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Still Hanging In There

My dad is still hanging onto life. He’s a tough nut to crack.

It may have sounded weird for me to say, “He is at his end, definitely,” in the previous post, but that “definitely” is something that’s new for us as his family. Since I never posted anything about his stint in the hospital this past summer, (because he didn’t want me to at the time), most of you aren’t privy to how on and off his imminent death was.

Over his 60 days in the hospital — at Duke — he was on the verge of death three times. We had “the Talk” with the doctors multiple times about how long and hard to try to save his life. I’ll tell you, that Talk is some seriously emotional shit. It’s not everyone who gets to or has to go through that discussion, and it can be pretty damn nerve-wracking to go through it three times in 2 months.

That up and down roller-coaster ride, “he’s dying,” “he’s getting better,” “he’s dying,” “he’s getting better,” “he’s dying,” “he’s getting better,” will wear the hell out of your nerves.

And here’s something I didn’t know: a living will — that legal paper that states the patient’s desires for how long and hard to fight for their life — ain’t binding, apparently. The individual who has personal authority over the patient can override anything on that paper. When we had the Talks, we stuck with what my dad had written in his will, but we had the ability to ignore it if we had wanted to.

So, anyway, about that “definitely” word.

When my dad was initially diagnosed with cancer, back in 1998, death was a potential outcome. But it wasn’t imminent, and it seemed to be stopped by the surgery, then. Even when he was given the 6-18 months to live back in 2009, he lived well right past 6 months and into 12 months. Real, actual, death just didn’t seem to really, actually, be coming for him.

Then we went through the summer of near death experiences, and he came out the other end of the few months actually seeming to be doing well. Looking at my dad, you don’t see a “tough guy.” He’s not a lumberjack kind of man. He’s just a normal man to the eye, but damn he’s resilient.

So, this idea that “my dad is dying” started to have a kind of “yeah, right” feel to it. He got and overcame cancers like my kids get and overcome colds. How can you take his mortality seriously when he’s shrugged off the Grim Reaper’s touch 3, 4, 5 times.

But this time, they’re telling us this is really it. There’s no more odds to beat, no more hanging in there to do, no more pulling through possible. But, they said, “he may last up to a week,” and be surely be darn, he’s going to last out that whole week. A man that can hang in there and pull back from the edge of death as many times as he has over the past years doesn’t just give up when someone says he can’t pull back this time.

It’s a happy and sad thing that he’s holding onto life this strongly.


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