Before surgery

Doctor Beth Karlan (left) says, "Your dad is with us, from above," to Anna Gorman in the pre-op before her hysterectomy/ oophorectomy. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times / November 1, 2006)

I dialed my dad. The doctors had seen spots on his liver during a CT scan. They scheduled a biopsy. He joked that maybe the spots were drops of coffee spilled by a clumsy radiologist.

But after the biopsy results came back, his humor turned to anger. How could he be dying? He was only 58. He felt cheated.

Until his diagnosis, he had refused genetic testing. There was cancer in his family. He already knew that. What more would a test tell him? Ultimately doctors confirmed that he had the same BRCA1 mutation I did.

After that, my brother, Seth, got tested as well. The results were positive. I was scared for him, concerned that he might get the same cancer they had found in my father.

IN the nine months Dad was sick, I drove to his house in Long Beach at least twice a week.

We watched old movies, went out for pizza, took walks along the water. He asked about the baby. I felt uncomfortable even talking about the birth, fearing he might not be around to see it.

Our conversations often came back to the same point: the surgery. It's too late for me, he would say. It's not too late for you.

My dad had his faults. But now, it was hard to remember anything but the good: Him taking me to Lake Arrowhead with my Indian Princesses group, playing hours of Scrabble with me, helping me with school projects. A successful forensic psychologist, my father said more than once that he was most proud in his life of his children.

At the end of my pregnancy, his heart rate spiked. He was hospitalized. My siblings and I visited him in shifts, covering him with blankets and monitoring his pain medication.

While he slept, I read through books of baby names. By Jewish tradition, infants are named in honor of deceased relatives. He had insisted that I give my daughter a name in honor of his father, Morris, who had died years earlier.

One evening, I reluctantly made another list -- of names that began with I, for Ira. When he woke up, I tucked the list away.

While he was in the hospital, his body -- and his mind -- started to fail. The doctors convinced us that chemotherapy wouldn't prolong his life. We agreed to send him home for hospice care. My due date was a week away.

On the same day my father was released from the hospital, I gave birth to a baby girl. We named her Sadie Manyara, the M for Morris.

Over the next seven weeks -- the last of my father's and the first of my daughter's -- I often sat on his bed, with Sadie in my arms. He rested next to us.

While I changed my daughter's diapers, the nurses changed my father's. As I breast-fed her, the nurses poured protein shakes into his feeding tube.

At the end, my father lost the ability to speak. The only way either he or Sadie could communicate was by crying.

I held both of their hands. They were both helpless. So was I.

I tried not to cry while at his house. But as I drove home, I couldn't keep it in. I was devastated about losing my father. And I was haunted by this image of me dying, my daughter sitting beside me.

Maybe my father was right. I was fortunate enough to have this knowledge about my cancer risk, yet I hadn't acted on it. Maybe I was risking my life. Maybe I should do as he asked.

MY father died on a Saturday morning. He was 59.