Good afternoon. I say this a lot, but I truly apologize for the discombobulated mess that will surely be this post once I’m finished with it; lots of stuff to work through today I’m afraid, and because I’m not a normal person who likes to talk things out, well, shit is about to get rizz-eal.
It’s been a…busy last few weeks. “Busy” is a foolish word to use, but that’s the only one I could really think of to describe what’s going on.
I’ll start with menial, boring activities first because I like to tease and taunt and work my way up to the good stuff.
First, I attempted National Novel Writing Month. Again. For the fourth time. And I failed. Again. For the fourth time. However, I somewhat dominated my own personal word count goal for number of words written on a single piece at a lofty (to me) 26,758 words. I didn’t know I had that much wind in me, but apparently I do. I was/am working on a fictionalized memoir of sorts–names were changed, events fudged a little due to artistic license and I truly feel I could have pounded out the whole 50,000 words in 30 days had pesky life not gotten pesky and got in the way. Annoying, that. I am, of course, wholly disappointed in myself for not finishing, but I did pat myself on the back briefly for writing as much as I did.
See? I’m not always terribly hard on myself. I can take some credit for things I did. It’s rare, but it does happen on occasion.
I paid off my car finally, too. After four years and some slight hiccups later, the glorious German-engineered vehicle is all mine. It feels good to not have that responsibility any more, but I am patiently waiting for the car to suddenly decide life isn’t worth living and to die on me. I mean, the damn thing has 151,000+ miles on it, most of which I put on because of my penchant for driving and that time I moved to Texas and forgot all my shoes in Nebraska and ended up driving to and from Nebraska twice in the span of a week. That was fun. I’m irresponsible sometimes!
And that’s all for the boring shit. On to the good bits!
First of all, please know I’ve wrestled with this for a few weeks now. Should I share this, should I not? Back and forth I’ve gone and I finally decided yes. However, I have some very explicit instructions for those that read this and I am serious about them:
1. Absolutely no sympathy for me, which seems contradictory since I decided to write about it which would suggest I’m fishing for sympathy, but I assure you, I am not.
2. Read #1 again.
3. Why write about this then? Why even bother with it? Well…because. As I mentioned previously, I certainly won’t seek anyone out to actually discuss this in a conversation because I am decidedly the worst person in the world when it comes to talking and writing lets me achieve the false notion that at least I am sharing private feelings, although, how fucking private is it that I’m writing on my blog and wanting people to read it. I am aware of the irony of this situation. I know it doesn’t make sense. I know it. I guess to me, writing this out is my way of talking to a bunch of people. Goddamn it, quit making me over-think this! I’ve done enough of that to death already! Plus, people are busy. The last thing I want to do is whine to people and bother anyone with my own problems when you all have problems of your own. So there.
Okay. Here it goes.
Remember back in late January when I was jobless and decided to move in with my dad for as long as it took me to find a job to take stress off my most gracious housemates? I ended up with Dad for a little over a month, as I got a job at the first part of March. Around that time, Dad started having some health problems. He’s been plagued with gastrointestinal issues since I was about 10 years old and stuff like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease run in the family.
At first, he thought it was a bout of a virus or something, but after a few weeks, the symptoms didn’t relent. He ended up at this family physician and got a colonoscopy done late spring. There were issues with the colonoscopy–the doctor couldn’t get his scope around a certain area of Dad’s large colon, so an MRI was ordered and the findings of this MRI prompted surgery, which Dad had on November 13th. He had what was called a hemicolonectomy, which is fancy talk for removing half of the old man’s large colon. In an impressive feat of science, like I said, half of the large colon was removed and then reconnected to the small intestines. Pretty neat stuff, really. There were complications, kind of. The new connection hadn’t “woken up,” if you will, not letting the bowels to function normally, so he ended up with a tube shoved down his nose, down his throat, and into the stomach to vacuum out the contents in hopes of taking the pressure of his guts to work so they could heal and wake up. Thankfully, that worked and his progress from there was pretty rapid, actually.
As is typical when any part of the body is taken out, it was submitted to pathology to rule out any abnormalities. His surgeon told me after the surgery this was happening and we would hear the results by Monday (surgery was on a Thursday).
Well, Monday came and went, no word. Tuesday came around and I just happened to be with Dad at the hospital when the doctor came around to check in on him and I finally asked about the pathology.
If you could have seen the look this man gave me, it’d best be described as ocular venom. If looks could kill, I’d be 6 feet underground and have worms crawling through my nose by now.
The doctor hesitated and then asked my dad if it was okay to share the news of the report. My dad obliged.
Cancer. My dad has colon cancer. And it’s not a good type of cancer, if there even is such a goddamn thing. Stage 3, to be exact, which I know enough about these things to understand that is really not good. Me being me, I researched colon cancer more and found out it’s staged as such: 0 to 4, 0 being just a tumor in the colon that is easily removed and no other treatment is needed. Four is terminal. Dad has type 3B, which means that his tumor grew though all three layers of the colon wall and invaded surrounding lymph nodes. The doctor said he removed 17 nodes during surgery and 4 of them were cancerous. There’s also a spot on his lung, which may or may not be cancer, but the mass noted during his MRI showed it to be relatively small and it was decided to play the super fun “watch and wait” game with that.
To be honest, I wasn’t surprised. Like I said, this crap runs in his side of the family. A sick, sadistic joke I have with my brother and sister-in-law is that if colon cancer doesn’t take his side of the family, it’s suicide. No, seriously. The suicide rate is appalling. So that’s cool.
Now this is when things start to get a little heavy.
I, for the most part, was fine with this diagnosis. It’s what I got to thinking about after hearing this diagnosis that really got to me.
Back in 2009, my father’s wife died of metastatic renal cell cancer. Ever since her death, my dad hasn’t been the same man. It changed his life, and not for the better. And I know that sounds cold and distant, because I mean, the guy’s wife passed away. That shit tends to get to a person. I guess my concerns came when the years started passing and to him, he acted like it just happened yesterday. And I also understand everyone grieves in their own way and time, but what concerns my brother, sister-in-law, and myself is the fact that he just seemed to give up on himself, like he wouldn’t care what happened to him because if it came to it, that meant he’d be that much closer to being with his wife again in heaven (no, I will not even touch that aspect of this story).
I think you can guess where I’m going with this. We thought that with this cancer diagnosis and the prognosis along with it, that Dad would deny medical intervention and choose to let it take his life. Understandably so, this very much upset us. My dad is only 64, a relatively young man in the eyes of what defines an old person. I mean, he isn’t even on Medicare yet, for crissakes.
Uncharacteristic of me, I pointblank asked him, “Dad, are you going to treat this?” which brought on many tears from both of us. My brother put it best: “I’m a selfish motherfucker and I just don’t feel like losing a parent yet.”
Surprising to me and to my brother and sister-in-law, Dad expressed a desire to obtain treatment, and I accompanied him to his appointment with an oncologist this past Thursday.
Dad is healing well from surgery and things seem to be working well. He’s pooping normally, okay? Geez. As for the cancer, it is felt that enough of his colon and lymph nodes were removed that all signs of the cancer were removed, it’s just the topic of the lung mass and any dormant cancer cells still hanging around in his guts that need to be addressed. The oncologist wants to be fairly aggressive with treating Dad and this coming week, he will have a port put in for chemotherapy and begin his first round on December 16th, and will have chemo every two weeks for the next six months.
I was really fascinated by the process once it was explained to me because I’m kind of a medical nerd like that, but it really is amazing. He’s going to be getting three medications, two of which are the chemo agents, and one is as explained to us, the “sidekick” to these. I guess dormant cancer cells will actually express themselves but it’s totally cool because my dad is going to have poison coursing through his veins to kill them. LOL.
This is where I become incredibly ashamed and the sole purpose of why I hemmed and hawed over writing this.
Dad really only has me to rely on to help him, and please do not misunderstand me: I am willing to do so. I mean, he’s my dad. He is half of the reason I’m here, so it’s the least I can do for the man. And I am in no way trying to shame my brother and sister-in-law for living 1500 miles away. They feel awful not being closer to help out and I’m not out to add to their guilt. They have been incredible to Dad and me so far just being there to talk to on the phone or text. My sister-in-law kept me sane during Dad’s week in the hospital texting me, so again, they are doing everything they can from where they are and if it comes down to it, they would definitely drop everything to come here. Dad also has a first cousin to whom he’s close with and she lives across the street from Dad and she’s also been great at making sure he’s okay and fed and checking up on him, so it’s not like I’m alone in this, because I am most certainly not alone. Does that still mean I don’t wish Nate and Margo lived closer so one day in the near future I can say to them, “hey, can you take Dad to chemo this week, please? Cool.”
But see, this is where I start feeling like a complete and utter asshole, even more so than I usually do. I’m whining about helping my dad out. The guy has fucking cancer and I’m over here all cancer-free and bitching that I have to drive a lot of places in the coming months. Big fucking deal, Erin. Shut the fuck up and deal with it. And trust me, after this little whine and cheese session, I will shut the fuck up about it and do everything I can for my dad. I guess I’m just thinking about everything and getting overwhelmed by it all, but again, shut the fuck up because I’m not the one who has to have six months of chemo and puking and losing some of my hair (we were assured this chemo concoction had minimal hair loss, but oddly enough, the worst side effect will be extreme intolerance to cold, so much so that he was told to avoid drinking or eating anything cold and let it sit out to warm to room temperature and to wear gloves when getting anything out of the freezer).
Do you kind of understand where I’m coming from here? This is why I demand no sympathy for me because it isn’t about me, and never will be. Sure, you can feel sorry for all the stress this may cause, how taxing it will be on me to go back and forth, but take all that sorry and direct it toward my dad, please. As George Costanza once said, “stuff those sorries in a sack, mister!”
And there you have it.
As always, thanks for reading.