I’ve sat down to write this post at least five times in the past week. It’s not every day you find out a loved one has terminal cancer. It is not normal to have the time to spend with them one on one the way I have with my father.
Since my last post I went back to Sherman after a quick two day break back home in Kingwood, and spent the week continuing with the Dr’s visits, surgery for the port, stereotactic radiation to the brain, and we were hoping the beginning of chemo. However, as we were getting a bit frustrated with scheduling (not just a bit frustrated….actually we were quite peeved) I do believe the Lord used that chaos of scheduling to convince my dad to travel home with me to Houston and visit MD Anderson.
The moment I was personally fed up I made the call to set up a referral appointment before Dad even said he was interested. He feared MDA would check him into the hospital and he’d be stuck down there, away from his breakfast bunch, his lunch buddies, and the potential freedom being home offers.
It took sitting across from the funeral home director, a very good high school friend of mine, planning his funeral and getting a call from scheduling only to learn they were delaying in his radiation treatment, that finally sent him over the edge. I made the final arrangements with MDA and finally I felt better.
Of course, the doctor’s nurse called an hour later and informed us they miraculously found a way to squeeze him in for the radiation treatment the day they promised so with the OK from MDA he received that spot treatment on Friday before we left for Houston. Dad’s pure white hair turned brown in the brown where the radiation was given… Dad says it’s from taking the ‘crap’ out of the pool (per our Radiologist’s explanation that his brain being the pool is contaminated with a piece of crap… eventually we might have to ‘clean’ the entire pool but for now we needed to remove the crap).
The daily blessings continued despite the ominous undertones. Dad and I kept up with his buddies at breakfast and lunch, we went to see a movie, and ate delicious meals at the best restaurants in town. I haven’t spent this much alone time with Dad …. ever. To be quite honest, if God hadn’t carried me on the journey I’ve been through in these past few years I’m not sure I would’ve been able to do this without resorting to the little girl within me erupting, anxiously needing some kind of validation or praise.
When I went through my own cancer diagnosis, our home immediately flooding right after, and also losing my father in law in that time frame, my internal healing process sped up and I quickly learned that I was in charge of what I felt, and how I would allow others reactions, responses, or lack there of, to affect me. There comes a time when you realize your fight needs to be evaluated and more often than not the effort and energy it takes to keep up with that fight simply isn’t worth it.
I also know what it feels like to have cancer, the uneasiness, the questions that arise, the fears, and the shock it brings disrupting what was once your ‘norm’. Dad and I were sitting at a Dr’s office, waiting for one of the many visits he had to endure when he said, “Thank you for being here with me. I didn’t realize how much I needed you to be here.”
I love Dad and he is a very kind, giving, caring man, but he is not one that typically expresses himself well. I was a bit stunned. “Why wouldn’t I be here?”
“I don’t know, you have your own life to live and I don’t want to take away from what you have going on.”
That’s when it hit me that neither of my parents really understood how much just being present can mean to someone you love. I will never doubt my parents love for me but we have always been a family that is self-sufficient, strong, capable, able to do all on our own. Being an emotional support isn’t something that comes naturally to us. But when you have cancer…you realize how important it is.
I know some might ask where my mom was… she was in Colorado closing down the cabins we have in Twin Lakes. My parents spend most of their summer in Colorado and they had to close it down before the first big snow fall. Mom trusted me to be with my dad, and honestly, in many ways I think she needed that time to let this all sink in. Her husband of almost 47 years will most likely not make it to her 50th anniversary.
Dustie, my oldest sister, flew in the day before we left for Houston and drove down with Mom to give her company after she drove the 14 hour drive from Colorado to be home. I also won’t begrudge my mom a thing because GOD gave Dad and I the time I needed. I’ll be selfish and say it was all for me. It might’ve been for him too but I know for certain it was my gift.
On the five hour ride home to Houston we laid even more out on the table. The good, the bad, the downright ugly. We both were able to explain our ‘why’s’ and respect one another for the ugly areas that had no great excuse to give validation. We all have our past, our upbringing, and personal situations that cause distrust, anger, or fear. We didn’t fight. We didn’t argue. We listened with respect and we said we were sorry when we meant it.
I don’t want Dad to die, but I am grateful we have been given these precious days and moments together. Everything else will be an added bonus. My conversation with Dustie is another. If you’ve read EXPOSED then you might know in greater detail the strained relationship we’ve had these past twenty years. For the first time, though, we sat and talked…really talked and I can see God working in this relationship as well.
MDA is telling us that because my dad has a PDL-1 of 90% (a protein that is on his lung…I think 🙂 )…that he is a great candidate to use an immunotherapy ONLY rather than in conjunction with chemo. This will offer him that greater quality of life and maybe even give him a bit more than Dad was expecting. He could possibly (God willing) live up to 2 years! And MDA is testing him for 6 different trials that can possibly even help make that 2 year mark even more realistic. We won’t hear if he qualifies for any of them for another few weeks as the testing takes some time.
No matter, Dad is taking one day at a time. He can still travel as long as he feels well. He is taking it day by day and appreciating each day.
Thank you for the comments and messages of your love, support, and prayers. I am honored to have you as readers and friends.