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  He was quiet, sullen, and withdrawn. Each day he became more withdrawn.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.