being a wonderful supporter for my mom and dad. After the 3rd treatment the doctor said all the tumors are shrinking, including the tumor on the liver that they had missed earlier. My mom is holding on, but tells me during every phone conversation that she doesn't want to live if my dad won't make it. She is also working overtime due to the financial fallout (which I'm sure is still smaller than what it would be here in the US thanks to our health care system). My dad is in good spirits and we are all hoping and praying for the best outcome.


  1. Hi Petra. I feel very sad about it and can in fact realize your situation. I have also kind of difficult situation with my parents as my father is disabled due to a serious accident, app. 13 years ago. It is leass the accident and the circumstances, my dad is into it but all that made and makes the relation between my mother and me even more difficult than it already was....I think it is good to face the feelings we have, which means we grapple with the problem/ situation we are part of it instead of closing our eyes. Once we realize that there is a difficult situation we have to face, we can find solutions and ways to go through them. So I wish you a lot of strengthness and emotional fitness to face and realize (also the next step). Keep it up.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Klaudia. I really appreciate it!

  3. Petra,

    I'm sorry to hear about your dad and thankful that he's responding well to treatment.

    I also stuff my emotions - partly because I don't want to acknowledge them and partly because of their intensity. Our culture would like us to be happy all the time. I don't think that this is possible. I believe that we have emotions for a reason and it is a great disservice to ourselves if we aren't allowed to experience them. You can't experience Light without Darkness, so to speak.

    I admire you for being brave enough to acknowledge your emotions in such a public forum. If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know - I've spent the last 19 years studying cancer.


  4. Hello Petra,

    I'm so sorry to hear about your father, smoker or not, cancer is a terrible disease; I know, I lost my mother to cancer when she was just 38 years old (I was 13). I'm glad to hear your father has such supportive family members and that he's having success with the chemotherapy. It's also wonderful your son is able to give support to your mother; so often the support people get forgotten and they need support too.

    I admire your ability to open up to everyone about such a personal matter. I think that's a wonderful thing and one of the quickest ways to healing. When we share our trials and tribulations they seem to become more manageable somehow.

    I agree, we do choose the path we walk in life, maybe not the circumstances but we certainly choose how we respond to those circumstances. A very wise person once told me the best way to combat dispair and depression is to take action, to identify the problem and possible solutions then act on those solutions.

    I'll be thinking of you and your family and sending positive thoughts and well wishes to Germany for your father. I'm praying for a great outcome.

    Kathy Craig

  5. Evening Petra...
    I am sending you gentle and healing smiles, both for you, your family and your Dad. We have smoking related Cancer in our family also, so I've watched several of the people I love deal with it too.
    You have a lot of people out here who care. I'm one of them.
    I'm taking your questions with me this evening out to barn to answer while I spend my playtime with Lucky. He sends slobbery horse love too.
    I remain your fan from OZ, smiling at you always. Nancy, choosing my path too

  6. Hi Petra -

    I sure hope that things are moving in a positive direction for you & your family.