This prompt is not the easiest to respond to. My biggest “event” to occur this year was by far the worst. I lost my dad on January 16th just 3 days before his 79th birthday, To say it was a big change would be an understatement. I had spent the biggest part of 2021 and all of January up to that point with him most of the day almost every day and overnight some, too. The year up to that point was so hard. Seeing him so sick that he could barely hold his head up. He was diagnosed in November of 2020 with lung cancer. He was a smoker all of his adult life and he quit cold turkey as soon as they told him. My dad was not one to go to the doctor. Like never. He literally never went. He had never taken a prescription medication as far as I know. When he finally went to a doctor he had been nauseated and throwing up for months. What finally got him there was shoulder pain. Out of desperation he went to an urgent care center one day. They took an x-ray and found a something questionable. He was referred for a CT and it was determined that he had a 10cm mass. This was very large to just have been found. While all this was going on and he was being referred to an oncologist he kept getting sicker and sicker. If you didn’t experience an absurd amount of time spent in an ER during COVID please count your blessings. He was so sick in fact that chemotherapy wasn’t even a consideration at first. He started with radiation which wore him down even further and didn’t help his nausea either. At one point he was taking three different anti-nausea meds. I honestly don’t know how long he went with very little nutrition and not much fluids either. He just couldn’t tolerate anything. Being a nurse I knew that he was beyond dehydrated and something had to give. I was driving him back and forth to treatments and he was just a lifeless little thing next to me in the car. He had gone from around 180 lbs. to 120 lbs. On a 6′ 3″ frame that was significant. So I spoke with his radiation oncologist and asked if he could be given outpatient IV fluids. He spoke with the main oncologist who arranged for IV fluids to be given at his office. After that he started feeling better and was finally able to tolerate food and drinks. He even gained back most of his weight.
After radiation was completed he had a scan and the tumor had decreased by over half. Against our better judgment we started to have hope. He wasn’t nauseated now so they started him on immunotherapy and chemotherapy. He did well with this and amazingly didn’t have much nausea at all. He finished the round and waited until time for his next scan. We went back, nervous of course, but feeling pretty good. That’s when the rug got pulled out from under us again. Not only did the chemo not continue to shrink the tumor, but it was now back nearly to the size it was in the beginning. Nothing else could be done and due to his age (78) and the size of the tumor he was not able to get into a clinical trial. Additional radiation on the lung would have done more damage than good and the tumor was in the upper part of the lung and in surrounding tissue. A smaller tumor had also appeared in the other lung. As his pain got worse they were able to go back and direct the radiation directly to the bone to try to ease his pain. I guess it did help some for a while. But as the tumor grew it was breaking his ribs and thus the horrible pain. So I went to their house nearly every day and when he felt like it I took him anywhere he wanted to go. Sometimes mother went with us and other times she went to her sisters to get away for just a little bit. Often, though, he just wanted to walk from the den out to the deck and lay there in his lounge chair. Many days were spent just going back and forth between those two places. Until one night we went out to eat with his sister and brother-in-law. He was weak getting out of the truck and after eating we had to lift him to get him back in. I knew then that it was probably the last time he would be able to get out of the house. Thankfully, by this time they had agreed to have hospice come in an help us some. They were a blessing, absolute angels, and every one was so kind right up to the end.
My dad was not an emotional person at all but during all this time I did get to see him hug my mom and tell her he loved her. I’m not sure if it was the illness, the meds, or what, but it was out of character for sure. But, I’m glad he did it. She really needed it and I’m glad I got to be there for it. It was a hard several months and he felt so very bad that naturally he took it out on us sometimes. Needless to say, there were no big declarations or life altering conversations like you might expect, but I knew that he loved me. I was his only baby and he showed me in the only way the could. And that was by always being there and helping me (us) any way he could. Building, roofing, plumbing, camper & car repair, he could do it all. And he did.
So even though we knew it was coming it still wasn’t easy. And it was hard in ways that I would not have ever imagined. I was constantly questioning myself and my emotions. I felt guilty and thought that maybe I wasn’t “feeling” enough. I really beat myself up but I kept it inside. That’s what I always seem to do when tragedies occur in my family. It’s because my mother and her side of the family don’t deal well with these kinds of things. I know that these things are hard on everyone in their own way, but this is different. They tend to really fall apart. So someone has to hold it together. That person tends to be me. And it’s hard being that person. But I came to realize that it’s just another way that I’m like my dad. Someone has to be the steady one. I never would have thought it would be me. Being raised around a bunch of “Nervous Nellies” I was that way, too, growing up. It wasn’t until I got out on my own that began to find who I really was. I was my daddy’s daughter. Before, I may have thought that I was a version of my mother. Not so much. I’m more and more like my dad. Which is probably why he made me crazy sometimes. I’m sure the feeling was mutual. Being an only child I had never really taken into consideration just how much my mother would look to me for help. So I help and I pray.
And that is my reality now. Thanks WordPress for this prompt. It just may have been the therapy that I needed.