Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Right now I wait
Right now I sit in the cool and darkened room of hospice with my father. The only light (other than the glow of my laptop) comes from the green and red glow of the pain pump attached to my dad. I am on the night shift. We (my step-mom, my brother L and I) have been taking turns staying overnight with my dad to give my step-mom a break every other night. Because dealing with cancer in all it's ugliness is exhausting. In a very short time I have become well versed in the language of cancer. It is a language I hope to never speak again.
Today my dad spent several excruciating hours being re-imaged in order to receive some palliative radiation. It isn't radiation in the sense of curing, it is merely targeting the most aggressive spots of cancer to relieve some of his pain. You see he is Type 4 lung cancer. Which has a 2% chance of survival given his staging. It is in his lungs, his lymph nodes, other organs and bones. Until today it was just words and abstract locations. Then I saw the markings on his body for the radiologists to pinpoint and target the beams. They are every where--dozens of marks. His chest, ribs, hips, legs stomach, kidneys, and spine.... Silently I wept while plastering a cheerful smile and joking with my dad about being covered in graffiti.
More than anything my dad wants to go home, but he (and we) know he won't. He is so strong and stoic. All the nursing staff love him. We love him. They all have commented about how gracious he is even in the worst of times. He has a strong will but the cancer is ever growing and consuming. Everyday I come to sit with him. Sometimes there is a roomful of people-family and friends grasping at a few more precious moments. Many times he will awaken, look around and appear to be surprised of his surroundings. Other times he appears to be sleeping--only to be listening to the conversation. We have since learned to step outside the room when we need to discuss private matters. Such a sly old fox!
Sometimes it is just he and I. Some days are emotional as we deal with the baggage of unfinished business and what-ifs. Other days we talk about all sorts of randomness. And yet others are in silence as he sleeps and I study. He said to me, "Little girl you need to be home studying or at school. That's your future. Don't waste your time here with me," I told him there is nothing more important right now than him. Then we both cried tears of sorrow and frustration--at the unfairness of it all. Everyday that I am here he appears a little older and little more tired. We no longer measure time in terms of future (months or weeks) but measure time in the here and now (of days and hours).
So right now I sit in vigil. I watch him and the pain pump as it feeds him the medicine in a continuous loop. I listen to the second hand ticking on the clock and his labored breathing. I wait for him to call my name as he needs my assistance and then apologizes because he feels he is a burden and I have to see him this way. And of course I always tell him to shush, it's fine, he isn't a burden and not to sass me, haha, I wait for the medicine to ease his pain and I wait while he finally succumbs to a short restless sleep. I wait for the first rays if sunlight and know another day has dawned. But mostly I wait for the inevitable.
I won't show you pictures of my father frail and ill. But I will show you a picture of him when he was but a boy of 18. He had enlisted in the army, the bloom of youth still on his face. He was so strong and handsome. This is the picture I want to carry forever in my mind and in my heart.