Suffice it to say that the past two weeks have been an emotional roller-coaster!
With the news via phone call that my dad was rushed to the ER one night for 14 and a half hours, and a week later learning that further chemotherapy treatment would be in vain, and in turn hearing three more months to live (at best), I’ve been a wave of delicate emotions.
The first news came right after an amusing phone call from a dear Philly girl friend of mine. We caught up like we always to, with our dear added friendly factitious commentary, and spoke of things that are ahead for both of us, that we’ll be eager to hear more of later for sure. After getting off the phone, I noticed I had a missed call from my mother. Naturally I called back, but alas, got the voicemail. Being a dutiful daughter, I called the next person in line who might know something – Joey, my brother. The words, Dad, and the emergency room came out of the same breath; and I stopped! Now, as expected I started asking lots of questions, of why? For anyone who knows my little brother, knows that those answers are sometimes difficult for him to articulate. Worried, and scared of the reasons, I rushed home; not before sending a mass text to friends of what I just learned! I didn’t know how else to cope at the time. Rapid lane changes and many tears later, I got home to find only Joe home. Getting voicemail after voicemail from my mother’s cell, I didn’t know what to do.
Thank God for friends who stepped up to the plate, and who were able to think more rationally then I at the moment. A dear friend, Amy, called right away, and after a very short conversation offered and insisted with the company of Ruwanka,(another friend), to take me to the ER with my younger sister; of whom walked in the door moments after I got in.
As we drove the 7 minute drive to Kaiser’s ER, I didn’t say a word. It was all I could do, to hold back my tears. After, getting in to a crowded and distraught ER (not that I’ve ever been to a chipper one), the four of us sat down and waited for my mom to come out, so we could take turns visiting with my frail and weak dad. As I walked into my father’s ER cubical defined by a curtain, what struck me the most was how fragile he looked as he laid there on a narrow ER bed; hooked up to I.V.’s and monitors, beeping and flashing like a quite metronome. At this moment, I thought: is this the beginning of the end? What’s the next defining moment in this awful battle with cancer? How much more will this hurt?
As I sat next to my dad, and listed to him speak of this ER visit, it took everything I had to stay composed. He spoke of his doctor receiving CAT scan test results back, and noticing that his four cancer lumps had grown, and that there were even more lumps that formed as well. Yet what alarmed the doctor the most was a blood clot in his lung. As I sat there listening to my dad; gazing at my dad, all I thought was, how much I love him, and how much more time I wanted with him under different circumstances. Now, as I sat in this ER cubical with my dad with a terminal illness, that is slowly taking his life, I finally – since the rapid lane change car ride back to the house – began to shed tears.
After my time with him, I walked back to the waiting room, so as to let my younger sister have her turn with our dad. Many moments later, she too came out, in tears, probably thinking similar things as me. It wasn’t until the next afternoon (14 and a half hours later, and my mom staying every minuet), that my dad was finally released.
Now, a week’s time later, both my parents come home from a doctors meeting, with grim news. As both sisters and I sat and stood on the back porch, we listened to an update that revealed to us that the cost of further chemotherapy would outweigh the benefit – in other words live out the rest of your life. And the rest of that life is three more months at best. I watched my little sister shut down and break down inside, and my older sister seem confused as she struggles with being detached, and having a sense of emotional implications. And as for myself; I pushed the emotion down, walked away from the conversation with a simple statement: “well I’ve gotta get ready for work.” And work I went to that day, and all was fine, until I was off the clock, and I sat in my car, about to put the key in the ignition, when the grim news from the morning finally hit me. Three months at best to live, after all the chemo, after all the hope, at best: three months. The tears came rushing down…
In that week, I remember breaking down and balling over the phone to a friend, as he gave me words of comfort. In that week, I remember emotions being high, and tensions being higher as my members of my family (and I) continued with the week. In that week I remember spending time in morning Mass and breakfast at I Hop as my friend embraced, comforted and consoled me in word and hug. In that week I remember it finally affecting me at work, and feeling embarrassed about it too, (as I pride myself being able to detach from any stress or drama once I’m in the work place). In that week, I remember getting chocked up about it as girl friends and I cracked open two bottles of wine.
As I look at my dad now, he’s impressively kept a constant calm over the whole situation and illness. He’s not afraid of death. Talk to him about it, he’ll say he’s lived a full life: went to and graduated from college, raised a family, and did a fare about traveling. On top of that, he calls himself a cat with nine lives, as he recounts facing death a number of times throughout his life, and lived to tell the tale. Once as a young boy; where some rough housing went wrong, an injury was inches away from a deadly injury. A number of times, he tells of his time when he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, and dodged bullets while serving in the Vietnam War. Even during his time in and after college while living in Chicago, he tells the story of when he missed a flight, and subsequently that plane crashed, and killed everyone on board. Even a time when I can remember – while I was in high school – he suffered a massive heart attack and went into cardiac arrest, before emergency crew people revived him.
And so it goes now, as he lives out the remainder of his life; as he looks back one his life, he’s acknowledged his some regrets or demands he’s battled, but also treasures the triumphs. As he says: “I’ve lived a full life, I’ve made right with God, and am doing my best to make right with my children and family.” Truly, I’m very happy for my dad – that he’s at peace with his fate. Honestly, I don’t know if I would be as calm.
At this point, I’d conclude with some words of wisdom; a reflection of sorts; a moral of the story if you will. To be quite frank though, I got nothing! The fact that I’m watching cancer take my father’s life, has me beside myself. The emotions are real and raw, and I’m powerless to stop it. There is anger, as I feel as though I'm being robbed of time with my dad. There is sadness, as I watch my dad suffer, and knowing I'm losing someone I love. And there is fear, as I wonder what will happen after he passes. At twenty-six there’s so much that I want to do and share with my dad; things that only come at a certain point in my life; and I the fact that my father won’t be around for all those life moments breaks my heart. It’s not fare! So once more, if everything happens for a reason, there’s no reasoning I can find out of this thing.