These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The C-word cannot be spoken

Recently I've had to come to terms with my dad having...cancer. He was diagnosed in mid-June and it's still hard for me to say the c-word sometimes, although I'm becoming more at ease with it as time goes by.
I am unsure why the c-word scares me so much; I mean, it's only one disease of hundreds or thousands even that a person can die from. But there's something menacing about that word and the disease, as opposed to say someone had a massive heart attack.
We were all shocked by the whole thing. It crept up on us and we were left looking around like "What the hell just happened?" I can only imagine what it was like for my dad, who was facing this disease. It's been even harder after my aunt (my dad's older sister and a person who's more than an aunt to me and my siblings) was diagnosed with breast cancer. She subsequently had a masectomy in February of this year. (In addition, my uncle, dad's older brother had a stroke in Sept. 2004.) So life hasn't been great for our family over the past year.
It was funny, in an odd way, how they found my dad's cancer. Dawn and I went down there in mid-March and all was well. Great visit. Then in late April, early May, I get word from my mom and sister that my dad has lost weight, no appetite.
After going to his doctor, the guy prescribed my dad Zoloft because he thought my dad was depressed after having retired a year and a half before. Nothing. Pills Didn't work. He went back again later in May, and this time my dad was not doing well. He had this constant pain across his abdomen. The doctor conceded to doing an ultrasound.
This is where things start to go bad. The test showed spots in his liver. This doctor, who was so unconcerned with the pain that he gave my dad anti-depressants, called the very day of the test to tell him he had to go for further tests. My guess is he panicked.
My dad had to go through a CT scan. That verified the spots were there, at least four to five masses in his liver. A week later he went in for a biopsy and a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy revealed a large cancerous tumor in his colon. This was on a Wednesday. The surgeon said he'd have to remove it quickly, since it was blocking most of his colon.
Surgery was scheduled for Monday, five days later. About a foot of his colon was removed and he stayed in the hospital for six days before going home. He is recuperating and will have to go through chemo some time this month.
Nothing could be done about the tumors in his liver since they are connected to both lobes. The hope is the chemo will shrink them enough to work with them and have them removed.
I still wonder what most scares me about this whole situation. Is it the cancer itself? The question of my dad's mortality? The 2 to 5 year timeline the doctor said he has to live (only 10 percent of people with stage 4 cancer live beyond that period.)?
The possibility of a parent's death is something I hadn't really thought about. Both my dad and mom were relatively healthy and a serious disease derailing their lives was far from my thoughts.
Living in Michigan has been difficult through all of this. I don't get to see my dad like my brother and sister do or be there after he comes back from the doctor. But this is the way it must be and its something I have to deal with. I wouldn't change anything. I pick up the phone and talk to him as much as I can. I think this situation has brought the family closer. I talk to my sister and brother quite often now, as well as my aunts and other family members.
Fourth of July Sunday was particularly sad, though. I think it was the fireworks display here at Kollen Park that we saw the day before. My parents were up here last year and saw them with me and Dawn. Memories are both a blessing and curse sometimes. For me, the past and its memories presents a certain melancholy. I guess because those memories can never be regained and the emotion behind them can never be recaptured.
And now with our present situation, we have to move forward and see what the future holds with my dad and the cancer. His spirits are up most days and we encourage as best we can.
He became very emotional during his time in the hospital because he received so much support, phone calls, visitors and flowers. It makes me happy and proud that my dad is well-liked and regarded in the community. I love my dad.


Post a Comment

<< Home