Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A shadow of his former self

This is not a writing post today; this is a personal post.

I have just gotten home from a long and hard journey and wanted to share the experience. People who have read my earlier post Drawing Inspiration From Death know that my family have been affected by cancer. What I didn't share in my previous post was that it is my father.

A few moths ago my grandmother died. About two weeks after she passed away we found out my dad had stomach cancer, and it was not a good outlook. Our only hope was chemo. Dad had to undergo a short stint to chemo and if that worked he would continue on it for six months. If not, then there was nothing that could be done.

The chemo didn't work; it kept growing.

Since we found out we have tried to make the most of the time that we have. Initially the doctor said we could have 12 months, but now it's clear that's not the case.

I'm glad that in the mid-year holidays we chose to stay with my parents on the coast and commute to Brisbane for my son's rugby league carnival. I'm glad I convinced Dad to come and see my son play at that carnival. I'm glad that my parents came up to visit us after Dad's chemo treatment finished. I'm glad I visited Dad for Father's Day. And I'm glad that I just took my boys to see him for the last time this weekend.

It had been six weeks since I had last seen Dad, and he was no longer the same person. His body has been ravaged by the cancer. He is so thin and weak. He actually looked alien to me. But he also wasn't all there mentally. I'm not sure if that was because of the opium patches that they have him on or whether the cancer has gotten to his mind too. Dad kept forgetting things, getting confused and not really paying attention to what was going on around him. The biggest change was his sleep patterns. He needed to sleep a lot.  Watching him I wanted to cry.

But I didn't cry around Dad. He's not into mushy stuff. We spent time watching my son's man-of-the-match grandfinal performance, talking about how well both the boys are going at school, karate and nippers and how my quest to get my novel published is progressing (for the first time ever he didn't say to me "don't quit your day job"). I tried to spend every moment he was a wake with him as I knew this may be the last time I see him alive.

Originally I wanted to work out of my parents' home in his last days, but it was clear this visit that if I did that it wouldn't be respecting his wishes. He doesn't like being seen like this and just wants Mum. I understand that and will respect that.

The morning we were leaving Dad went back to bed before everyone was up and I hugged him and told him I loved him in case it was the last time I saw him. I'm not sure if it even registered for him. Then I went out the back and cried. Mum joined me not long after and for the first time since we found out about Dad's cancer we held each other and just let it all out.

Dad is Mum's soul mate. They have been together forty years. Mum knew when she say him that he was the man she would marry. They had so many plans for their retirement, they were going to grow really old together. Now Mum has to be alone.

I was so glad Dad did wake up again before we left and my husband and sons also got to say goodbye. And I got to say goodbye again.I'm so glad we took the time to make the trip down to see them as I think Dad really enjoyed seeing the boys, and I know Mum enjoyed watching Dad with the boys.

This disease really plays havoc on families. But if you are strong together you can pull through it.


  1. What can one say to a post like that? It's heartbreaking and many will relate to it. There is nothing anyone can say to make it better or ease the pain. I guess you can take comfort from the fact that you get the chance to say goodbye, but with that too comes other pain and prolonged heartbreak. All I can offer is a big cyber hug. A hug is always good at times like this. Take care and keep the chin up.

  2. I had a bit of a hard time reading this as the tears fogged over my eyes. Like many, I have seen the horrible illness wither away my own loved ones. My love and prayers are with you and your family.