Sunday, September 25, 2011

I've been writing this post in my mind for the past 2 weeks

As many of you know, my father was diagnosed with Brain Cancer last October. He had surgery to remove it soon after and was being treated with chemo & radiation. This event prompted my involvement in Relay for Life & to go see him back in January.

Many events have occurred since then, but none as emotional as the last two weeks.

Saturday, Sept 10th:
My Dad's wife, Ginny, sent me a text to call her when I could. I had the pleasure of bonding with Ginny when they came to visit me in Hawaii, and when visiting my Oma in Montana. She called to let me know that my Dad's mobility had continued to deteriorate & that he was going to be placed in a Nursing Home to get Physical Therapy in hopes of gaining enough strength to come home soon.

I cried when I got off the phone because he had slowly lost more and more strength with the long term steroid use, as treatment, and it was another reminder that his body was failing him.

Monday, Sept 12th:
I received a phone call from my Mother informing me that my father had been admitted to the hospital, and the cancer had spread. I was stunned & immediately called Ginny. My father has always been a man of few words, and NEVER complained, so when he started to voice his pain, Ginny immediately got him to the ER. There they discovered he had a raging UTI & kidney infection & admitted him for treatment. After getting his full history, they decided to do a CT...which is when they discovered that tumors were present in every organ. My heart sank. I called his RN, and made sure that I had enough time to get there.

Tuesday, Sept 13th:
Dad said he wanted to go home & be with his dogs, so Ginny made arrangements for Hospice & the VA, and got him home. I called work, hysterical, and told them that I was leaving immediately, but would be back in 8 days. My SIL had just arrived Saturday, with her adorable son (who is 3 weeks younger than the boys) and selflessly offered to watch the boys so I could focus on what I needed to.

Wednesday, Sept 14th:
After 3 planes & 8 hours, I made it to Tucson. My GPS decided it didn't recognize Arizona, so I somehow found my way to my hotel, picked up a new GPS, then headed to my Dad's house. Up until Monday, I hadn't been aware of my Dad's blindness, and was unprepared for the state I found him. He laid in the hospital bed (which the VA was kind enough to supply), and was only able to answer with a simple "yes" or "no." Ginny put me right to work helping feed him, and at that time I was thankful he couldn't see the tears streaming down my face. I could see that he didn't have much time left, but I was eternally grateful to be at his side.

Thursday & Friday, Sept 15 & 16th:
Hospice provided us with a portable suction, since his ability to swallow was limited & he continued to choke on anything we gave him. We gave the meds as prescribed, made sure he was clean, and positioned him as best we could. During this time I was able to help Ginny make arrangements for his wishes.

My younger sister emailed me a letter that she wanted me to read to him. I read it many times in hopes that I wouldn't break down, but I couldn't help cry as I read the touching words of an appreciate daughter.

As I said, my Father was a simple man, and he wanted to donate his body to science. This service is offered by Science Care, and they contract a mortuary, and after about 3-4 weeks, the cremation remains are mailed back to the family.

By Friday night his breathing had become more labored & fast...and I tried to prepare myself. Ginny didn't leave his side for more than a few minutes to help with the kids or help me organize papers. She talked to him & played his favorite Oldies in the background.

Saturday, Sept 17th:
He breathing stayed fast & labored throughout the day, and by the evening he was no longer responding. I continued to give him Morphine which slowly seemed to ease his breathing. I continued to sit at the kitchen table reading one of the many books I brought, while Ginny stayed at his side.

Every night on the drive back to the hotel, I cried. I cried for the pain he was in, the loss I already was feeling, and the pain in Ginny's eyes.

Sunday, Sept 18th:
We continued with out routine, although he could no longer take anything by mouth, and I could hear his lungs begin to fill with fluid. I continued with the morphine and keeping his as comfortable as possible. I helped with the kids & anything else to allow Ginny to be at his side.

Monday, Sept 19th:
His arms and legs started to get cold, and his breathing more and more shallow. I finally realized that no matter how well I positioned him with pillows, in the end it didn't matter.

That night before I left for the hotel, I grabbed his hand, told him I loved him & kissed him on his forehead. He had been resting quietly all day, but I could feel him slipping away. I cried horribly on the way back to the hotel & when I got into my room. I stepped into the shower & prayed that he would pass before I had to leave on Wednesday, so I could be there to support Ginny.

As soon as I stepped out of the shower, Ginny called to tell me he had passed. I went into fix-it mode & threw on my PJ's & headed back to their house. I sat on the porch with Ginny until the Hospice RN arrived to pronounce him, & until the mortuary came to pick him up.

She told me stories & conversations she had with him, and we both held each other and cried.

Tuesday, Sept 20th:
We tied up loose ends & Ginny & I made a trip out to the Air Force Base to get some things fixed & go to the commissary. This allowed us a lot of time to talk & was just what we needed.

That afternoon I realized what I needed. I gave the kids hugs, thanked Danny for all his help, and said my goodbyes to Ginny. I headed back to my hotel room and just simply cried. I had been ignoring text messages and phone calls all week because I honestly couldn't allow myself to talk or I would have never been strong enough to help Ginny. I talked with Eric for almost 2 hours and then cried some more. Just before bed I walked to Denny's & ate dinner in a restaurant, by myself for the first time ever.

Wednesday, Sept 21st:
I left for the airport at 3:30am and was headed back home. Finally at 8:00pm, I arrived back in North Carolina, and was greeted by a smile & hug from E.J. (old Army friend from HI) who was compassionate enough to give me a ride home.


I'm still sad. I'm still hurting. But, I am eternally grateful for the time I was able to spend with my Father, doing those Nursing skills that have become second nature for me. I'm grateful that I could be there as a physical and emotional support to Ginny and the family. At first she apologized for being a bad hostess, but I quickly corrected her and let her know that if my husband was in the same state, I would also be at his side, every moment I could.

Please forgive my absence for the awhile, I'm emotionally drained and physically exhausted.

I want to thank all my family and friends for their kind words, and actions. My SIL, Nicole, was so accurate in saying that God has a plan...and there was a reason for her to arrive when she did. And, Amy S. for not hesitating to volun-tell her husband, who was more than willing, to give me a ride home. And especially husband & brother, Mike, who were really the only people I knew I could call at any hour to discuss what was going on and pour out my emotions.


Jessica G. said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, my friend! Wish I could be there for you!

Chris and Lara Stafford said...

You were a dear girl to your dad...especially in the end, and I honor you for that. Hugs to you...


My heart hurts for you Mary. Having lost both parents in the past 20 months I know what you are going through...and my dad had cancer as well. I will be praying for you as you walk through the days of grief that you stay strong and find peace in the memories. Know that I am here for you anytime you want to talk. Just let me know and you can call me.

Kristina P. said...

Oh, Mary! My heart is breaking for you. Your father sounds like such a sweet, simple, loving man.

blueviolet said...

OH sweet friend, I'm so very, very sorry. It hurts my heart to know the pain you're dealing with right now. I'm glad you were there in his final days to love and care for him.

Erin said...

I'm so sorry, Mary, for your loss. I'm glad you were able to spend some time with him. Thinking of you and your family...

Megan and Jeremy said...

I'm so sorry for your loss! I can't imagine how hard that must have been. But I'm so glad you were able to be there with him for his last few days & to be such a comfort. I'll be thinking of you.

Queenie Jeannie said...

Oh babe! I had no idea. I'm so so sorry to hear about your Dad's passing. Big hugs and tons of prayers for you, my dear!!!! I wish there was more that I could do, but I'm always here for you, no matter what!