Dad’s cancer is vicious and rapid. When first diagnosed within the first two weeks we were graced with time alone together he had said to me, “This is growing fast, Shannon, I can feel it.”
Regardless, Dad wanted to play the odds. He went to MDAnderson and heard that he had a 90% chance of his body accepting the immunotherapy, Keytruda. That with these high odds he would possibly see the main tumor in his lung shrink and slower progression of the cancer elsewhere in his body. The key statement made to my father before leaving MDAnderson was the possibility of him living up to 18 months. He liked those odds.
However, merely 6 weeks later, he arrived at my house for Thanksgiving having gone through surgery on his arm only the week before. The cancer had spread to his bone and made them so brittle his bones were breaking and his arm split in two. They put in a rod and screws to keep it together. He was also dependent on his oxygen which was another new development.
These were not good signs. When I went to visit the following week he went through more testing to see if the Keytruda was working. On a Tuesday evening Dr. Roque drove to my parents home in the country, sat down with my dad and told him the tumor in the lung had grown as well as finding new indication of cancer in his liver and other organs. The Keytruda was not working, for the first time in his life, the luckiest man alive had fallen into the 10%.
The doctors rallied to encourage him to go on an extreme chemotherapy regime but he knew this form of treatment would quite literally render him useless and he wanted to be aware and capable of having conversations with his grandchildren in two weeks time.
Within that two weeks dad went into the hospital with a blood clot to the lung. Once released, only one day later, back in the hospital with pneumonia. On my last visit with him recovering from pneumonia we sat alone in his hospital room and he began to talk to me about the things he felt he could never or should never say but now it was time. About how we are all human, we make mistakes, but we need to be true to who God created us to be, not to take the time we have for granted and not allow others to take away our spirit. He told me he was proud of me, that I was the strongest woman he’d ever met and he backed that with ‘That says a lot’ because he knows many strong women!
He admitted to his own failings and shed a tear over his concerns. And at one point he said, “Shannon, is this what the rest of my life is? Watching Family Feud from a hospital bed?” It was then that I knew we were ready for the final conversation.
I called in Dr. Roque, who came in 30 minutes later to the hospital, and with one of my dad’s best friends present, myself and my mom, she sat on the edge of the bed as he asked about his odds.
“Tim,” Dr. Roque began, “This is growing faster than we predicted. The Keytruda didn’t work as it should have. If we were to do the chemotherapy as we suggested you’d have a 20% chance of living just a little bit longer.”
“A 20% chance of living in a hospital bed watching Family Feud,” dad said sadly.
“Yes, unfortunately there is nothing that will get you back to where you were before.”
My dad looked directly into Dr. Roque’s eyes, “I don’t like that hand. I fold.” And he wept.
That was Friday, December 14th. My dad is now at home in a hospital bed on Hospice care, watching Family Feud and waiting for his grandchildren to come into town so he can ‘love on them and kiss them’ as is his last wish. He has told the Hospice nurse his goal is to make it through the 20th for our family reunion and after that he is fine with whatever the Lord chooses.
My father is a loved, cherished, well-respected man who has had many people writing to me and posting on FaceBook, letting me know how he has affected their lives. He was never a perfect man, and he never claimed to be (though he did feel he was always right and knew everything 🙂 ) but he cared about people and only wanted to see those he loved succeed.
I will end this post with the song he and I danced to at my wedding. “That’s My Job” by Conway Twitty. It sums up who my father is not just to me or my siblings but to anyone he came in contact with, he felt it was ‘his job’ to give wisdom, to take care of you, to be a support. Thank you for the love and concern you’ve given to him and to us. We are blessed.