Aug 31 "Your Dad Has Cancer. Very Bad Cancer." I heard those words 18 years ago. They still hurt as much as they did on that da
My Dad died 18 years ago, today, at 12:40am.
We, meaning a hospital room crowded with many people, had to publicly have our last moments with him...while he laid in a morphine-induce coma of which he occasionally came out of.
However, the real fight began 2 years prior.
For awhile, my healthy, handsome, gregarious Dad (though not a perfect man, but I am not a perfect woman so I can now, as an adult, understand this better. When I was younger, I did not and it affected my childhood oddly) had been feeling "off".
He went to a doctor or two.
They all said he was having a 'mid-life crisis' and put him on Prozac. (Prozac is a anti-depressant drug).
I was just graduating high school, looking forward to college in a few months.
I had no idea that this "leaving home" and "starting a new season" in my life would end up being ridden with guilt versus giggly and great like many of the other college freshmen I saw.
After being on Prozac for a bit, he went off of it because he was scared of getting addicted to it (a typical reaction) and he saw no improvement.
So, that summer he started seeing more doctors. To the best of my recollection, he was still working at our family's very successful heating and cooling business but at a reduced level. He'd replaced my Grandfather as President and was enjoying the new role. My Dad was the epitome of "a salesman".
He could have sold you a broken car even if you'd wanted a Mercedes :)
The doctors did tests. A lot of tests. Nothing showed up. But Dad did not "feel well". He had a lack of energy, he started to look pale. He gorgeous, shiny black hair lost it's sheen.
SOMETHING WAS WRONG.
MRI's, EKG's, Blood Tests (big wha??? later on in regards to this). I remember that it was a battery of tests that took place over several of weeks.
Meanwhile, I was buying necessities plus non-necessities (smile) for my new dorm room. My roommate (a friend from highschool) and I were coordinating our room from the bedspreads to the desks lamps. We were geeked! I knew the tests were occurring but I was not exceptionally concerned because, though Dad 'looked' a bit sick, it seemed minor.
Dad was NOT COUGHING, he was able to work some (the reduced hours I believe were due to lack of energy and # of doctor appointments), he did not talk like he was very sick - all he said was "I just don't right".
I believe he was still fishing, enjoying the company of his best friend who lived close, and complaining a bit that I was "leaving" and giving me stern instructions on how to act "away from home"...I can smile now...but I was raised in a exceptionally strict, quiet, and no-emotional setting. It makes sense now that he was instructing me though I had not caused trouble a day in my life. Seriously Dad?!
Finally, about early August, a doctor thought to due a chest x-ray. (really? almost a year into "not feeling right" a chest x-ray is done...know Dad had been around asbestos given our family's business? I still shake my head at that.)
His lungs were FULL of cancer. Not just a spot. FULL. They were not functioning well. This explained the "I do not feel right" but it is still baffling to everyone that my Dad did not cough, wheeze or have shortness of breath -ever.
The cancer was so developed that the doctor's estimated IT WAS 10 YEARS old. TEN YEARS OLD. TEN.
Some of us were glad we'd not had to battle cancer for those ten years. Others of us, me included, assumed that if had been caught 10 (TEN!? how?!) years ago that he would not have died from it so soon.
The doctor's gave my Mom and my Dad this grave news in a sterile, uninviting room at the hospital.
They came home and called my twin sister and I to the kitchen table. Their faces looked funny.
Mom would not look us in the eyes. Dad had his hands spread flat on the wooden, round table. Then Mom started fiddling with our country, floral, fabric placements. Dad looked out the window then quickly looked back towards my sister and I, then back out the window. We were 18 years old.
My Mom said, "Girls, your Dad has cancer."
My heart knotted. (For the record, there are tears rolling down my cheeks as I type. 18 years does not take away these memories. No amount of time ever will. People who say it will are speaking in cliche).
My mind was just confused.
No one said a word. NOT.A.WORD.
We sorta looked around at each other for several minutes. No one cried immediately. No one did anything.
I had no idea WHAT to do.
Do I go hug him? (he wasn't a hugger).
Do I cry? (Crying was sorta out of place in our house)
Do I ask questions about the cancer? I knew people who had died from cancer. I knew this was bad news but 'how' bad?
Finally, my Mom said, in a solid voice, "It is in his lungs. He will start chemotherapy and then radiation therapy."
I sorta knew that if BOTH therapies were needed, that meant it was fairly developed.
I then asked, "How bad?" and looked my Dad.
He put on his half-way salesman grin and said, "Who knows?"
They did know. They were sheltering us.
My thoughts then ran, selfishly, to leaving for college in 3 weeks. (By the way, I had met my Jim about 2 weeks before this. I was already in love. God KNEW I would need Jim's broad shoulders and strong faith the next 2 years of Hell.)
"Do I still go to college?" I wondered, thinking about how Jim was going to be in the same town as my college, I had a full scholarship, all the stuff was bought. Then thinking I was the worst daughter in the world.
"Absolutely." Dad said, determinedly. He had always been proud of my academic achievements and very proud that I was paying for some of my college via scholarship (smile).
"This changes nothing." Dad said. He sorta ended the discussion by pressing his hands on the table, getting up, and going into the family room to watch TV.
REALLY? Truly? It is not that bad?
I NEVER considered that my sister and I were being protected from the TRUTH. NEVER once did it occur to me. Call me naive or say that I just wanted to believe it so I could get to college (1.5 hours away from home) but I truly thought "this changes nothing."
Dang. That statement proved to be terribly, terribly, terribly wrong.
He died 2 years later in a hospital bed, a hospital room, a horrible moment that is seared in my mind.
However, seeing as how today is the day I lost my Dad, I want to include some pictures that he would have loved..mostly of my kids.
Mercy. I am sure he would have adored them. I am almost positive he would have become exceptionally "huggable" (smile) with them and more comfortable with strong emotions. It seems most Grandparents do...Why would my Dad have been any different? My Dad was, though we were raised in a strict, etc., home know as a 'jokester' when he was at work or with friends.
I can imagine the jokes he would be playing on my older kids now. I hate that they don't get that.
Well...here are some people that my Dad would have lived for....if he could have....(crying so hard)
(My caption for some of the pictures is pure guesswork. I truly do not know how my Dad would have been in his later years but I am using what I do know of him to predict how he'd be today...I hope I am right :)
(my PTSD may have started the 2 horrible years of our family fighting cancer but I still had coping stills to cover it up...the Chicago incident may have ripped those away. Thus giving us the life we have now...dealing with my mental health issues...WHICH WE WILL BEAT :)