Writing has always been therapeutic for me, so not having the words—or not wanting to say the words out loud—feels very strange. Maybe I just need to rip off the band-aid and get it out there. Perhaps I need to stop thinking about it and stop repeating the words over and over in my head, and just let them explode from my mouth and fingers.
My dad is dying of pancreatic cancer.*
We were hopeful at the beginning—less than a month ago, actually—thinking that maybe he got “lucky” and his Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma came back. We were hoping for that (can you imagine actually hoping for a particular kind of cancer?), because we knew how to treat it. We were hoping for that, because out of all the cancers, NHL is one of the “good” ones to get, because it’s so treatable.
Our hope quickly diminished once results came in; results showing cancer lighting up and revealing that it’s spread throughout his gut. Liver cancer and stage four pancreatic cancer. Speaking of the gut, my gut told me—no, my gut begged me—to stay off Dr. Google and to not look up pancreatic cancer, but I didn’t listen. Instead my fingers danced over the keys and typed in “stage 4 pancreatic cancer.”
Even with the answers staring me in the face, I just couldn’t believe it. My dad has an incurable cancer, and the Internet told me he, at most, had less than 4 months to live.
Well, here I am today, just 48 hours after I returned from seeing him in his hospital room, about to make the 12-hour drive back home. Yesterday we made the decision to move him into hospice. The doctors and my family all discussed his options, and the truth is, there really isn’t anything else they can do for him. The cancer just keeps spreading its horrible disease despite rounds of chemo, and he’s in so much pain. In hospice they can make him comfortable, and family and friends can all come around to visit with him one last time.
One last time.
It doesn’t even seem real. Just a month ago he was sitting next to me on the very couch where I sit and type now. One month ago he was telling my 18-month old to give him smiles, and she’d look up at him and flash him a toothy grin. One month ago I was deciding what to make for his birthday—banana cream pie trifle—and watching as he ruckled Julia’s back. To see how quickly this cancer has aggressively attacked his body is simply astonishing.
So I’m going back home today. Home, where our family and friends can rally around us, and offer huge bear hugs while we do the ugliest of ugly cries. Home, where I can love on my Papa as long as he’ll let us; home, where I can be by my mom’s side and let my brother envelop me in an embrace; home, where we can let him know that it’s okay to leave us, and that we will—somehow—be okay without him. And home, where I’ll whisper our phrase since I was a little girl, “Goodnight, happy dreams, God bless you, I love you,” one last time.
*UPDATE: My dad actually passed away about five hours after I published this post. I didn’t make it home in time to see him one last time before he passed away; I was just outside of Phoenix, about six hours still to go, when I got the phone call.