Daddy's Battle: A Story of Strength, Love and Loss
The Beginning of a Nightmare
July of 2011 my father drew my mother's attention to a lump on his neck. After visiting his regular doctor, he was sent to an ENT specialist who assured my mother and father that he did not think the lump was cancerous, just a thyroid cyst but they performed a biopsy just in case. A couple of weeks later the doctor called to inform my father that the tissue samples did test positive for cancer and that the prognosis was "not good". My father was sent on to an oncologist who explained to him that not only did my dad have cancer but he had signet ring-cell carcinoma which is one of the rarest and most aggressive cancers a person can get. Dad didn't want to know the specific statistics but when he was out of earshot my mom dared to ask. The oncologist informed her that there was a 5% five year survival rate and the other 95% of patients were usually gone within a few months to a year.
Right away my father underwent an aggressive regiment of radiation and chemotherapy which left him exhausted and in pain. After just a few short weeks he was only able to work a few hours at his 30 year long career as an auto mechanic. Not long after that he was no longer able to work at all. The lack of something mechanical to do drove my dad so crazy that my mom started purchasing puzzles and complex remote control cars for him to tinker with. He also still lit up when my younger brother came to visit from Portland, Oregon and he still did his best to be the devoted husband, father, grandfather and brother he had always been. Our family still went on our fall trip to Florida and it was such a gift to be able to build more good family memories while there.
A Losing Battle
The oncologist and radiologist tried every combination of treatments that modern medicine had to offer, but sadly it was clear that none of them were working. The tumors had spread and grown to further places on his neck, shoulders and chest and the doctor said they had most definitely spread to other more vital places below the dermis. On July 6, 2012 it was agreed that my dad be placed on hospice. For a few days he almost seemed normal again. He regained his appetite, although it was mostly only for peanut butter and jelly, donuts and ice cream. Then just a couple of weeks later he started to deteriorate quickly. After a while he needed too much help going up and down the stairs to his bedroom and so my mother was forced to order a hospital bed to be placed in the front living area of their home. Blankets were draped over the french doors to allow for darkness and privacy so dad could rest.
The End of a Great Man
Dad lived long enough to see his 56th birthday but just two weeks later on September 4, 2012 he drew his last breath. My siblings and I were all present at the house as well as my mother of course. He and my mother spent 31 wonderful years together and I couldn't have asked for a better father and friend. People came from all over to pay their last respects, our friend and pastor delivered a touching eulogy, my sister spoke some very touching words, and I myself offered an antidote about how my dad kept all of my grade school clay figures even though they were hideous. Several other friends and family offered their kind and touching words, all different aspects of the sort of man my father was. My dad's greatest fear was not death, but the cancer going to his brain and making him "not funny anymore". I'm proud to say he still maintained his sense of humor until the end. We were all truly blessed to have him in our lives and I know he is resting peacefully now, probably finding humor in the fact that a misprint on his first grave marker made him younger than my mom.