Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Goal for Today: Live

This Labor Day weekend didn't pan out like we wanted. I'm telling all of this here for my family and friends, so they will know what happened.

Saturday afternoon, my mother called to tell me my father was in the hospital. I was shocked, but not surprised. Dad hasn't been feeling well for months. He has had digestion issues, and twice that I know of, he's been suffering from bowel obstructions. This time he had one again, and he surrendered and let Mom take him to North Memorial in Maple Grove to the Emergency Room.

Sunday, Mom called to say Dad would be having surgery. She added, "Your Dad has colon cancer." I felt the blood drain down to my feet. His sister, Colleen, had colon cancer. She lived with a colostomy bag for the rest of her life, which ended way too soon last year in August. I got ready and Alex and I went to the hospital to see him.

Dad didn't look good. He was in pain, and still trying to pass the obstruction. The doctors had a large bottle of clear liquid with some pineapple flavoring that he was supposed to drink by the end of the day to help things along. We didn't stay long so Dad could rest. My brother, Andy, and his lovely wife, Lisa, drove all the way to Minnesota from Oklahoma and arrived on Monday.

Monday, Dad was scheduled for surgery, but it was post-poned to Tuesday. We saw Dad at the hospital and he was looking better than I'd seen him in months. He was smiling, drinking coffee and sitting on the edge of the hospital bed. I was hopeful, this might actually turn out okay. Please God, let this turn out okay.

Tuesday, surgery day, I called my very understanding employer and told them what was going on, and that I would not be in and why. I was there with Mom, Kelley, Andy, Lisa and Alex. Alex and I had a busy day already because Tuesday was the day his pins came out of his hand. He called it a "declawing" and now I can't call him "Wolverine" anymore. It was a relief, for both of us.

The surgeon, Dr. Kern, was a striking resemblence to my cousin, Nick, Jr. He explained in plain English what he was going to do and how, and what his goals were, best case and worst case. I imagined him in a uniform as a military surgeon, like he just got home from Iraq or Afghanistan and walked right back into performing surgery on civilians. Dr. G.I.Joe.

Mom all through this was shaking, all the time. She wasn't going to be distracted by anything or anyone. She couldn't take her mind off of what was happening. Neither could I. I don't think anyone of us has slept right or eaten right or paid much attention to anything the last few days.

The surgery started around 2:10 p.m. and it was over when Dr. Kern walked out at 3:40 p.m. to explain how things went. Better than expected. Dad was able to keep his spleen, no colostomy bag, and Dr. Kern was able to sew together both pieces of his colon and he took the mass they found, and a few lymph nodes to send for testing for cancer. We should hear by Friday, September 10th, what the results are. As he left, and walked out of the lobby, Mom collapsed into tears.

"It's over, it's over, it's finally over," she sobbed into her hands. We all gathered around Mom, hugging her and crying.

Before Dad went to surgery that day, I looked at his board. It tells his name, the date, the name of his doctor, etc. Down a little lower, it reads: "Goal for Today".

Dad wrote: "Live."

Mission Accomplished, Dad. Mission Accomplished.

Those of you out there reading this, please, if you are not feeling yourself, or if you have a high risk of colon cancer or prostate cancer in your family history, don't let economics get in the way of your health. If you have to beg, borrow or steal, or sell a few things, please, get your colonoscopy exam after age 50. Get your mammograms and your pap smears. Don't die of embarrassment or because you think you can't afford it.

Goal for Today: Live.


Andy said...

Wow, sorry to hear about your Dad Laura, but very very glad to hear that he made it out of surgery OK. My thoughts will be wit you guys as you get the news from his test results.

-Andy Weber

Jeni said...

Laura, Trust me when I tell you this but my kids and I can truly relate to the fears you had and probably still have too over your Dad's health problems. You see, 7 years ago this past St. Patrick's Day, I was diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer. My doctor did a colonoscopy and discovered a tumor which the early pathology report said was malignant. My dr. when he spoke to my younger daughter and I after I came out of recovery, had my life totally planned out over the next 10 months. I would have chemo and radiation starting in March 19th and continuing for six weeks, a month's break for recovery from that, then surgery, followed after a 6 week recovery period with chemo for the next 7 months. Because he had my life all planned out for me and gave me no options, I followed through on his game plan. I was lucky with that surgery as no colostomy was necessary but 3 years later, I did end up having a colostomy because of other intestinal problems but not cancer. The colostomy is a bit of a pain to deal with at times but if it is a necessity of life, it's not that big of a problem, just more of an embarrassment at times is all. This past July, I had surgery again -a total hysterectomy, plus bladder repair as well a full hernia repair. The pathology report from the hysterectomy was a bit of a surprise to me and to my surgeon then too as it revealed cancer in my uterus -something that would never have been found if the only tests I had done would be the normal Pap smears and such. It was only because I had the hysterectomy that the uterine cancer was discovered so now I am embarking on another round of chemo -of the type much stronger than the first time around. So strong as a matter of fact that yesterday, when I had my first treatment, it was stopped 15 minutes after it began because I had a terrible allergic reaction to the chemo! Ended up in the emergency room of the local hospital as a matter of fact.
But my main point here believe it or not is to tell you to keep your heart and mind on a very, very positive level about the cancer, about any treatments recommended for your Dad as a positive attitude, lots of prayers don't hurt and a strong faith will carry you and your family through the thick and the thin days of dealing with recovery from major surgery and an illness like cancer! My own method is to find anything I can about my situation and poke fun at it whenever, wherever possible and I pay no mind to those who think I'm a bit daft for trying to find ways to laugh about the problems that can accompany a cancer diagnosis and treatments. But it works fine and dandy for me and I know lots of other people who use much of the same tactics as I employ to keep my mind at a level where I don't dwell on the illness, the issues and such. Cancer is NOT the end all disease it once was for openers. A colostomy, if needed, is also not the end of life either but rather a great giver of continuation of life! Chemo is not the nicest treatment ever nor is radiation but they do are sure a hell of a lot better than the other alternative too!
And attitude, above all, really trumps everything else in my opinion, in my own experience. That plus being blessed with my first granddaughter (2nd grandchild) while getting chemo after my surgery gave me even more to keep my attitude up as high as possible!
This is of course not an absolute guarantee of good health forever and ever but it is one way of enjoying life as long as possible and to the maximum of one's abilities too! Faith will carry you the distance you want to go, ya know.
Peace, love and good medicine -may they all be in your dad's and your family's future!

Beth Ann Erickson said...

Wow! What a sad story. I'm glad he's doing well. You and your family will be in my thoughts today. :)