**WARNING: What follows, and what will continue to follow with all posts about this subject, might at times seem unfeeling, callous, matter-of-fact, flippant, and any other negative similes for “insensitive asshole” you can come up with. I assure you, I really am a warm and caring person, but this is a complex subject and a complex situation. If I could sit down and write a 25,000 word entry wherein everything unfolds and you understand me completely, I would. But this is a blog and you’d stop reading after 47 seconds. So please bear with me through the ups and downs of this thing. After all, I’m still mentally unraveling it all myself.**
Oh, right. My dad having lung cancer. It sounds too dramatic to say “my dad is dying of lung cancer” but essentially that’s what’s happening – it’s merely a case of whether it’s in the next few weeks or the next few months. It’s sort of been the overshadowing element of my life for the past year, and it’s exhausting.
He was diagnosed last year in early February after having had a nagging cough and cold for a few months. He went through a few rounds of chemo and in May wound up in the ICU because of a fever and infection. For two months I spent several days a week making the two hour trip to keep vigil with my mom at the hospital during the day and cheer her up at home at night. After the first week he had regained consciousness and was moved out of the ICU, but was a complete mess from all the antibiotics and drugs. He was confused and antsy, talking rapidly and incoherently, constantly trying to get up and leave, and becoming belligerent when he couldn’t. He was delusional and paranoid, claiming my mom wouldn’t let him come home because she was having work done on the house behind his back. He kept seeing mice run across the ceiling, and pulling at his IVs. He would have moments of clarity when you’d feel relief that things were looking better, until he would say something completely out of left field. I remember a text I sent to my sister one day that said, “Dad asked me when I’m going to give him the measurements for our back gate so he can work on it. But then he saw a pony walk past the room.” I think she and I laughed for about ten minutes at that one.
The worst part about that whole period (ok maybe not the worst, just one of the many MANY horrible parts) was that the doctors and nurses seemed to have no understanding that something was radically wrong. The neurologist would come for five minutes when we weren’t there, ask him his name and what year it was, and give him a clean mental bill of health. We kept asking about the dementia, whether it was normal, desperate for someone to understand the severity of the situation, and instead everyone just sort of stared blankly and said he seemed fine to them. Those first few weeks was unbelievably harrowing, my mom and sitting there in the hospital room alone with him trying to keep him calm and in bed. Every two minutes he would throw the blankets aside and start to get up, and we would tell him to relax, that he can’t leave yet. He would demand to know why, and then just ignore us, and my mom would have to push him back down. When he wasn’t trying to get up, and losing his shit on us that we were stopping him, he was incessantly pulling at his gown and IV’s. I remember several days of my mom pulling her chair up directly in front of him just so that she could keep him seated and keep him from pulling out his IV’s. Which of course seemed like something the hospital staff should have been dealing with instead of his wife. Every day we would go back to her house completely wiped out and immediately pour ourselves extremely tall drinks. It was absolutely brutal.
Bit by bit he got better, and gradually his mind came back, for the most part. He went to a rehab facility for a few weeks, but continually begged for my mom to let him come home, the furious outbursts from the hospital replaced by weepy appeals. After three weeks at rehab and six weeks out of the house, he was able to come home.
What follows from there is a long ten months (and counting) of ups and downs and deep introspection by yours truly. All of which will be discussed ad nauseum in upcoming posts.