One of the worst things I was told a lot when I found out my dad had terminal cancer was; “well at least you know it’s going to happen so you can make the most of the time you have left” or some shit like that. I would have put that more eloquently, but it was the kind of thing that didn’t need to be put that way.
I didn’t really have time because instead I had to watch him slowly wither away to the frail frame he became. He didn’t want me to see him like that either, and I had a two year old that didn’t want to sit still at the time.
I remember the day we were waiting to hear what the prognosis was. I was so anxious that I decided to clean out and organize the pantry and the spice cabinet. I got through the entire spice cabinet, and when I got to the canned goods I was informed that the cancer was back, and it was terminal this time. He had two years at the most. The can of Hunts Diced Tomatoes blurred before my eyes, as the tears dripped down my face and I felt completely helpless.
If I rewind to 4 years earlier they had found some cancer in my father’s head. It was removed, and they said he was cancer free. He bought himself a nook, and proceeded to read all the books from his childhood, and more.
He had melanoma though, and it is one of the most aggressive cancers. Fast foward to the end of 2014 and they found more in his neck. It was removed, and my entire family came for Thanksgiving because we were afraid it would be the last Thanksgiving we would get to celebrate together with my dad. I didn’t want to think in those terms because they had said at the time the cancer was gone.
I didn’t know just 7 months later I would be sitting in my kitchen crying over a can of Diced Tomatoes. The redness of it still blurs in my memories. I regrouped myself though because I believed I still had at least two more years.
July 4th my dad was brought in to the hospital for complications. The cancer had spread into his back, and was basically forming into his bones. It was slowly taking him before my eyes. I went into see him, and this is the last time he hugged me. I mean really hugged me. I still remember his dad’s scent. At least my dad’s scent. I walked in and my mom said ‘tell her everything that’s going on,”
He said “in a minute, I just want to hold my baby for a little while.”
I’m the youngest of three, and the only girl. I’m also the only one he got to be in the hospital room with when I was born. He held me first, because my mom went into surgery.
That summer was one of the longest summer’s I remember enduring. One of the days I sat outside of the hospital on the bench waiting for my husband to get the car. I was crying in that quiet way because I hate crying in public. It was the kind of crying that hurts both physically and emotionally because you’re trying to hard to hold it in. A woman who worked in the hospital walked up to me, and asked if I was alright.
I said yes, only because at the time I didn’t need counseling or consoling since my husband was less then five minutes away. I didn’t want a stranger to feel sorry for me.
I ate hospital food for lunch a few times.
I was watching Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp when my mom came over in the evening to tell me it was time to put him in hospice.
They moved my dad into a nursing home, and my mom was doing her best to be strong. I had to take her home one afternoon though, and we drank rum and cokes and watched Pride and Prejudice. Then I ordered cheese pizza from papa johns, extra sauce. It was the most delicious pizza I had had in a while. The monsoons rolled in that afternoon, as they often do during the summer here.
While he was in the nursing home, he took my hand and said “You’ll be alright,” and then he made me cry because he said “You’ll tell your son all about me right?”
Yes, yes yes, a million times yes. I will make sure he knows who you were and what you were to me.
The last time I remember talking to my dad was when they did this little service for him because he was in the navy. It was an honoring service, and after my mom, brothers and I went to eat at Outback while my dad slept. A really horrible monsoon storm came in while we were there, and my mom and brothers wouldn’t let me leave.
Monsoon storms are a force to be reckoned with. They roll in out of nowhere, and the rain is so torrential that it causes flash flooding. There is sometimes hail the size of golf balls, and the thunder is loud, and the lightning is bright. This storm was exactly like that but ten times worse. So I went back in, and we all talked just the five of us as a family one last time. I didn’t know it would be the last time at the time. We still thought he had at least six months, but he was slowly deteriorating. He barely drank, and he really didn’t eat. He had gotten so skinny.
The man I once knew wasn’t there anymore.
By the end of the week my mom told me she didn’t think he had much longer. She told my brothers we all needed to be together. I don’t remember much, but when my mom called me and said I had to come right away I was doing another mundane task. I was folding my Harry Potter socks. It was a Sunday and I dropped everything and told my husband I had to leave right away. I just left, and this car drive took forever. It seemed like I hit every single red light, and slow driver.
I didn’t make it in time. I saw my brother first, and I don’t remember what he said but he took me into his arms and I cried. I cried so much that day, and for the next few months. I still cry. I’ll be walking along fine, and then suddenly something will pop up and remind me of him. The holidays have been pretty hard since his passing.
They told us we had two years. We only had two months. When losing someone you deeply care about, no way is better. If it’s sudden and you weren’t expecting it, you wish you could get back some of that time. You probably think of all the things you would do differently. When you have to watch them die, you just want their suffering to end. You wish it was sudden because anything is better then this. Anything is better then all the waiting. Waiting for the end.
“Waiting for the end to come
Wishing I had strength to stand
This is not what I had planned
It’s out of my control
Flying at the speed of light
Thoughts were spinning in my head
So many things were left unsaid
It’s hard to let you go” Linkin Park
The truth is even if you know you have time, you still think about the things you wish you had done differently. You still wish you had spent more time with the person. You wish you had written down all the stories they told a million times at every holiday and Sunday dinner meal. You wish you could their book down, because everyone has a story. A legacy. Everyone is interesting. I guess if I could give any advice for someone that is struggling through this right now then get their story. Write it down for your kids so that they can know how great of a person he or she was, and how much they meant to you.
The following is a site to bring awareness for melanoma, and a hope to find a cure:
Note: My mom probably wouldn’t want me to write this, but I need to. I need to get out. It’s how I cope with things. Writing is my catharsis.