31 January 2008

Today has been rough

It has been five months since my dad died. I was not certain. I had to count on my fingers to figure it out.

Sometimes it feels like such a long time. Sometimes it feels like it just happened.

Cancer can be so hard on everyone. Both my parents had a brush with it. My father had colon cancer 14 years ago, and survived, miraculously considering the growth in his colon was the size of a large grapefruit. No one expected him to make it. My mother at that time had just lost her sister to pancreatic cancer and a good friend to ovarian cancer, and when she heard the doctor say that my dad had cancer she just sort of shut down. I had just moved back into their household with my five kids (ages 5 - 15), and was working full-time and going to school full-time too. I ended up at times being the primary caretaker for my dad since my mother had such a problem with it all. She had to disconnect a bit in order to get through it all. She knew it but could not help it. It was okay, after all. It was a way to get past it and go on.

About 7 years ago my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer (which did not show up adequately enough for a diagnosis on a mammogram until she'd had it for around two years). This time she was as solid as a rock about it all. I do not know if it was because it was her and not someone she loved that was facing it or what the reason was for the stoic and peaceful approach to the diagnosis and treatments. Perhaps it was because my father had survived his cancer... Maybe inside she was just as upset and simply did not feel she should burden us with that. I was not there much. I do not know.

Anyway she is healthy right now and has been for years now.

However, my father, during a routine checkup at the veteran’s hospital this past June, was told he had some "suspicious" spots in his right lung and something strange on one of his ribs. Next step, bone scans and more tests. In late July the diagnosis came back: Small Cell Lung Cancer - Stage IV, metastasized to left thigh, ribs, spine, left hip and skull, inoperable, 9 months maximum life expectancy. This time my mother took care of everything. Things that no one wants to do. I could not be there this time. I could not help very much at all.

I currently live 600 miles from my parents. It takes between 10 & 11 hours to get there by automobile. My father died on August 31st at 8:45pm. I was somewhere in the middle of central Illinois, trying like mad to get there. I pulled into their driveway just before midnight. They had already taken my father’s body away. My mother fought with them trying to get them to wait for me. But the law required the hospice workers to remove his body from the home immediately.

For me, one of the hardest things about his death was that I waited until noon, because of some stupid meeting at work, to leave Minnesota and drive down to Indiana.

My daily battle is against the tendency to let that fact swamp me and take precedence over the fact that my family went to visit him as many weekends as we could during June, July and August and had wonderful visits, full of stories, tears and laughter each and every time. I did have some time to be with him with full knowledge that his days were limited and I would not be able to be with him any more.

The days that I can remember that go well.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Hello. Darren Wacker here from James Tower. I was reviewing your last email to me and I saw your blog link. I then checked that out and ran across your blog about your dad and your mom and cancer.

Person to person on this, I wanted you to know that I really understand what you are saying in this blog post. I lost my father three years ago (four days after my birthday in October) He died of an anneurism. While I did make it before he completely died (we had to pull life support, which was heart breaking) I am 6 hours away and broke land/speed records between Minnesota and Nebraska.

Then, just last year my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was doing really well, (double masectomy) but just two weeks ago was diagnosed with brain tumors. The doctors prognosis is very good for those too, but...well, you get the idea. My mom is in her late 50's. My father was 54.

Anyway...this isn't a very cheery message on a Friday, but I wanted you to know I think it is brave to share all of what you shared and I feel the same way about the distance, work, balance...all of it. Just seems to be a little much at times. We will all get through it though.

Take care of yourself. And thank you again for sharing.