My dad won’t be coming home again.
After traveling around the world working in beautiful and amazing and sometimes frankly dangerous places, my dad will doze the remainder of his life away in a hospice house.
Because cancer, lung cancer to be exact, robs dreams and lives and hopes and futures.
On March 13th, he was fine. He ate a nice dinner (Salisbury steak on toast if you’re wondering), took a little nap in honor of his full belly, then later wandered through the house to eat half a fresh green pepper. Eventually he and his doggie went to bed then a bit later I eventually went to bed, too.
Along about 4am-ish he banged really loudly on my bedroom door to wake me up because he was in physical distress.
He was shaking, clammy, his shirt and t-shirt soaked through with sweat…and he could neither catch nor keep his breath.
I called 911.
One of the last things he did before leaving the house, unknowingly for the last time, was make sure I had the keys to the car.
The paramedics arrived in good time, quickly surveyed the scene, and within a few minutes they were walking him out of the house to the large “ambulance bed” waiting by the front door.
Dad left the house on his own two feet albeit greatly supported by paramedics.
So, early in the morning of March 14th, dad was admitted to the local hospital, put on a ventilator, and at some point in the mix suffered a mild heart attack likely from the physical stress of struggling so, so, so very hard to breathe.
Remember, this is happening during the major opening salvo of CV-19 – appropriate fears were being shaped, new information about the virus was coming at us right, left, and center. We were worried that he had what will become known as “the virus”.
He was likely the first in my county, hell, in my part of the state (NC) to be tested and it took almost a week before it came back negative.
I almost wish it had been positive – that would likely have been easier to cure.
The original diagnosis (while waiting for the results that his then-doctor and I both agreed wasn’t likely to be positive given all the data we had on hand at the time) was bacterial pneumonia.
Yucky, sure, but highly treatable, right, so treatment began.
For some reason, maybe a doctor’s “6th sense”, they sent him for a chest CT scan a few days after treatment began.
Large tumor snuggling, strangling, around the branch leading into one lung and possibly into said lung as well. The other lung has some “scar tissue” from a life-time of smoking (and likely inhaled desert sand/silica, who knows) but was nicely functional other than the pneumonia.
Tumors are treatable, right? Chemo, surgery, radiation, options…lots of options… Desperate hopes for desperate times, right?
So eventually my dad – still heavily sedated because he was still on the ventilator – was transferred via ambulance to a much larger hospital with many more pulmonologists specializing in…pulmonology things.
This hospital was 1.5 hours away…during the time of a pandemic crisis…may as well have been on a different fucking planet as far as actually being with him is concerned.
I have asthma (CV-19 STRIKE ONE) and am an insulin-dependent diabetic (CV-19 STRIKE TWO) and have COPD (chronic bronchitis if you care) ———– (CV-19 STRIKE THREE).
No personal visits for this daughter.
I haven’t seen my dad since they took him away on that bed to the ambulance on March 14th. If I become infected, I will most likely die. If I remember to do so, at the end of this I’ll link to a couple YT vids by actual doctors that will scare you shitless about the damages this shitty bastard virus inflicts.
So now my dad is in a much better hospital surrounded by lots of super-docs and I’m being told that once he’s off the ventilator (after words like “bronchoscopy” and “biopsy” and “stents” are tossed around like parade candy) and his throat heals from the intubation and he can swallow and eat and drink on his own so he can start regaining his strength, they’ll likely choose radiation to combat the cancer rather than chemo that would be so much worse on him and surgery wasn’t possible given the location/etc of the tumor.
But: YAY – hope! A long and bumpy road, especially for him, sure, but hope!!
I’m calling for reports on him two and three times a day, often having the nurse hold the disinfected phone to his ear so I can “cheer at him” – he’d been in “isolation ICU” then when transferred to BiggerBetterHospital just “regular” ICU.
After a while…a very long while…he’s off the ventilator – yay, progress! – and a couple days after that he’s finally able to swallow and drink – granted he’s not back to “Salisbury steak on toast” yet, but still, yay progress!
Surely now that he can actively eat and drink he’ll start recovering his strength from the pneumonia and, dang, but his “heart numbers” had began falling the very night he’d had the problems so his heart’s pretty much ok, too, so there’s hope!!
Today I’m told he “isn’t a good candidate” for the radiation therapy because he’s so weak and to talk to the hospice coordinator.
Cold, trembly, stunned shock.
Where did the hope go?
There was hope…and…and now there’s…not?
Why are they giving up on my daddy?
Why are they shuffling him off to die “in comfort” but without hope?
My head doesn’t doubt their logic – he was on the ventilator for a long time and it did take him a couple days longer to reactivate his swallowing muscles, etc., etc., etc., but my heart is kicking and screaming and bawling her eyes out.
He’s my last parent – mom died in ’11 – and I don’t want to lose my daddy.
But I’m going to unless God drop-kicks a miracle down to his lungs.
Anyway, I feel like I’ve been…lied to? Like I was given hope only to have it jerked out from under my feet for no good reason.
Hope can be a lifesaver, but, in my experience at least, it can be a cunning, devastating, heart-ripping lie.
So, that’s what’s been up with me. I’ve been dealing – alone – with the terror of CV-19 while at the same time – and of vastly more specific importance to me – the terror of losing my father.
And because of everything going on and especially given my physical health and vulnerability to CV-19, I can’t find a job. And because I can’t find a job, there’s no money for gas to visit him in hospice every day assuming I’m even allowed to do so. There’s no money for a funeral, for a casket, for the burial.
There’s just me, three cats, and a doggie who misses her daddy horribly.
We originally got Happy for mom – she wanted a little lapdog to enjoy while she became more and more sedentary because of her health problems (the original reason I’d moved back home in the first place – she needed help). Soon enough that little ‘world’s largest chihuahua’ mutt became the world’s most spoiled UN-lapdog.
She and daddy were perfect for each other and got along great whenever he’d come home on RnR from Baghdad and, when he retired after mom’s death, Happy became HIS dog. She took up with him like crazy and they’d prowl around the yard and all on their walks; she’d pile up beside him on the sofa and easily eat half of whatever meat he was eating (“She knows that if she sits next to me she’ll get fed” he’d often say); she slept with him at night.
They were the best of buddies.
But he’ll never be home again for her to pile up beside of to eat his food, beg for treats (little begging actually involved…) or nag him to take her out for a totally unnecessary walk…or anything.
It breaks my heart on her behalf and on his.
She keeps running through the house looking for him every time I bring her back in from the walks that he should have been taking her on in the first place.
This is killing me and that kick in the gut called “hope” is just making it all the worse. I feel like the world, God, life, everything is just giving up on my dad and, through him, me.
So…that’s how all this is going for me. I deeply and sincerely hope you guys are weathering all this shit better than I am.
This pandemic is fucking scary even without suffering through the slow death of a loved one.
I hope you have safe shelter and good food, that you have fun entertainment and protective gear if you have to get out for necessary work or supplies, but most of all…MOST OF ALL…I hope you are not alone.
“Alone” is a terrifying place to be when your world collapses.
After mom died, it was just me and my dad. He was getting on in years (I was a late baby) and he’d never been one for cleaning house or cooking all that much, that kind of thing, definitely preferred doing the yard-work, tending cars, etc., so it was just simpler for me, already in bad health (whole other story), to stay home, keep him company, and deal with the house and the bills and the cooking, etc.
And so I did. I quit work in I think it was 2007 to move “back into the family home” to take care of my mom when she needed it, but my health “broke” during that time so that when dad retired a couple months after her death, it truly was simpler to maintain the status quo doing all the things that dad didn’t particularly care to do. At the time I was still actively writing which took up a LOT of my time as well.
Life went on.
And now it doesn’t.
No good deed every goes unpunished, eh.
He has, at best, maybe a month and the doctor wouldn’t even commit to that.
Please forgive any typos…don’t have the heart to read back over this given that I’ve wept the entire time I’ve typed it. Sadly this wasn’t as cathartic as I’d have liked but I had to try.
What I hope that y’all take from this is: I don’t know.
I want you to love your loved ones with all your heart but at the same time I don’t want anyone to ever hurt like I am, so…find a balance?
I want you to take hope when hope exists but I don’t want you to be kicked in the teeth by that same vile curse.
I want you to hold fiercely to your parents, by whatever definition, as long and as fiercely as you can, but at the same time I don’t want you completely and utterly devastated when they fade from your world.
This is real life and the pain, despair, and terror of this real life is killing me.
There is no parting salvo to end this on a good note; I just don’t have it in me.
I do care a lot about y’all, so wash your nasty hands and stay home if you can and by all means, stay alive.
Here are some links. The first one should scare you.
And here’s my paypal if you’re able and inclined to help this constantly weeping daddy’s girl out during a devastating mess.
I’ve cried so much today that my eyes and nose are red and irritated and my head is pounding. Tomorrow I “get” to park my dad in a hospice home where he will die.
All prayers, vibes, juju, etc., very sincerely appreciated. Now go wash your hands again and stay home if you possibly can. Nobody wants to lose you.