This was supposed to be one of the stories I’ve been mulling about my brain lately for this week’s Wicked Wednesday, but I just couldn’t. I could even link this post “officially,” but it is simply not appropriate.
October was to be the month that I quietly celebrated my fiftieth birthday. I don’t usually celebrate birthdays.
This past month has been anything but quiet, and the month still has ten days left.
We lost my father last week. My post previous to this already stated that.
Cancer with a COVID chaser beat him. He was the type not to want to disturb anyone so he practiced social distancing, including staying away from his doctor. This is not the doctor’s fault. My father did not self-advocate the way he should have. Had she seen him earlier, there may have been other treatment options. The key term here is “may have been.”
He was diagnosed in 2012 with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. At first blush, the medical advice was to watch and wait as the cancer wasn’t doing anything. That changed in 2015 (I think…may have been 2014) and they started chemo treatments. Although he kept his hair, generally, he lost a lot of weight and began retaining too many fluids. His first round of chemo was never called a success, as some of us believe it was poisoning him. This said, after it was done he rebounded noticeably and had three good years. He got to do a “bucket list” trip to see The Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, he went with my mom and his oldest grandson to Ireland, and he kept everyone’s taxes in line. He even still had the ability to beat his best friend regularly at golf up until last fall.
He finally did get to see his doctor in late August or early September. She moved quickly to set up new chemo treatments and was somewhat shocked by his deterioration since she had last seen him. A PICC line was put in and he was sent off for his first treatment on September 15. Two days later, on September 17, he was back at the hospital in the ER. The PICC line had caused an infection that the chemo had begun to amplify.
He never left the hospital.
During this time, my mother was experiencing headaches. She put them off to the stress of what was going on with my father and didn’t think much of them at first. October 7, however, she was seeing double and the pain was excruciating. She was, at first, in the same hospital as my father when they found she had a growth in her upper sinuses that was the size of a large grape. They rushed her to a more specialized treatment centre in a nearby city where they confirmed.
On October 9, “minor brain surgery” was performed as they went in laparoscopically to blow up this growth and pull it out. We later found out this surgery is rather common, but still very frightening working around the brain. We were also told that this growth was benign.
On October 10, I was visiting my father. His nurse pulled me aside and said, for my mother’s own health, she should not visit the hospital for a few weeks until her own body healed from the surgery. My mother returned home that afternoon.
On October 11, she received a call from my father’s doctor. I sat and listened on speakerphone as he outlined three options for my father’s treatment. First was more aggressive and could do more harm to him. The second was to continue the same course, which seemed to be failing. The third was to make him more comfortable. He said they were doing a few more tests and had a few days to decide.
The decision was made that the next morning I would go to visit my father. My mother and brother would be at her home and we were to do a video call where we would discuss his options.
October 12, I walked into his room only to have his doctor beat us to it. The tests had not gone well and our couple of days to discuss and decide was no longer there. Dad’s organs were failing him.
We did the video call and the decision was made to stop the treatments and make him comfortable. After watching cancer and the treatments punish him for almost a month solid, we had all had enough and no longer could allow him to suffer.
Perhaps the most difficult thing I’ve ever done was, after dad had fallen off to sleep, to walk up to the nurse and inform her of our decision. As visiting hours ended that afternoon, I walked away teary-eyed and being harsh on myself for having to do what needed to be done.
Two hours later we got a call from the hospital. He was off all treatments other than pain medication and was already fading.
We could not keep my mother away.
He was awake and talking when the three of us arrived. His words were slurred, but he knew what was happening and made sure we all agreed on our choice one last time. He then fell back asleep.
Mom spent three nights in that room with him while he slept.
He never really woke up again before he finally slipped away on October 15.
Today, a month that is already perhaps the worst I can recall, took another turn. My mom is back in the hospital tonight after more headaches.
The doctor is hopeful that it is only an infection. It seems that going digging in one’s skull may just open one up to such things. Either way, we are hopeful that her MRI tomorrow morning will confirm that is all it is.
Her current goal is to be at my father’s memorial on November 1. A day that we would have celebrated his 76th birthday had he still been with us.
Of course my brother, her two daughter-in-laws, her five grandchildren and I all want her around long past that.
To reiterate something that all on the planet may understand, 2020 sucked long before September even started.
Now, as stray thoughts of worst-case scenarios cross my mind; I’m not certain I’ve ever felt so cold and scared in my entire life.
It not even remotely close to cold enough to snow, yet.
I miss my snow.