Wednesday, June 27, 2012

That Day in December

My Daddy has had minor to slightly major heart issues throughout his adult life, I think they were mostly caused by stress. So when in August of 2011 he was complaining of chest pains, we were not surprised that the ER doctors told us that he had a partially enlarged heart and that it must have been causing his pain. They explained it as a repercussion of his sleep apnea.

The chest pain continued...

The holiday season started. We had our traditional family Thanksgiving at my cousin's house. Daddy's side of the family is quite entertaining to say the least. There is never a dull moment with them.

Then a few weeks later, Daddy had some numbness in his legs and his doctor recommended physical therapy to help him.the morning after his first physical therapy visit, Daddy's numbness was so much worse. So much so that he almost fell in the shower. He called my Mom and she turned around from her commute to work and drove him to our local hospital.

The ER doctors was stumped. They could not figure out what was wrong with my Daddy. They wanted to send him home with some medications and follow up visits. Daddy knew that there was something seriously wrong and he demanded to be admitted to the hospital and to see some of the different specialists. We had cardiologists and radiology doctors come in and out and run test after test and no one could figure anything out.

Finally, they decided to do a CT scan WITH contrast, when you do one without contrast you cannot really see abnormalities.

This was a Wednesday, and I had work in the morning and then a mid-morning class at the college I was attending at the time. After class I traveled the half an hour down to my parents' local hospital to spend a few hours with Daddy until I had to go back to work in the afternoon.

Not even twenty minutes after I sat down on the chair next to Daddy's hospital bed, a doctor walked in. She introduced herself to us but neglected to say what kind of doctor she was. She then said, "Sir, there is no easy way to say this, you have cancer."

I felt my heart drop into the pit of my chest, and it dropped even farther when I looked up and saw Daddy's face fill with emotions he does not usually show. I grabbed his hand as tight as I could as the doctor then said she was the attending oncologist and that Daddy's cancer was very extensive. She said that from what she could see, it was a renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) and that it had metastasized (spread) to his spine, sternum, and spots in his lungs. She was going to run more tests to confirm what kind of renal cell carcinoma it was and that she believed his spinal and sternum mets (metastasis) were what had been causing his chest pain and his numbness in his legs. She said that we would have a radiation oncologist and a spinal surgeon come talk to us and that she was hopeful for us. She said that she would pray every day for him and that she would not be surprised if in a year, he was up and walking around, then she left the room.

I looked into Daddy's eyes, they were red but dry of tears. I slid into the hospital bed next to him and hugged him just tight enough not to hurt him. I said, " I love you Daddy, I can't believe this is happening." Daddy said, " those words are never easy to hear, but at least we know what's wrong." Wear cried with each other for what seemed like forever until I was able to breathe and sit up. I asked Daddy is he wanted to call Momma, or if he wanted me to do it. He said he wanted to tell her in person, so when she called I had to lie and tell her that we hadn't heard anything yet. It killed me. I was speaking on the phone to my Momma and yet I couldn't tell her what was going on because Daddy didn't want me to.

Hours passed, I just kept laying next to Daddy and helping him get what he needed from the room since the doctors didn't want him to walk if he didn't have to. It finally was getting close to 6 o'clock and I knew Momma would be coming up the hospital elevator anytime now.

I told Daddy I was going to get some coffee from the cafeteria, and I waited at the elevators for Momma to get there. I didn't want Daddy to have to tell her that he had cancer. I didn't want him to have to use up his courage and strength for that. I decided that I would tell her instead, that I could handle it... That's what I kept telling myself until I saw those elevator doors open and my Momma's bright red head of hair look up and meet my eyes that were the same shade of red from crying. I walked towards her and just said it, " it's cancer Momma."

She burst into tears for only a second, she took a deep breath and Mother/Wife/Nurse mode kicked in. She started firing questions at me, I told her it was a type of kidney cancer and that they were running more tests, that it had spread to his sternum, lungs, and spine, and that the spinal tumors had been causing his numbness. She took it all in and we walked into Daddy's room.

"What'd you get into now guy, huh?," Momma said to Daddy with a forced sarcastic laugh. "What are we going to do with you?" We just sat and held each others hands and tried to organize our feelings so that we all didn't break down at once. I emailed my boss and told her I wouldn't be coming to work, I knew I had to spend the night with Daddy. We still had to tell my little brother... To this day, this was the worst day of my life.

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