Whew...deep breath...I'm doing a lot of that these days. Ever since we received my Dad's diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer and bladder cancer I have been praying and taking a lot of deep breaths...but most of all I have been enjoying my time with my Dad. At times like this the silly stuff that used to hold me back from having people over...like my house isn't in perfect order, or I'm trying a new recipe and am not sure it will be good, or I don't know if my guest will like my cooking, or my dog needs a bath and I haven't had time, or my homeschooling stuff is still out, or my folded laundry isn't put away, or on the other end I would stop in but I don't want to intrude, or I didn't call first so they are not expecting me...the small stuff...fades quickly into the "it really doesn't matter" box. What matters is an impromptu dinner with my whole family, bringing us together to talk, laugh, eat and just enjoy...being together. What matters is holding my Dad's hand or rubbing his back when doctor after doctor seems to only have more bad news. My Dad feels bad that I have to take him everywhere and instead I am honored to be there in my mother's place. What matters is seeing my Dad laugh and smile, despite it all. What matters is the closeness, just being together even if we have nothing to talk about, going out to lunch after yet another doctor appointment and laughing at Sam saying "Hi Lady" to every woman that walks by and you can imagine how many times the waitresses receive a greeting. I am slowly memorizing his laugh, his smile, the way he rubs his hands together, the wave in his beautiful white hair, how blue his eyes are, the way he chokes up every time he mentions my Mom, the way his eyes look and how he smiles when he talks about Sam.
This week was supposed to be a needle biopsy of the lung and a cysto of the bladder. On Monday I invited my Dad over for dinner. I made a yummy beef roast with potatoes, carrots and onions just like Mom used to. We prayed, ate, told stories and laughed together...another treasured moment. But something my sister said kept weighing heavily on my mind...why is Dad having the needle biopsy if he is not going to aggressively treat his cancer? After dinner and dessert I sat with Dad and asked him the same question. We talked about what his doctor had said after the petscan and why we had originally agreed to it...the needle biopsy would tell us for sure that it is cancer and what type of lung cancer. But what does that matter to us? They have no other logical reason for what showed on his petscan besides cancer, so I think we can safely assume that it is indeed cancer. Right now...my Dad is feeling okay...the usual aches and pains of any 84 year old man but nothing significant, no shortness of breath, no coughing, no unusual pain...so why do we want to poke at something that is not bothering him and see if we can stir it up???
When we met with the pastor my Dad said "I have lived a wonderful life, I miss Marilyn and I am ready to go." My Dad is a man of faith and he knows that this life is temporary and eternal life with God and my Mom awaits him and he is okay with that. Each time we meet with a doctor they encourage the needle biopsy and talk about the possibility of how they can help him and each time my Dad's words come back to me and I explain to the doctors that my Dad is looking for quality not quantity of life and can they guarantee he will have that with what they are proposing. Right now my Dad feels okay, why do we want to alter that.
Today was the bladder cysto procedure and again I found myself rubbing my Dad's back as we listened to the doctor tell us that he sees at least 3 tumors but he thinks they may be a low grade and could be treated with a scraping procedure. I could see the hope in his eyes "that we got this" and I watched that hope fade as I explained that my Dad has also been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He encouraged the needle biopsy to be sure and began to tell us that it doesn't mean a death sentence. I stopped him and said "Dr. Zackarius my Dad is 84 years old, we lost my Mom in February at about the time this all would have begun...". My Dad spoke up and said "I have lived a wonderful life, I have loved and enjoyed my family and honestly I am ready to go". I watched the doctors eyes tear up and he asked "Ken, how many children do you have?" My Dad told him and he smiled as he mentioned each of us and where we lived. He said he would be lost without us and again I felt blessed by the moment. I explained to the doctor that after much thought and discussion as a family we feel quality is much more important at this point than quantity. He feels good and we are enjoying the time we have left together. He said he understood and he softly smiled. I said to Dad, "Okay let's do something fun, let's go eat." Dad agreed that was a good idea and we left the office with an agreement to treat the bladder before Thanksgiving if the cancer is a higher stage or after Thanksgiving if it is a lower stage.
I enjoyed watching my Dad eat a huge hamburger with sweet potato fries, a cup of coffee and a big glass of water. I no longer take the simple act of eating for granted any longer. My Dad has always had a beautiful tan and I noticed as we sat in the restaurant that his tan had faded or his color looked a little off. I decided not to trouble him but would contact his doctor when I got home. I dropped off Dad and made sure he got into the house okay. He smiled and waved as he walked through the door. I again memorized his every move.
I came home and began making the calls to my sister and brothers about the results of today's appointment. Made them aware of the oncology appointment next week, and that when the pathology results come in I will schedule Dad's bladder procedure. Then I sent a text to his main doctor asking him to run a blood test to check my Dad's levels and assure me that his blood count is okay. I love this doctor, he texted back and said he would call him first thing in the morning to come in for a blood work up.
I still have the pictures from my Mom's funeral at my house and tonight before I wrote this I took a walk down memory lane. The pictures of my Mom and Dad made me both smile and cry. I saw pictures of my Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and all my cousins back when we were just kids...and I was absolutely cognizant of the fact that days like today had never even entered our thoughts. This thing we call life is precious, family even more precious...don't ever sweat the small stuff because you will come to a point in your life like me when it just really doesn't matter. Take time, enjoy each other for the quirks, differences and fun that makes us individuals and together makes us family and tell them you love them...don't wait...go outside your comfort zone, hug often, forgive, forget and appreciate the moments you have together.