Losing a Family Member to Cancer
Everyone has a mom and dad. Some say they wish they had different parents from time to time and I'm no different. At times I have hated, loved, worshipped and longed for my dad. Like many dads he had a job, unlike many dads his wasn't always all that safe. My dad, Buddy, spent most of his working years as an EOD tech. Which in itself can be a dangerous job, but then add on experimental munitions and things get even more interesting.
He grew up with so many brothers and sisters, I wonder how he knew which way to go as they directed him and advised him on what he should be doing. His own father died when he was only 12 years old; which left avoid only his older brothers could fill. Good and bad, they filled it, which left him in a position to be a good or bad man. There were times when I wondered how crazy of a young man he really was; regardless, his up bringing made him the wise and tough man I knew and loved.
As he grew up and started out in life, he joined the Air Force and served as an EOD tech for four years. He met a lot of great people and learned important talents that would latter come to mean a way of making a living and at times keep him alive. You see as he went on in life, he would try his hand at many different jobs or professions and for the most part they were pretty dangerous. An example is when he decided for a few years he wanted to be a professional bull rider, back before you could actually make much money unless you made it to the very top and wore the buckle to prove it. Him a couple of friends traveled the Southwest riding in different rodeos, barely getting by. This was especially true when a bull got a hold of one of them and threw them around like rag dolls.
However, like so many he had to fall back onto what he knew and what he knew was how to handle explosives. So he became a civilian worker for the Army at Yuma Proving Grounds or now known as Yuma Testing Center. Like many of the individuals who have given 30 plus years of their lives to a career, he didn't make it through all of those years without a scratch. On more than one occasion one of the explosive devices or munitions they were testing went off when it wasn't supposed to.
Case in point, back in the late 60s he was working on a bomb with another tech. when it started smoking. As you can guess that isn't a good sign, with little time both men ran for the door and made it out just before it exploded. Lucky for them, because had they not cleared the door of the room they were working in, one or both would have died. As he continued on his career he would have many more near death experiences, some ending in the Intensive Care Unit.
So after so many years of this, I figured my dad wouldn't go out very quietly. I always figured there was going to be some big incident or crazy event that brought on his death. I thought this way because he was able to survive so many situations that should have ended it all. So when he got sick in 2007, I never thought he would die from something like cancer.
To most cancer is only a word, an illness without much meaning. Not to me though, it has taken more of my family members and friends then I would like to admit; however, it was the lose of my dad that finally made me stop and really think. Now I have already talked about how tough my father was, so his dealings with cancer would be no different. In the late 1990s he was diagnosed with his first form of cancer, your basic lung cancer. After many medical treatments the cancer was basically declared cured and life went on as if nothing in the world could touch any of us. What I mean is my father continued to get injured from accidents at work and his life overall was normal. I saw him on the weekends, went on summer vacation with him in the mountains of Arizona along with other family members and basically he just grew old.
Again nothing could stop him and I truly believed that until late 2007, when following a tour in Iraq I fold out my dad had been diagnosed with bone cancer. Unlike some cancers this little bugger wasn't in just one area, it hit in at least three different areas to include his spine. If not for a now In-Law, my dad may have died or at the very least have been paralyzed from the middle of his back down. But quick thinking and prior medical experience allowed for him to be stabilized until an ambulance could arrive and rush him to the hospital. You see that little bone monster that was on his spine had weaken a couple of his vertebras to the point that they broke causing him to fall. It was touch and go for a bit; however, with the new medical technology the doctors were able to control the damage done and insert a medical device that held his spine together and ensured he would be able to walk. So again, many medical treatments latter his bone cancer went into remission. Not to say he didn't have issues from time to time with it, but for the most part it was under control.
Then in 2010 his lung cancer decided it wasn't getting any attention and it came back with force and backup just encase my dad decided to be stubborn and fight. However, fight is exactly what he did. If he hadn't, well he would have had to just given up the family name. So following more surgeries to remove part of his right lower lung with the cancer attached to it and again many more medical treatments the lung cancer went into remission, just like the bone cancer. However, now he had two types of cancer in him in remission and like any enemy they decided to work together and to take on my dad. My dad did what anyone would do and continued to fight receiving treatments and God only knows how many different medications.
All the fighting was really taking a tow on him physically and mentally. At times I think he only continued to fight for my Step-mother and my sake. I know so many times he just wanted to give up and well, me being me, I continued to encourage him to fight and not give up. I reminded him that only the good die young and well he had a lot of years left in him. You see, it wasn't so much as him giving up to the cancer; it was more of me being willing to give him up. I wasn't ready for that and even though the military kept me away, I really wasn't ready for it to take his life.
As time drug on his body just started wearing out a little each day. Fighting for him was getting harder and harder as he pressed on. In the summer of 2013, I went to visit him and other relatives. I only stayed for the day and now I wish I had stayed longer, but I can't change it now. Though his age was showing, he still showed me how tough he was and how he could do anything he put his mind to. He also allowed me to believe that nothing could stop him or I should say I allowed myself to believe he was unstoppable. I wouldn't take the time again to see him for a year, a year I wish I could get back. However, as anyone who has lost a love one to cancer knows, sometimes it is watching the descend that hurts the most. I could never tell anyone about the struggles my step-mother went through, because I couldn't handle them to know.
At then end of Sept of 2014, I received an email from my step-mother saying my dad's cancer was getting pretty bad and he really wanted to see me. So I made two separate trips home and spent the days with him. I saw how much the cancer had taken from him, the damage that could not be repaired with surgery, treatments or medicine. You see since the lung and bone cancer couldn't keep him down, an even worst cancer attacked him, Leukemia. During my second visit with my dad, I know at some point he and I came to a silent understanding that we knew it was time. I told him I was doing good and I believe that allowed him to believe all of us were ready for the end.
The Leukemia worked fast and it wasn't long before the pain became unbearable and my dad decided it was time to talk to Hospice. It wasn't long after that he finally passed away, but at least the family was able to say their goodbyes. He died the night of Dec 3, 2014 surrounded by his wife and sisters. I think of him often and wish that more time could have been added onto his life span, but I also know it was his time. He showed me what a true hero was, how to fight on even when everything seems like a loss and to ensure important information is passed on prior to retiring.