It still hasn’t fully sunk in that my Dad is gone. Already, some of the details about dates are fading. When did we take him to his cardiologist? How many trips did we make to his GP for blood work? When was the last time that he ate solid food? I think my brother has notes on all of the dates, I suppose I could ask him.
This all just happened so fast. His decline was rapid and devastating and the last two weeks of his life must have been terrifying and painful for him.
We took him in for his biopsy on April 7. My brother drove him down, with my sister. My Mum, who has her own very serious illness, was unable to accompany us. I met my family at the hospital, where we got Dad to his appointment and sat with him until he was taken in for his procedure. Nobody had said definitively that he had cancer, and although we held onto that thin thread of hope, all of us were fearing that confirmation. It wasn’t until we were in the ready room that a doctor went over his scans with us and told us that they had found a significant growth in his chest and smaller growths on his liver.
The oncologist that we talked to said that they were planning two biopsies; one in his lymph gland and one in his liver. They would attempt to get what they needed from his lymph gland, but if they couldn’t they would biopsy his liver. Since the chance of bleeding during the biopsy on his liver was greater, he might have to stay several hours after the procedure. Otherwise, he would be released.
It disturbed me that Dad was left completely out of the conversation. He was laying there, dessicated from dehydration and weak from lack of nutrition. I suppose he was too distracted with his body’s illness to fully participate, but still.
We had about an hour and a half until the doctor would be done with Dad. We made calls to our own families, and let Mum know what was happening. We got coffee, we chatted desultorily, my brother and my sister and I. The waiting room receptionist called my brother’s cell phone to let him know that Dad was back from his procedure. Deep in conversation, in an isolated par of the waiting room, we hadn’t heard the loudspeaker announcement.
So, with some dread, but also with a lot of stoic determination, we trooped back to my Dad’s room. I don’t think we really knew what to expect. Dad had been waiting for us, who knows how long, with growing impatience. “Where were you? I told them my family was here, how come it took so long for you to come back? They told me I could go home. I want my teeth, I want to go home.”
We were surprised, mostly. We reasoned with him, explaining what the doctor had told us. “No, they told me downstairs that I could go home. I want my teeth, I want to go home!” So, I went to the nurse’s station to ask about Dad’s status, my brother went out to the waiting room to call Mum and my sister stayed with Dad. The attendant at the nurse’s station said that Dad wasn’t scheduled for release, but that she would have Dad’s surgical nurse speak with us. My brother and I got back to Dad’s room at the same time, moments before his nurse.
Yes, Dad was being released. Clipboard in hand, the nurse went through her release procedures, going over symptoms to watch for and care of the wound. We didn’t think he was going to be released; he was so obviously debilitated. In all honesty, I think their willingness to release him was taken as a positive sign. After all, they had kept Mum for two months after her biopsy. With the release papers signed, we were galvanized into action. My brother went out once again to call Mum, my sister went in search of a wheelchair, and me? I was left to help my Dad dress. First things first; his teeth. He popped them in and got them seated comfortably. He was as irascible as ever, but he was also triumphant. He was, indeed, going home.