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Almost A Year

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It has been about eleven months to the day since my Dad crossed the Veil. I honestly thought I would be coping a little better than I am now but I'm learning that grief has a way of suprising you.

Two years ago, give or take, we finally convinced Dad to go and get a colonoscopy done with threats of tears on my part. He'd never listen to Mother when she asked but somehow I could get him to listen to me... even if it was a little emotional blackmail. I was always very selfish when it came to him, wanting him in my life as long as possible. The whole business of the check-up came about because his eldest brother had been diagnosed with liver and colon cancer a year after Dad's second eldest brother died of prostate cancer. So Dad went in and had the tests. I remember comisserating with him over the Fleet's Phospho purges, since I'd been through the same tests but for what turned out to be IBS. Honestly, my memory is dull now but I remember being so shocked when it came back that he had a mass on his colon. I remember not being able to eat or sleep and drinking herbal tea blended for depression by the gallon. I remember sitting for hours waiting for him to come out of surgery and the doctor mentioning that he had "cysts" on his liver very casually as if they were nothing at all for anyone to be concerned about. I also remember there being no follow-up about these so-called cysts, which sort of bothered me at the time but I soon forgot about when the masses on Dad's colon were identified as malignant.

Dad did not have chemo, the doctor being satisfied that surgery had removed all traces of the cancer. He recovered very quickly from his surgery, even though he had been diagnosed with COPA while in the hospital. His recovery was so swift in fact, that his doctors nearly wet themselves with how his body healed. He was in great spirits, went back to golfing, though he was disappointed in his score, and we all celebrated that he was in the clear.

Some time after that I remember my mother complaining to me that all father did was move from his chair in the living room to in front of the computer in the back room, to his favorite chair in front of the wood burner. I remember telling her that he had had major surgery some months before and that was probably why.

I will never forget the day in March before his birthday when I went over to see him. Both of my parents looked anxious and drawn. I headed into the kitchen to get a glass of water as I was thirsty from my walk over there but Dad grabbed me by the arm, looked me in the eye and said- "Honey, I have liver cancer." I stared, unable to move. Suddenly, I wasn't so thirsty anymore and I collapsed beside his chair, holding onto his arm. I put my head on his arm and cried and cried. "I'm not ready to lose you yet," I wept. "I'm not ready to go yet, Punkin," he said. I must have held onto his arm for an hour or more, just crying, as if I could have kept him with my just by holding onto him.

Two weeks later I went over to see him and he wasn't there. My mother was just coming into the house from the garage. "Your father is in the hospital," she told me. He was getting a port installed for chemo meds. He had held onto his distended belly the night before and told mother that he could no loner stand it. They installed the port and then they sent him to another hospital to be under the care of a specialist. He looked kind of poorly when we first saw him and he had a large deal of nausea from being on... morphine. I realised that it may have been from the port instillation but they kept the drip up until he asked them to stop because of his nausea. He was a little pale. I remember being very angry at the movie that we had to watch about chemo because it was all about breast cancer and had no men in it. Irrational anger, I guess.

Day by day he sank a little lower but he really went downhill after they started the chemo. Now I'm a gamer- I play World of Warcraft- and every day after seeing him I just stuffed myself inside of the game so I wouldn't have to think that my father might be dying. The harshest thing was- the doctors would not tell us thing one about his condition. They would never admit that he could possibly be dying. Oh, it's chemo side-effects, oh he's having a hard time with the anesthetic, never anything on his prognosis though we asked doctors and nurses several times if they could even ballpark, possibly off the record, how long he had left to him.

Then the call came. The doctors needed mother to come to the hospital as soon as humanly possible but they would not say why. They hedged and hawed and said then that she needed to sign some papers. She asked me if I wanted to ride in with her and naturally I did because I thought it might be one of the last times I saw my Dad. When we got there, Dad was in an awful state. He kept calling for mom and calling for her and groaning. He probably wasn't very lucid, I thought, but I took his hand and told him mother was there. Ok, he said, was quiet for a while, and resumed calling for her. I asked him if there was anything he needed or wanted- you could smell kidney failure all over him. I was in healthcare for a few years and learned that smell well- also his breathing was labored in a way I didn't like. But he recognised me "I can't think of anything, Punkin," he said, calmed down for a while, and resumed groaning and calling for Mom. It was such a horrible thing to see that I went and begged a cellphone off a nurse, called my husband at work, and told him to do whatever he could to get to the hospital. The doctor we were supposed to meet was late by hours and hours. My husband arrived and held dad's hand for a while- dad recognised him. It was very, very bad.

When the doctor arrived, he said that he had papers for us to sign so that they could put Dad back on morphine, in case he coded. We asked him how long Dad had and he hemmed and hawed and tried to brush us off. I persisted and he finally would own that dad probably would live less than a year but he would not admit that he was dying that very moment. We went back in the room with dad and he groaned out "Goodbye!" to me before they pushed his morphine and ativan because he was so agitated. Well yeah he was agitated- he knew he was dying and he was terrified, for goodness sake! I would be too. They pushed the drugs and his breathing became so distressed I couldn't bear to watch. He lifted his shoulders desperately with every breath and nary a word did he say the rest of the time we were there. Mother wanted to leave now, now, now, and since she was my ride, I had to go. I kissed Dad's cheek and told him how much I loved him and that I would see him Monday- it was Sunday afternoon.

That night I was in the game playing with my husband and eight other people. We have this program that lets you voice chat on the internet and we all were talking as we played as the game requires a lot of teamwork when you play in scripted encounters. I heard the front door open and then my mother was standing in front of me telling me that dad had died. I remember yelling into my mike for people not to go get more monsters because my dad had died. My husband and I were both screaming and crying, holding onto my mother and each other. Then my mother wanted to go back home and take care of the arrangements, so we turned back to the game to numb ourselves. I remember one of the guys we were playing with being a real jerk and saying that they needed to get on with the game and not have a moment for us because more monsters might come and kill them. So my dad dies and this jerk cares more about his virtual death than our loss. I screamed at him, calling him every name I could possibly thing of. I also threw my computer on the floor. (It's a laptop).

I still cannot accept that Dad had to die in the manner that he had. Even now my mother is having his medical records reviewed to see if there was medical malpractice or negligence involved over the "liver cysts" which turned out to be cancer. I regret immensely not thinking to have dad get another opinion on them. But mostly, I just really, deeply miss him. He was my advocate and now he's gone. I miss his smile; I miss the hugs.

I've been a mess; I'm not myself. I feel amputated. Still. It is so hard to work though. I know I've made progress but sometimes it hardly feels like it.

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My heart goes out to you, Gwinlan.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not quite sure how to reply to your post. I'm not sure if this makes sense, but I just can't reply to other's pain like that. My pain is personal and I don't want anyone to sugarcoat it because there is absolutely nothing that anyone can say or do to make it better.

It isn't selfish to want people around longer.

Grief really is a personal journey and there is no time limit on how long it will take to get through. The way I always look at it is that my parent was my parent for x amount of years, so it's not just going to take a week to get over. When you add in the horrors of your father's illness--you have a LOT to get through. Be gentle with the anniversary coming up. I can tell you that the day is actually not as bad as the days beforehand.

Take care of you.


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