Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"cancer sucks" blog hop: my dad

I discovered a Cancer Sucks Blog Hop hosted by that participated in with her moving story of her bout with NHL. I was thrilled to read that she recovered beautifully.

Three years a go, almost to the day, my 59 year old father was sick. "I think it's bronchitus" he told me on the phone. I didn't think it was any concern as this was something he got once a year or so. I talked to him a few days later and he was still quite under the weather, complaining of sweating and that his glands were swollen. He checked into a hotel in hopes that the central air (vs. his swamp cooler) would help him sleep better. I thought this was strange, but maybe it was just the ticket.

A week or so later, his friend called me. I didn't know her well as my father lived out of state, but I certainly knew of her. She was concerned of his health and asked me to help her to convince him to see a doctor. My father refused to carry health insurance, not that he couldn't afford it, he just took his chances. And because of this, he didn't go to the doctor often enough. So the persuading began. And eventually we got him to the doctor.

The doctor tested for all kinds of stuff, including the Bubonic Plague. But it seemed that they were settling on "cancer." My father shared this with me casually, as his health was declining by the minute without us knowing. My brother jumped on an airplane to see what was going on and I was scheduled to travel there a couple weeks later.

During my brother's visit, the doctor's felt that dad had lymphoma and sent him to see a hematologist. They were giving some rough news. Stage 4, Non-Hodgekins T-Cell Angioimmunoblastic Lymphoma. A rare form that effects 2% of all NHL sufferers and one that really has no known, exact cure. He was to start CHOP immediately to see what happened.

And, despite the chemo, he seemed to be doing better. Until I arrived after a business trip. The day before I was scheduled to arrive at his home I talked to him on the phone and he said he wasn't feeling well. I was worried and had no idea what was ahead of us.

I arrived to find him extremely lathargic, barely waking for any length of time. Not eating. Barely drinking. He insisted on sleeping in the basement and nearly fell coming up the stairs. It frightened me so much that I started to move him to the main level so he would no longer have to navigate the stairs, especially if he was alone. While I was moving his things up the stairs, I saw his hair all over the bed. I fell apart. I knew this was a side effect of the CHOP, but it was devistating to see. I started to cry. I knew something just wasn't right and I called my mom for support. I knew he needed to go to the hospital, but I couldn't convince him of it.

My mom called and insisted he go. They have been divorced for 18 years at this point, but she can certainly set him straight. He let me take him. And it was discovered that his body was backed up with toxins as he wasn't taking the "gout" medicine properly and he was operating on 1/4 of his blood supply.

Once he was admitted, he seemed to slip into a very sleepy state. The doctors were pumping him full of fluids and blood. The put in a PIC line. Did lot's of exrays and scans. It was frightening and the first time I was able to speak to his doctor. Who pulled me aside and told me things were not good. But to get through this crisis and plug forward.

And he did.

He seemed to be responding well to CHOP as we headed into the fall. He even made a trip to his vacation home in Las Vegas to pick up his beloved Porsche Boxter and drive it back to Colorado. It looked as though he was on the mend.

And then one day he got bad news.

The CHOP really wasn't working. And they needed to try a new treatment. He was devistated. As was I. I took the opportunity to share with him some news I was saving for my next visit. He was going to be a grandpa. He was thrilled and I think (and hope) it made that day a little better.

The new treatment was extremely rough on his system. He seemed to deteriorate quite a bit, but his glands seemed to be decreasing in size. This was good, and the hematologist seemed hopeful at his visit the day after Christmas that I attended with him, though she suggested we look into clinical trials (which I was in the process of doing). Her treatments could only keep the disease at bay as they just don't know much about it.

But we enjoyed that time together. Talking about babies. Getting to know his friends. It was a lovely holiday. And as I left for the airport in the taxi cab, him waving to me from his doorway, I wondered if that would be the healthiest I would ever see him again.

And it was.

A few weeks later, I got a call from a friend of his saying he was not doing well. The details he wouldn't share with me. I was backed up with some prenatal testing, so my brother jumped on an airplane to be with him. And they went to the doctor immediately.

And the doctor told them that there was nothing else that could be done. A hospice referral was made, I was on an airplane and we were by his side, caring for him. Talking with him. Reassuring him that we would be OK. Saying our goodbyes.

And two weeks later, he exhaled his last breath in the company if his children and dear friends in his cozy home. Van Morrison playing in the background shortly after we opened a bottle of his wine. It was how he wanted it to be. I know it. It was a privelege to be a witness and to tell him I loved him as he passed.

When they took him away, it started to snow. A friend of his commented "It's just like Kern to take off before the snow storm." And that night there was a magnificent storm.

Cancer sucks. Period. And I would give anything to have my father back. It took him entirely too young, as it does with much younger victims. It's not fair. To anyone.

Be sure to hug each other tight everyday. No matter how angry you might be. Cancer takes people fast. It's an unfortunate part of life. And it sucks.

1 comment:

  1. It does suck. A LOT. Thank you for sharing this story. It's not fair. It hurts.

    You're right. We have to show love to the ones we've got while we've got them and remember the love that's gone.


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