Monday, October 17, 2011

Things Pancreatic Cancer can't take away

My heart has been torn between so very many emotions over the last week. For those of y’all who didn’t know, my dad passed away early last Wednesday morning.

To say that my heart is broken would be putting it mildly. In the weeks leading up to his passing, I had witnessed his decline, and that in itself was the single hardest thing that I’ve ever had to experience. To watch a man that was so full of life, who loved to laugh, and who was so determined to fight against this cancer, struggle with his illness and slowly succumb to the disease left me shattered and broken inside.

Daddy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the end of July. This diagnosis came after having problems with pain in the upper right area of the abdomen even after having his gallbladder taken out. He had complaining and going to the doctor since May. Everyone had thought it was the gallbladder, including me. Knowing that pancreatic cancer has a terrible prognosis, our family was in shock. Not only did he have the mass on his pancreas, but the cancer was already in stage 4 and had already spread to his liver. Still, after hearing that he may only have a year or even less to live, my dad was still determined to fight the cancer and get better. He began chemo treatments in early August. They had told us that the chemo would be very aggressive, but we were still not prepared for what was ahead. After two of the aggressive chemo treatments, and after being put in the hospital after both, my dad had dropped 100 pounds. He couldn’t eat. We couldn’t cook because he couldn’t bear the smell. It was horrible. He was weak, he hardly got out of bed. And yet, his co-workers, having loved my dad for many years and being the good people that they are, would come and get him (from Itchetucknee) and drive him to work on the days he felt up to working.

After my dad lost the 100 pounds and couldn’t even keep water down, he was admitted into the hospital for the last time. He spent five weeks there. We watched him struggle with nausea; have a N-G tube put in (a tube that goes down your nose and is used to drain your stomach); have a feeding tube put in; gain 100 pounds of fluid; become unable to walk; and slowly slip into liver and kidney failure. The family was told the Friday before he passed, which was actually his birthday, that he may not make it through the weekend. We did what we could. We threw him a birthday party (which he slept through), and we camped out there so that we could spend every moment we could with him. The last several days, I spent as much time as I could just holding his hand. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, he pretty much slept through the day, but Monday and Tuesday he was wide awake and was able to communicate with us. I will always think back on his face, and how prominent, expressive, and beautiful his eyes were. I am so, so very thankful that God enabled him to talk those last two days. Rheba and I were able to tell him what a great dad he had been to us and every chance we got, we told him that we loved him.

These are the things that I am thankful for: God blessed me with a father that was nothing less than amazing. I am so thankful that I had 25 years with him. I was given the opportunity to tell him how much I loved him. We have had the most amazing family surrounding us these past couple of days and I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for the prayers, cards, food, flowers, and calls that were sent our way. His coworkers have been amazing through all of this. Dr. Acs was the most compassionate doctor that dad could’ve had, and his nurses were wonderful. God surrounded us with wonderful staff at NFRMC and loving nurses that treated my dad like family. I cannot say enough how much Mr. Leroy meant to my dad and my family. And most of all, I am thankful because I know that one day I will see him again.

Saturday, at my dad’s funeral, I had an old friend come up and say “It looks like you’re holding up pretty well.” For some reason that has stuck with me. What an odd thing to say. In fairness to him, it probably seemed that way. Again, it’s been very surreal these past few days. But that was my DAD. A man I loved dearly, a man I laughed with, shared such fond memories, and got a lot of my values from. I am trying to hold it together. But as reality is beginning to set in, and the void is becoming more and more apparent, I am quite sure that I will have days where I won’t want to get out of bed. I am certain that there will be days when I will fall slap to pieces. But see, right now, it’s only starting to feel real to me.

This was the man that had my name on the side of his truck for so long.

This was the man that bought me a shriner’s car when I was 2, because he thought I needed one :)

This was the man who made me a tee-pee in the front yard when I was learning about Indians.

This was the man that I shared so many laughs with and loved dearly.

This was the man that I so wanted to walk me down the aisle and hold my baby one day.

THIS was my wonderful, amazing father.

He will be missed.

I pray that who I am and what I will do in my life will always make you proud.

As sad as I am, I still have so many fond memories to look back on. Pancreatic Cancer is a horrible disease, but there are some things that it can’t take away…