Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Coming to an End

2011 is coming to a close as I write this post.  It sure isn't ending on a high note.  Obviously I haven't kept up with this blog as I had originally planned.  Dad's passing changed all kinds of plans.  It's painful to think about how he won't be there for all those landmarks ahead of us. All those dance recitals, school graduations, weddings, and everything else he'll miss in the lives of his five grandchildren. Three children are mine the other two are my brothers. One of the reasons we moved to Spring Hill, TN was to be closer to my parents and my wife's parents so that the grandchildren would be able to be more of a part of their lives.  We're fortunate in that regard.  My oldest daughter spent nearly four years with her grandfather nearby.  My brother lives in California and his children were never able to spend the time as my children did.  For that I know we're fortunate but I still feel angry every time I think of dad passing away at only 67.  My own grandfather passed away at 68 and I regretted not being able to know him better as I was only 11 when he died.  I planned on my children having many, many more days than I had to spend with their Dee-da (that's what they called him, phonetically its the reverse of daddy, my oldest daughter called him that when she was learning to speak and it stuck.)

Time will call all of us one day, some sooner than others and we'll never know when that day is to come.  Life goes on with or without out us and sometimes we feel like we're just along for the ride.

The rest of the year was spent coping with the changes.  It's been a difficult several months. Mom is doing good, keeping busy with her sowing and embroidery.  Keeping busy is the only way I can think of to get through the hard times.  The harder you work, the busier you are, the less time you have to think about the pain.  But think you do, always.

Christmas came and my brother and his two girls came for a visit.  It was good to see them again.  Family should be together at Christmas.  2012 will bring new challenges, every year does.  Hopefully it will bring some joy too into our lives.  We're due for some joy I think.

I hope that everyone reading this can move into 2012 with joy and excitement for good things to come.  Always keep hoping for the best!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How My Father Will Live

Cancer.  Those six letters put together in combination create one strong emotion, fear. Fear of pain, fear of loss, fear of losing someone, fear of dying, fear of you name it. Dad struggled daily with fear.  He was quiet, sullen, and withdrawn. Each day he became more withdrawn.

Before he was sick dad would play with my kids, joke around, simply be silly, and other grandpa stuff.  He would read books before we went home, often times despite the wishes of my children's parents.  But the cancer not only attacked his body but his psyche as well.

In my last post I told about how his surgery went and the discovery of the cancer on the liver. Treatment options are so limited for liver cancers and patients who are in Stage four are given little hope of recovery.  For them maintenance is the word of the day. Maintain the body by keeping the cancer at bay with chemotherapy.  Dad didn't do well with the chemo the first time and feared the quality of life he would have with another stronger round to come. That's when my parents decided to seek out alternative treatments. When all else fails why not, right?

They researched and tried diets, juicing, and supplements none of which even slowed the cancer. The idea behind all these plans was to replace the toxins in the body with cancer fighting nutrients and get the body to fight back.  I can't say if that strategy is effective or not and it may work in other cancer cases but I can say that it did nothing for my father who lost his life to metastatic cancer of the liver on July 6th, 2011.

How My Father Lost The Fight With Cancer


The week before he died dad was suffering from a severe pain in his side. When he couldn't bear it any longer he went in to the hospital to see what was happening. They doctors ran tests and kept him in a tiny hospital room inside the emergency area. The hospital was completely full and he had to wait to get a room on the oncology floor. Eventually he was moved and placed into a room with enough room for family, for us.

The CT scans came back and showed the cancer had spread even more and now included spots on his kidneys, lungs and even his heart.  But that's not why he was in so much pain.  His pain was caused by a large blood clot near his liver.  The pressure was causing massive amounts of pain but there was a possible solution, blood thinners. The nurses administered blood thinners to try to reduce the clot which then caused a rupture in his intestine to begin to bleed.  They were forced to stop the blood thinners to stop the intestinal bleeding.

While he was in the hospital I remember walking back to the shed in his backyard, I forget why I was back there now, but I remember thinking "Dad won't get to come back here ever again."  It wasn't that the shed mattered one but it was the fact that there would be so many little things he would never be able to do again, let alone all the major life events. I knew what was coming but it was then that the enormity of the cancer's impact really started to hit me.  I had been prepared for the worst since the diagnoses (or I thought I was) but was always hoping for the best.  During all this we were simply hoping to bring dad home for a few more weeks.  Where he could spend time with us in his own home.  My brother and I cleared out a room on the lower floor to fit a bed from hospice care.  We covered a table in the room with pictures of family.  Dad never made it home.

It was one of the worst experiences in my life. It's inevitable, we all will die at some point and leave behind loved ones but the knowledge of death and experiencing it so closely are completely different.  My father's death from cancer was drawn out over several months and I'm fortunate I had the chance to say the things that needed said, but there's always something more isn't there?  I'll miss the chance to talk with him about my ideas, my projects, and my kids.  I'll miss the way he played with our two girls, read them books, and joked with them.  My 1 year old son will miss everything about his grandfather, which tears me up to think about. We can't control how life works out and can only make the best of what we are given. Pictures and stories we have in plenty, and that is how my father will live.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Surgery: Dad's Esophagus Removal

I remember the day of dad's surgery quite well. My wife stayed home and worked from there.  I didn't go up to the hospital right away but got a couple phone updates from mom who was there in the waiting room.  The doctors had kept her apprised of dad's condition and so far everything was going as planned.  My plan was to get up there by lunchtime and take mom to get something to eat then wait with her until we could see dad.  The surgery was an extremely invasive surgery that would remove two thirds of his esophagus but it would also prevent the cancer from returning to the esophagus.  It sounds extreme but with esophageal cancer there really aren't any good options.

I left home and drove to the hospital in just under an hour.  I found the waiting room and saw mom who very quickly got out of her seat and came over to me with an extremely worried look on her face and tears in her eyes. Something was very wrong.  In that moment I feared the worst, that there was a complication in surgery and dad's health was failing.  While my fear was completely wrong mom didn't have good news.

The doctor had gone in to surgery and checked the other organs one by one before beginning the esophagus removal.  It was then that he found more cancer.  And it was on dad's liver.  I'm not sure there is a worse place for cancer to be. The liver filters out the fluids of the body and its health is critical for our bodies to remain healthy.  The blood flows through the liver and cancer cells can float along and voyage to other areas of the body quite easily. Currently there is no treatment capable of destroying metastatic cancer of the liver, at least none that I know about and I've looked pretty extensively.  The problem is that once the cancer has metastasized (spread beyond its original location)  it could be in multiple locations. You could end up treating on location only to have cancer attack from another spot. The only treatment the doctor's recommended was a very high dose of chemo on the liver spaced out every two-three weeks.  It would maintain dad's health for a while but wouldn't cure him of the cancer.

Chemo was rough on dad the first time and he really didn't want to do through that process again. It was a hard choice, either go through the pain and exhaustion that the chemo brings or face the fact that cancer would soon end his life.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Diagnosis: Cancer

Back in November my dad was diagnosed with cancer. We heard the dread word for what it was and chose to willfully defy the death sentence we feared it could be. It's all you can do right? The diagnosis was esophageal cancer which is extremely aggressive in nature. The doctors seemed to think that there was a course of action would save dad's life and allow him to live an almost completely normal life.

Dad's Treatment for Esophageal Cancer

 

The recommended treatment was to surgically remove the effected section of the esophagus and rejoin the remaining section with the stomach. It's an extremely invasive procedure but when faced with a life or death situation dad chose to fight the cancer and accept the surgical option. The doctors referred him to previous patients who were willing to discuss their treatments and found a great deal of encouragement there. As a family we all spent considerable time searching the internet for cures and prognosis information (which I really don't recommend) and my brother found research that stated there was an improved chance of success with chemotherapy and surgery rather than the surgery by itself.  So chemo and radiation were added to the mix.

The treatment was extremely intimidating but what choice was there? Dad went though the first few weeks of chemo and radiation without too much trouble but the last two weeks were awful. Nausea and weakness were a constant battle. After radiation and chemo he needed time for his body to recover before the surgery. He felt weak and had trouble eating. Everything tasted different, even his favorite foods. It took him a couple extra weeks to recover but finally the doctor deemed him well enough to undergo the surgery.

In April dad went in for surgery to remove two thirds of his esophagus.


*This post is not a recommendation of any type of treatment. This is simply an accounting of my father's experiences with esophageal cancer and his subsequent treatments.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Storms

This year seems to have been a big one for storms across the southeast. We had another one last night that kept me up late watching the weather radar. Straight line winds up to 70 mph came through Middle Tennessee. No tornadoes thankfully like those that ripped apart Alabama a couple weeks ago or in Joplin, Missouri. Our home and yard didn't see much damage at all but trees are down all over and my sister-in-law's family is without power. We're storing their freezer food in our freezers until they have power again...I wonder if they would even know if they were missing that ice cream...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Out With Daddy

There's an assumption that so many people make when your the father out with the kids. The store clerk stocking shelves tries to be friendly and says some comment like "Are the kids with daddy today?" or "are you babysitting today?" I try not to be offended since obviously the clerk has no clue how we are living our lives and running our family.

My response the last time this happened was:
"Nope, I'm the daddy everyday." 

For some reason people assume that just because you're the dad that you are not a primary caregiver of the kids. They assume automatically that the role of the main parent is that of the mother and the dad just is a supporting role if there at all. Being out with daddy is just as normal as being out with mommy - at least it should be.

The opposite isn't true either. I may be the one who stays at home with the kids, feeds them, gets them dressed for school, gets them ready for swimming lessons, cooks dinner, get them ready for bed, etc. but I don't do it alone. My wife is right there with me. It's a team effort.

I suppose the view in the eyes of the store clerks is due to a presumption of a "normal" idea of the family. One mom, one dad, and two kids. The dad works, the mom raises the kids, and the kids are the kids. (Shocker there huh?) But really is there ever any such thing as "normal?" Back when the family was born and raised on the farm, before this thing known as suburbia happened, everyone was raised together. Everyone helped out around the house - family members had to, just to get by. We're extremely privileged today to be able to have a "normal" life aren't we?

The fact is the family is a joint effort, parenthood is a joint effort, and neither parent is primary. Both are integral to the life of the child and to think otherwise just shouldn't be "normal."

Well, I've Finally Done It!

After several years f this stay-at-home dad things I've finally started a blog about the day to day issues concerning being a stay at home dad. Some of this blog is personal, some is general, some is random, and who knows what the rest will be? For years I've been writing about gardening on another blog and I'm still passionate about that subject but there are so many things out there to talk about related the most important area of my life - fatherhood.

If you enjoy what I'm talking about I hope you'll continue to follow along!