Tuesday, July 12, 2011
No, Thank You.
The day before, Karen called me to tell me she had taken my dad to the emergency room at the hospital because of a cough he couldn't get rid of and she told me his hematocrit numbers were in the single digits. She also told me he'd lost 35 pounds in six weeks' time. I knew it was cancer. I knew it was lung cancer. I tried to not think about it.
When I asked her what the doctors told me, she confirmed it. My dad has lung cancer.
I fell into a heap on the floor in the hospital where I was. I was there with my children having routine asthma check ups. Suddenly, the world faded away and it was just Karen on the phone...and myself. I was sobbing.
I pulled myself together enough to ask, "How big is it? Has it spread? Are they saying anything about whether or not it is treatable? I mean....what now!??"
She cried softly and said, "We just don't know yet. He is having the biopsy done now. We will know more when they are finished."
I couldn't believe it. The news was just too much. I felt like I could never believe it. I talked with Karen for a short while. When I felt I had enough information, I told her, "I need to call my sister. I will call you in a while." We hung up.
I dialed my sister's phone number. She answered. I tried to be calm. I asked her to call our mother with the three-way dialing feature. She did. When I knew that we were all three on the phone, I told them, "I am calling with sad news. Dad has cancer."
There was a quiet pause. Danielle sounded calm and collected. I listened to my mom and sister talk a little bit back forth about how maybe it was treatable and maybe my dad would pull out of this one like he has so many other scary things. Somehow, in my bones I just knew "This is it! I am losing my dad. This is going to take my dad from me." Eventually, all three of us were crying and reminiscing and checking plane fare prices and laughing and then crying again." The three-way phone call ended and my children and husband sat on the tile floor around me. I stared off into space trying to make sense of it. I remembered that when I packed my boxes to move, I knew that as soon as I got here, I was going to deal with cancer. I didn't know who, I didn't know when, I didn't know any of that, I just knew that someone had cancer and I would find out after I got here.....and I did...and now I am mad! I even said, "I'm losing my dad." Ryan scolded me and said, "Don't say that!" I think he was holding on to any shred of possibility.
When I called Karen again later, she told me she'd seen the x-rays and the tumor was quite large. Later, I was told there are tumors in both of his lungs and it has spread to other areas.
I cried a lot of tears yesterday. I thought I had cried so much that I couldn't cry any more. And then I would cry some more.
When I woke up this morning, my house was quiet. My head hurt. The pain was a textbook migraine headache. I wanted to sleep some more. My eyelids felt stuck closed, but after more-than-usual effort, they opened. They hurt, but they opened. I sat up in my bed and felt mad. Just. Plain. Angry. I thought: "Um...NO! This was not the storyline I chose or planned! I will take my money back and we can try this again!" I sat in the quiet room and relived all the horror of news I'd received the day before. I think part of my mind was trying to make sure I understood it all again. I was sure I wasn't asleep. I was sure it was real and true.
I got up out of bed and shuffled across the room to the bathroom. I knew my eyes and face were so swollen from all the crying. I looked at my reflection and felt so sad for me. My eyes were red and puffy. They looked like they were literally blistered. There were big, black circles under my eyes. I touched my ring fingers to them. They hurt. I thought, "My GOD! I seriously don't think my eyes have EVER been like this from crying....." I shuffled my way back to my bed. I didn't want to be anywhere but there. I laid my head back on my pillow and thought of my dad. I wondered how much more time I would have to be able to call him and talk to him whenever I want to. The hot, salty tears welled in my eyes and spilled out onto my face. Now, my eyes felt like they were burning. I wondered if anyone had ever cried so much as I had.
I pulled myself together again and I called my dad. He answered.
I said, "Good morning!"
He sounded a little winded, but said, "Good morning!"
I asked, "Did you get any sleep last night?"
He said, "Yeah! I did! Did you?"
I said, "No, Dad. No, I didn't. I think I am just too sad."
He said, "I think we all are."
More tears came. My throat felt like it was closing off. I fought for a breath and blurted out, "I am not ready for you to go anywhere! Who am I supposed to call when I feel sad? Who will be my cheerleader, Dad?"
He tried to remind me that I could turn to God. I said, "But when I need to hear you tell me you're proud of me or that I am doing a good job...." He cut me off and reminded me again that God is in my corner. I sighed and angrily shouted, "That's all well and good, but dammit it isn't the same, Dad! I still need to physically hear you say those things to me!"
He said, "I know. I know. You're right. It isn't the same."
My heart hurts too much to remember how the conversation ended.
My dad has made a choice for comfort ... not treatment.
My heart is broken.