The Cancer

Dear Dad,

Yesterday was Father’s Day.  One of the 3-4 times during the year when you would have actually gotten on the phone with me.  Like many other things, I dreaded it for weeks and when it came it wasn’t so bad.

Actually, I was just too wiped out from caring for your mother to notice.  Tom and I went to Sunken Gardens because we have a family membership and we needed some reason to get out of the house before it was 4pm and we were still glued to the sofa.  There’s a restaurant that shares the parking lot and they were advertising special Father’s Day hours and I was kind of like, “Oh right.”  And felt a little more sad and frazzled.  Especially because I thought about bringing it up with Tom again so he would call his dad.  I didn’t.  I have a feeling Tommy is going to get short-changed on several Dad-centric things for a while because I just can’t care that much.

Your mother had a hysterectomey.  The day afterwards was confusing and frustrating and horrible because she really did not look good in the morning and felt like her left ankle was sprained from being in the stirrups so I was scared to push her to walk much even though that meant delaying when she could be discharged.  The doctors came in the morning before I got there, and came again in the evening after I left.  She kept remembering treatments she thought someone had told her she might get and would get agitated about not getting them in the small window of time between naps when she wasn’t exhausted.

I realize that nothing much would have changed if you were still alive.  She got on your last nerve and days like that make me understand why.  You would have been in Chicago and I would have been in Florida and the whole thing would have played out almost exactly the same.

The surgeon could tell just be sight that the cancer has spread to her lymph nodes.  She took out some obvious and easy-to-retreive nodes.  Typical treatment is chemotherapy.

Mom seems really gung ho on chemo and treatment and beating this.  As is every single cancer support site I can find on the web.  And even though I know you wanted to fight death to your last gasping breath, I think you would side with me on this one.  That she is 90 and the doctor says that even with metastasized cancer and no treatment it’s still not a done deal that cancer will be her cause of death.  Because she’s 90 and when you’re 90 sometimes you just die because your 90.

I want this to be Grandma’s decision.  But I want her to know it’s OK to say no to treatment.  That maybe she will have a better quality of life in the time she has left not going through chemo again.  I don’t feel like anyone in the medical community is going to offer that opinion – it’s an opinion equated with defeat and death and no extra work/billing for them.

I don’t believe no treatment has to be equated with defeat and death but I am having a hard time figuring out how to tell her in a way that doesn’t make it sound like I want her to die.  Because every time I think of saying no to treatment I think of removing your breathing tube.

I think of how it’s probably not what you would have wanted.

But you were dying.  Not like grandma is dying because she is old and has some bad cells pinging around in her body.  You were dying as in you were going to pass away that day regardless of what we did.  And deciding to stop your hospital care seemed like the kindest thing to do.  For you, for Mom, for us.

I wish I could have told you, before you made your decision to be intubated, that I wanted you to accept hospice.  But I had just gotten on a plane and was reeling from all the information and didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want it to sound like I had given up on you.

And now it feels like I did anyway.

So I cannot let your mother feel like I have given up on her.  But I also want to make her feel comfortable with the idea of – not giving up exactly, but letting go.  Whatever will be, will be. 

Love,

Your Daughter

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