My dad will die this week.
In 1998, my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. A couple of surgeries “cured” him for a few years, but then more cancer was found in another organ. He had another very major surgery to “cure” that.
Then more cancer was found in other organs. This time, he was given 6-18 months to live. Chemo and radiation treatments seemed to be holding off his end, but the poisons were playing hell with his body. A little over 12 months into his 6-18 months, he had another surgery, this year, to remove tumors.
The surgery itself went fine, and he was recovering well in the hospital for a week. Then, on the day the doctors said he would be going home, something went horribly wrong. A very bad infection kept him in the hospital for two more months. During this time, (this summer), he was near death at least three times. He spent a total of three weeks in intensive care barely clinging to life.
When he was at last released from the hospital, a couple months ago, he was physically just a shell of the man he used to be. He couldn’t walk, get up, or hardly do anything for himself. Physical therapy was helping to bring him back to mobility, but it was slow going.
Over the past couple of weeks he was starting to walk a bit. He was able to get about the house, and everyone could see he was at least showing he might actually fully recover from his ordeal. He had a doctor’s appointment last week to go over some scans and x-rays the docs had taken recently, and he walked into and out of the doctor’s office.
Unfortunately, the scans and x-rays showed a lot of tumors in his body. Lots of tumors. There would be no chemo or radiation or surgeries to “cure” these. He was in the closing chapter of his life. The only unknown was how long this chapter would be.
My family and I planned to go up to visit him this weekend. We expected a day of hanging out with him; to let his grandchildren see him and play around him, maybe one last time. But Saturday morning, when we were only about half an hour from arriving, his sister, my aunt, (who has been helping his wife care for him), called me and said things were turning very bad that morning. We dropped our boys off with my mother — this would not be a day for them to see their granddaddy — and rushed over to my dad’s house.
When we arrived, my dad was lying in bed, “awake” only by having his eyes open. He was barely aware of his surroundings and the people around him. His body was failing. His hospice nurse — assigned to him only a couple days before — came over and assessed the situation.
It was explained to us, in detail and clearly: the cancer is killing him, now. He may die in the next hour, or he might manage to last up to a week. There are no more odds of survival, no more life saving or life extending actions or medications to take. He is at his end, definitely.
To be continued…