Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Hello Darkness my old friend

 There are moments in life that you cement in your memory.  Holding your baby for the 1st time.  Walking across the stage for your doctorate.  Your dad tells you he has cancer.  5 years ago, almost 6 now, my dad started a colon cancer journey that would see him nearly die twice and undergo 3 separate surgeries; each surgery literally taking a piece of him.  

On January 18th, as I was getting ready for work, my dad stopped me and asked me to contact his cancer doctor; he thought his cancer was back.  I stayed visibly calm, said I would take care of it, and then went to my room to cry.  I took a moment or two and then I dried my eyes and contacted the doctor.

We had an appointment for the next week, about a 5-day wait.  We saw the doctor, got a series of appts, and got sent home.  Honestly, I don't think the doctor quite believed my dad about his symptoms.  Then two days later, my dad tells my mom he needs to go to the ER, everything is worse.  They decided to wait until Friday, Jan 26, since I don't work Fridays, so I could go with him and advocate.  That was the last day my dad was in Lufkin.  He has been in Temple ever since and we don't know when he will come home.

He had major abdominal surgery on Feb 15th.  A surgery scheduled for 6 hrs took 18 and landed my dad in the ICU.  That was a hard day, just waiting and waiting.  We were told around 7pm that it would be a few more hours due to an accident during surgery. The accident took 6 hrs to repair and then he had 3 more hours of surgery to complete the fix.  The good news: no cancer!  The bad news: lots of complications.

I got to stay with my dad while he was in the ICU.  I was so worn out by the night before waiting on him to come out of surgery that I actually slept on that tiny guest bed and even slept through the midnight blood draws.  We had to leave Temple for a BJJ tournament on Saturday and I got to see my dad that morning before leaving.  I got to see him get out of bed!  

He has not had an easy time of it this time.  The previous 3 surgeries, he was out of the hospital in 3 days.  This time we are about to be at 7 days and he still can't eat.  They won't release him until he is eating.  He can't eat because his intestine isn't awake yet.  He ran a fever two nights ago and yesterday they placed some tubes into his kidneys.  We are playing the waiting game.  

Yesterday, I was working on something at my desk and decided to check-in on my dad.  I happened to call while a nurse was in the room informing him of the procedure to insert the tubes into his kidneys.  The interesting thing was that as I was listening in, "Pressure Machine" (the song not the album) by The Killers was playing.  This is a pressure machine.  Will I pop or can I hold on long enough to welcome my dad home?

Below is my Facebook status from Sunday, Feb 18:

I'm sitting outside trying to get some sunshine therapy. To say these past 5 days have been hard would be an understatement.
Seeing my dad on a ventilator, watching the agony on his face waiting for the breathing tube to be removed, and then watching the excruciating pain he went through standing for the 1st time post surgery.
I thought I was ready for this past Wednesday. We knew it could be a long day. We knew it could be more difficult than expected but how do you prepare for a surgery that is scheduled for 6 hrs but goes for 18? All we wanted was for a 100% robotic surgery and when they opened him up completely, the devastation was almost overwhelming.
Instead of bringing my dad home today like we had hoped and prayed for, I left Temple yesterday with zero idea of when he is coming home.
There were bright spots. Moments with Ray and the girls but it is hard.
It is hard to balance the little girl who wants to be with her daddy with the woman who has to go to work and run a household while adding in the requirements of managing my dad's health from afar.
I can really feel the pressure when it comes back after a break. Watching Audrey yesterday and focusing down to just being Audrey's mom was a welcomed respite. We walked the Comerica Center laughing and celebrating that I forgot I had left my dad then on the way home I realized I had no idea when I would see my dad again.
While I was sitting in the ICU with my dad there was a young mother in the next room and her 4-year-old kept running and screaming in the hallway. While I question the parenting of allowing such a young child into the ICU, I also understand the needs of that baby. He just wanted his mommy. I hope his mom makes it out of the ICU and back home. I pray for all of the shell-shocked families I saw in the ICU.
For now, my dad is waiting on his body to come back to life. His intestine has been traumatized for the 4th time and the very complicated surgery has made it hard for it to wake up. The doctor said this is normal. Don't worry, yet. This is normal, just give it time. So from 3 hours away, I wait with my phone by my side.

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