I received one of those phone calls a few weeks ago. You know, the one you never want to receive.
My Mom said my father has been ill. He hasn't been getting out of bed. He's in a lot of pain. He's losing a lot of weight. The doctors have been running a bunch of tests on him.
My mom felt it was time to let me know what was going on. It was unexpected news. And I sobbed as she spoke.
We just visited my parents in July. My dad had lost a lot of weight even then. But that weight loss was deliberate. He'd been diagnosed with diabetes and he needed to change his diet.
His hobby is working in his yard and he's created a virtual paradise. He's always active and outside working on some project on his seven acres.
It isn't like him to lie in bed all day. Not at all.
Then I received an email message. You know, the one you never want to receive. It was sent from my Dad's phone. He'd just come from the doctor's office.
They found something.
A mass on his pancreas.
When you hear news like this, your thoughts go to dark places and you assume the worst.
Could it be cancer? The possibility is there.
Next, I spoke to my Mom on the phone. She said Dad had had a bad night. He was in a lot of pain and couldn't sleep.
I hate that my Dad is in pain.
The Dad that comforted me whenever I was hurting. I remember when I was in labor with my first daughter. I was in the throes of strong contractions and my Dad stepped in to see me for a minute. When he saw me in so much pain, he cried. Tears running down his cheeks.
And now my tears run down my cheeks for him.
There's nothing like the thought of losing your parents to make you realize your own mortality. Almost everyone experiences losing their parents at some time in their life. I hear about it all the time and I feel for that person. But I somehow never thought it would happen to me.
I don't want it to happen to me. I want my parents to live forever. I selfishly want them to always be there for me.
I remember one teenager-day when my heart was broken by a boy. My Dad heard me crying as I lay on my bed. He entered my room and sat by my bed and spoke quietly and softly to me. He said, "The Lord wants us to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit. How you feel right now, that's a broken heart and a contrite spirit." I'll never forget that lesson.
The circle of life is real. My Dad that once comforted me will now need my comfort.
And so I waited. I waited for the phone call. Waited for the news. Waited for the test results that could change my life. And especially his.
My Dad has always been larger than life. Like the Halloween night he stood outside of our house wearing a raincoat and holding a ship's wheel, talking in a pirate voice to all the trick or treaters. OR the way he used to tell us Brer Rabbit stories, sounding just like Uncle Ramos. OR the time he carved an ice elephant out of snow on our front lawn, an ice elephant that my children were actually able to sit on. OR the time he created all the scenery for a Children's Christmas program I was in charge of--amazing scenery. Knock your socks off scenery.
There's more. So much more. So many memories.
And hopefully many, many more.
On Friday night the news finally arrived. The mass on his pancreas is malignant.
Cancer. Pancreatic cancer.
The next step is surgery to remove the tumor.
I live in Texas, one of my sisters lives in Arizona. My parents live in Oregon. So, we are both catching a plane and heading to Oregon to be with my father. I'll be there for almost two weeks. I'll be back just in time to travel south to my son's college graduation. It's going to be a crazy couple of weeks.
That being said, I probably won't be blogging for awhile. I'll be back, but for the time being, life is happening in a big way and I am needed elsewhere for a bit.
Until then . . .
UPDATE: The tumor is too large to remove. They will try chemo and try to shrink the tumor. This is successful only 1/3 of the time. The doctor said if everything goes as planned, he could have up to five years. If he doesn't respond to chemo, we're looking at 6-18 months. Maybe two years. A lot of ifs are involved. We don't know how this will play out, so we are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. First order of business is to do a nerve block and get him out of pain. That way he can be comfortable for his remaining time.
Thanks for all of your well wishes.