Nov 23, 2011 - 4:58 am
My father, only 55, passed away two days ago on Monday. His long journey began last year in September when he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma. It was treatable, and he received chemotherapy. By February his scans were clean. YAY! My father has always beaten what he said he would. He kept receiving chemotherapy and was supposed to end this December.
Then came August. Then came the lump, the swelling. Another biopsy, another visit but this time to a cancer hospital. His cancer had come back and now it seemed to cover his chest where before it had been but a dot. He needed aggressive chemotherapy with a stem cell transplant. Risky, but my father was in excellent health otherwise. He was to begin those treatments in only a week or two, but we never made it that far.
Confusion came on suddenly, ideas that he was doing things he clearly wasn't. He had difficulty typing (he was in computers for 20 years), difficulty lifting his head to see the screen. He slid down off the couch and could not get himself up. My mother and I had him admitted to the hospital.
October 21 through November 21 was back and forth. In a room, to ICU, back to a room, ICU again. He developed a rare metastases, 1-3%, into his spine and brain. He received major chemotherapy and fought and fought the entire month. Now his white blood count was gone and he was too weak to receive any transplant. So we waited and we hoped. We worked with him to lower his heart rate and up his blood pressure.
In the end, my mother and I stood by this brave and fighting man and watched him decide that enough was enough. We had told him he could go if he wanted to, he was ready. We lost him that morning, too early, but it was a beautiful day.
I'm sitting here now, trying to write an obituary for a man who has yet to see me get married or have children. I'm 27 and I held his hand as he died, just as he held me right as I was born. Something feels so wrong yet so right in that.
I knew from the moment we got the rare metastases news that things could go badly. But no one is ever prepared. I knew my mother would fall apart and I would have to pick up the pieces as we went along. So I will have a time to openly grieve, but that is not now. Now decisions must be made and things must be put in order.
I don't believe that any length of newspaper space could ever truly explain this beautiful man. I'm struggling to include everything that made him so special, though many people will never truly know him.
I realized as I sat here writing, glancing at his name where it says 'died', that it wasn't getting through to me. It feels like an extended vacation because nothing is different in this house except my father isn't around and there are more tears. My mind knows he has passed and it tries to remind me every so often. It seems each time is a shock, as though I didn't realize it yet.
It feels sudden, like when we were told his prognosis. I stare at his office and his things and then my mind says "but he will never sit there again" and I have once or twice double checked myself to be sure that I wasn't lying.
Most of all, mixed with my grief I am angry. I don't know at what, I'm just angry. THIS WAS TREATABLE! HE WAS CLEAR! How do we go from one day perfectly fine - laughing, walking, creating - to this? In one month. One horribly beautiful month. His birthday was last week - it was one of the best days he had since being admitted. Then it all fell apart.
We've found out since, with an autopsy and test results, that the chemotherapy for the rare metastases worked. He was almost completely clear of cancer. His body had been ravaged beyond repair and as hard as he fought, it fought back. He fought right to the very end, even as he was slowly dying.
My father, always going to the extremes, always saying if it was treatable he would fight it - maybe he knew he actually won the battle, he'd beaten his cancer twice, and now that his job was done, he was tired. So we let him go, and he let us go.
Thank you for reading, I know it was a long post but I felt a sudden burst to write and this is what I came to.