Laurianne's Hope

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Cancer Stories: Shelli's Dad, Mike

Today's story is from Shelli at Shelli's Sentiments. I came across Shelli's blog shortly after Laurianne died. We found we had a lot in common, including cancer. Shelli has asked people on her blog to consider donating your favorite cancer organization, one of the organizations on this website, or Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN). One of the organizations not on the sidebar is our Laurianne's Hope Relay for Life team 2007, which you can visit to make a donation to as well.


There is a man behind my blog. It is not my husband, Jason. The man is silent to most everyone, but I hear him loud and clear within my head and my heart. He is the reason that I started blogging. He, rather the loss of him is the reason. In February of 2005, I started my blog as a way to deal with the grief and to tell people about my dad. He believed in my ability to write and I wanted to honor that belief in some way. My very first post was titled Lessons From My Dad and was a tribute to him. Let me tell you about him.

My dad was born in October of 1944 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was the first son and second child in a family that would eventually grow to seven children. He would not lead an easy life as a child. But he loved his parents and his siblings immensely and it was obvious.

Dad grew up to meet my mom, Carole, and they were married on August 8, 1964. He was in the army reserves in what was an undoubtedly difficult time in our nation's history. He never went to Viet Nam, and I think that was always a source of guilt and pain for him. He had intended to go, had joined the army with that in mind, but at that time they only took unmarried men and my dad was married. He got news that he would be going but then they said that he couldn’t go if he had any children or any on the way. That was the week that my mom found out she was pregnant with me. There must have been a reason that he wasn’t supposed to go there. Probably it was so that he could have the three of us and raise us to be who we are today.

My dad was a paramedic for 11 years for North Memorial hospital. I loved to ride in his ambulance with him. It was so cool. Maybe that is where I got the first bug to do something medical. He also was a construction worker. He would work his shift at night for the hospital and then go to work during the day at his carpentry job. At some point, that became too much for him and he dropped the paramedic’s job. He really liked his job as a carpenter. He was good at it, too. He especially enjoyed the finish work. He was a craftsman who took pride in details and the beauty of the finished product. When my husband and I got married, his present to us was that he did a major part of the work on our house so that it would go towards the down payment. Now, everywhere I look, I see his loving touch.

Our nightmare with cancer started when everyone else was worrying that the world was going to end. Midnight, January 1, 2000. I called my parents, as I always have, at midnight to wish them a happy New Year. My mom said that they had gone home early because my dad wasn’t feeling well. He had severe abdominal pain. I told them that I loved them and would talk to them in the morning. When I hung up the phone, I told Jason that something wasn’t right and that it was my dad. I just felt that foreboding that something was really wrong. Jason tried to reassure me, but I couldn’t shake it.

The next morning, well it was closer to noon, my mom called and she said that they were heading to the hospital and asked me to meet them there. Jason went to pick up the kids at his parents and I met them at the emergency room.
The attitude of the ER doctor was a little perturbing at first. My dad had been experiencing these symptoms for several weeks. I am sure that the doctor thought “what the hell are they doing here? Why couldn’t they have waited to see their regular doctor on the next work day?” I know he was thinking it because, I have thought similar things myself when people bring their kids in emergently when things have been going on for weeks at a time. But this was different. My dad looked like shit. He was yellow. The man that stabbed himself at work one day and just bandaged it back up and went back to work was in so much pain he couldn’t focus. As the doctor ushered my mom and I out so that he could examine my dad, he still had this look of irritation, but I said, “Dad, make sure you tell him about the 20 pounds that you have lost in the last several weeks without trying.” The drape was closed and my mom and I waited patiently.

The doctor had done a 180 by the time he opened the curtain. He stopped talking to my parents (he knew that I had medical background), his face had lost all it’s color and he was the doctor he should have been from the beginning. He told me that they were going to have to order some X-rays and an abdominal ultrasound for the next business day which was in a day or so (I don’t remember exactly), he also told me that my dad’s liver panel was way out of whack. Here I am thinking that he has hepatitis or liver cancer and I am hopeful that it means a liver transplant and all would be well again. I was very wrong.

He had his radiological studies and then he went to his regular doctor to get the results the same afternoon. In the mean time, being the nurse that I had been, I knew the way to call in and listen to the radiology reports and (I know it wasn’t legal—shhhhsshh) so I did it. I called the radiology line from my home and listened. It took me several times to get through it because I was sobbing. I heard…”Several small lesions on the pancreas…multiple lesions on the liver, with the largest being 3 [or 4] centimeters in diameter…consistent with pancreatic cancer with multiple liver metastases.” Fuck! I knew what it meant. I thought instantly of Michael Landon. I called a friend from my previous work and I was sobbing. The first person who answered, another friend, couldn’t understand me and she handed the phone to the person whom I had asked for. I screamed out, “I am not going to have a dad at the end of this year.” It was unfathomable. And it was like someone was stepping on my chest. I couldn’t breathe.

The next weeks were filled with tests, pain, medicines, hospital rooms, pain, chemotherapy, hiccups and pain. The pain never was completely gone and neither were the hiccups, which caused pain. For the last 6 weeks of his life, my dad had the hiccups, no matter what they gave him to alleviate them. I felt like I was trying to walk through quicksand. To say it was painful doesn’t begin to explain it. And that was nothing compared to the pain my dad was feeling. I told someone once that watching my dad in so much pain was something that made me think of Mary and how much she must have suffered watching Jesus being tortured and crucified. It was unbearable.

As unbearable as it was to watch, that’s all that I wanted to do. I don’t mean that in the sick way that it sounds. I just wanted to never be away from him. While writing this, I went back and read a journal that I kept at that time. There were two phrases that I kept repeating over and over in that journal. The first was, “My life sucks and I hate it,” and the other was, “I am so hungry for every moment with my dad.” And I was. I had a very hard time leaving the hospital every night. In fact, some nights I didn’t. I would stay and sleep on a cot in his room and in the morning, I would get up and go home and take care of kids all day and in the evening I would go back again. He was on a patient controlled pain medication where he could push a button to give himself a “bump” if he needed it. If I wasn’t there to do it for him, he would sleep through several bumps and then his pain would be way out of control. I hated that. It took so much catching up. I needed to be there to control it. It was the only thing that I felt like I could do to help him. I felt so powerless in every other way.

From the first day in the ER to the day he left us, it was only 6 weeks and 3 days. Forty five days. It was too short of a time for us and too long of a time for him. Whenever I was with him towards the end, he looked so small and I felt like I really wanted to lie down in the bed with him and just have him be my daddy and me his little girl again. Minutes before he died, I did just that. I lay down with him and as I wiped his mouth with a sponge, I felt him leave and I said, “Good bye, Dad.”

Those weren’t the last words I ever said to my dad. I still talk to him all the time. Sometimes I do it daily. I hear his answers in my heart. I still miss him everyday. I miss that he never got to see Sam or Emily play ball or that he never got to see his beautiful granddaughter, Isabelle. I think she resembles him so much sometimes. I am sure there will be many other things that I will miss him seeing or being a part of.

I could make this go on and on and on, telling you about the man that was my Dad, but if you read on and on and on, I still don’t think you would know. It’s simple, though. He was a good man. He loved his family very much. And we loved him very much. Cancer took him away from us physically, but it could never steal him away from our hearts and minds.

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Lung Cancer AwarenessPosted by Lynda (Laurianne's Sister) :: 7:01 AM :: 5 people are more aware