I stood at the back of his chair, rubbing his shoulders. It took a full moment for the gravity of what was transpiring to sink in. His breathing was far too labored. He’d complained all morning that it hadn’t come easy to him, even with the oxygen tank. With one smack against the wall I had alerted the nurse on staff and her voice rang through the intercom. Arguing with me for only the briefest of moments, she promised to send someone up right away.
Too late. Leaning forward, his breaths all but stopped. My sense of urgency sang out across the wires to the nurse once again and the calls went out – 911. Shock set in. This couldn’t be happening. Only ten minutes ago I had given him permission to do what he must. I never expected him to cash in that ticket so soon. I felt like a five-year-old as I called out to him, “Daddy?” But he was already gone.
I held back the tears as his friends arrived at the door to see him for his first day in his new place. First and last day. The surprise and shock registering on their faces at the site upon their arrival, as the paramedics lay my father out on the ground looking for his heartbeat.
And then the moment of truth. I’m asked if I want them to attempt resuscitation. My chest tightens and heart quickens. I resent this pressure being put on me. I know his wishes but I don’t want to be the one to say “No.” But for the love of him I let the word slip from my lips. I stand frozen, horrified as they pack up and leave him there staring up at the ceiling. He deserved better.
This is the song I wanted to play at his service, but I let my uncle pick the music so it never happened.
Fourteen years ago today, my grandmother moved on to the next phase of her life. Four years later to the day her son, my father, would join her on the day described above. Yes, it’s been ten years since I said goodbye to my father for the very last time. I gave him permission to go and he faded before my very eyes in mere minutes. The days that followed were difficult, but the years between I’ve held up strong. Until now. This last week I found myself revisiting the past. I’m not exactly certain why. Maybe it’s because of the ten year mark or because his ashes are no longer with me for the first time. Or, and this is most likely true, it’s because I opened myself up this last year more than I have in the past. Either way, I’m feeling it, and I’m rolling with the flow. I see it as a wonderful healing process. One I may have denied myself in the past.
Since before I started blogging I knew I wanted to write about my father’s death for this anniversary. I thought I would focus on the moment I watched him slip away and what it felt like letting someone go. But I realize now that I want to focus on something else, his condition and what we can do to give support and inspiration for others that suffer the same plight.
With great love and respect I blow a kiss to my grandmother, but today’s for dad. Or more likely, what took him so early from this world. You see, my father had Multiple Myeloma. That’s a cancer of the white blood cells. From the day he was diagnosed they gave him three years to live. It actually would have been shorter because of the way the treatments fought with his diabetic meds. But because of the fine people with their wonderful research at the City of Hope, he gained an extra year of life. They developed a procedure that allowed him to be his own donor. So one Christmas, my father and I stayed at one of their deluxe cottages while he was hooked up to a machine that filtered out his blood, purified it and filtered it back in.
It allowed him to live long enough to meet his grandson for the first time. Three months later I’d yo-yo back and forth, driving an hour between my dying father and my newborn every other day. I would do this for over a month and a half. When the time came, my father was ready to make his peace. Cancer doesn’t care if you are young or old, rich or poor. It will affect any and all. We were lucky that my father had filed many wonderful years behind him already. Not all are so lucky when cancer comes calling. In the end, he may not have been one of the success stories, but there’s plenty of amazing success stories heard every day. Several months ago another member of my family was diagnosed with stage 4. At the last check-up all was clear! If you know someone touched by the Big C (stupid cancer) or are simply inspired to help those around you touched by the disease, there are ways to get passively involved.
My father was able to be his own donor, but not everyone has that opportunity. One well known place to start helping is at the blood banks. You can be a blood donor. They need blood and they are always looking for those special donors who can provide universal platelets. But here’s something you may not have considered. Many of these patients spend a lot of time in hospitals or centers for treatments or during their illness; they are always looking for good reading material. Fresh new and used books in good condition for all ages are a welcome donation. For the little ones: clean, fluffy stuffed animals are also in demand.
If it’s someone close to you that is taking this path, there are six important things you can do to make it easier on them. But please – only offer these things if you are really ready to deliver. No one appreciates one who builds false hope.
Acknowledge – One of the worse things you can do when you know someone close to you is ill is ignore it and say nothing. It leaves that person feeling alone and isolated. Acknowledge the situation! To cry together is far better than to be left feeling abandoned and uncared for.
Offer – There will come times when they won’t be able to do the things we take for granted, like a trip to the market, or the doctors. Offer to pick-up, or deliver meals, dry-cleaning, medications, groceries, or walk the dog. But remember, only if you can follow through. Offer up a specific day of the week or date to make your commitment blend better with your own schedule.
Listen – The road of chemotherapy is a rocky one. Be ready to be there to lend an ear. Always keep a positive attitude (very important).
Remember – There will be days when they are more down than others in the fight. This is when you must remember hope is a gift. Don’t push the hope or positive attitude on them, or you risk the chance of making them feel like a failure. Wait and remain open, and hope they will share their burden with you.
Guard – Privacy is an important thing and it’s up to them with whom they will share their condition. If you have been privileged and allowed into their trust, don’t share information with others without their expressed permission.
Ensure dignity – When life is kicking you in the shin, there is nothing worse than losing your self-worth on top of it all. Help them through reassurance. Let them see their value is still intact.
Like any difficult path, the one of cancer is made easier when there is love and support. If those of us who are able create a checks and balance system to help those in need, catch them when they stumble, then maybe we help build hope for what the future may have in store.
Inspire * Encourage * Never Give Up
Cancer doesn’t discriminate (above)
The Limits of Cancer
Cancer cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot eat away at peace,
It cannot destroy confidence,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot shut out memories,
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot reduce eternal life,
It cannot quench the spirit,
It cannot lessen the power of The Resurrection.
Would you be here looking for a Row80 update? Hmm. Well, let’s see. This week I was sick, knocked out with migraines, in a slump over my dad, feeling low over my grandparents packing up and hightailing back to the east coast midweek, and playing the role of a single mom the entire week. Yeah, I didn’t get a whole lot done. :-/ I guess that makes this a super-fast wrap-up. I let a Beta read my cleaned up chapter one. I made more changes to my second chapter and I only got halfway through editing chapter three. That’s where I stand.
I did get my three blogs out for the week, if you count this one. I held back on the Wednesday post since I was posting on Thursday for August’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest. I will go back to the regular schedule this week, but may fall back to the Monday, Thursday, Saturday night schedule after that so that I have more time for my WIP. I’m looking forward to moving ahead with this new schedule and making great strides. Wish me luck!
Hope I didn’t bring anyone down with my Big C post. I really tried to look at it with rose colored glasses. Have a fabulous Sunday! Blessings to all.
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