At the time he was living with my brother. We welcomed him into our home whenever he wanted to stay, but once he lost his job he stopped coming over as much because gas was expensive. John had the bigger house, and one without stairs. I just didn't know there was a time limit on that living arrangement. I had hoped they could hold out until Fred and I could get a bigger place, but that wasn't what they wanted for their family. The month they moved him out, Fred and I took him along with us on a mini-cation to Charleston. We rented a boat, and we had him to take us and some dear friends of ours fishing. That is a memory I will forever hold dearly. Because that was the last time we would spend with him BC (before cancer).
It was around that time that I was diagnosed with endometriosis. And my doctor said try for a baby now or surgery. At the time my symptoms were intermittent, one month nothing - the next painful. We decided it was time to really try. Though we wanted daddy with us, we only have 2-bedrooms. And we wanted him to move in with us...forever. I couldn't do that if we were trying to expand our family. And it broke my heart. He moved in with his cousin. From mid-April through June we tried to get him to come over or let us take him out to dinner, but he would find excuses. I didn't know he was hiding how sick he was.
My dad was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer Father's Day weekend 2012. I was with some girlfriends when I got the call. And until that moment, I didn't know what the phrase 'all the air was sucked out of the room' actually felt like. Now I know. As I was driving home from my friend's house, I kept repeating in my head - Come What May. Meaning whatever happens I'm going to accept it and move forward.
When I finally got home, Fred was as crushed as I was. And people don't really get that. They think, oh it's just his father-in-law. But we've been "Fred & Heather" for over 15-years. When we were at the hospital, our worst fears confirmed, I asked him if it was okay to bring daddy into our home. Because our place is small. And I know how important it is for everyone to have their space to retreat. But without a bit of hesitation, he said yes. Knowing fully what that meant.
A few days later, when daddy was less medicated, I held his hand and asked him to move in with us. Forever. He said that sounded like a good idea, but didn't want me fretting over him. (yeah, right) That was all we needed, Fred and I went into business mode and spent the next 3-days cleaning, organizing, painting. Turning a room into a bedroom. A week later he was released, moved into our home, and Fred and I earned a new title: caregiver.
And it's around here that people usually ask if we were still trying, and the answer is yes. The doctor gave him 2-years with treatment, and 1-year without treatment. My mindset was, come what may. We are going to continue to move forward, and whatever happens - happens. If we are blessed with a child, we'll find a way. We'll make it work.
Between my own doctor appointments and the week daddy was in the hospital, I had essentially expended my paid time off for the year. I had a little left for vacation, and needed to keep a few days just in case I needed surgery. Fred has Thursdays off, so while I would attend the big appointments Fred would be the one taking him to/from his doctor's office to chemo treatments. And we quickly realized that someone needed to attend the appointments because daddy didn't fully comprehend what was said. He would twist or make-up things. Fred was there. From the word go, Fred was there. Loving and caring for my dad. Supporting me. And I knew he was a pretty fantastic guy, but watching him love in that way. There are no words.
The chemo was working, the blood work looked good, and he was experiencing very few side effects. Fred and I went on vacation the last week in September. A vacation that was planned 9-months ago. When it was his dad that had the cancer diagnosis. And we came home to a sick man. Every side effect listed, he experienced. A week later we were taking him to the ER. And while he thinks it was the on-call doctor that told us to come in, that decision was placed fully on my shoulders. And that was. Terrifying.
That was when we got the first inkling that something was wrong. The ER doc ordered a CT and said it looked like the lesions were growing. Crap. Then his actual doctor came in and said no - we're going to treat this as a bad reaction to the chemo until I see proof otherwise it looks like the colon and liver are inflamed. Whew! He was released from the hospital 10-days later. His next doctor office visit was only going to be just a blood draw, so Fred didn't attend. Unfortunately, the doctor made a special note to see him. And that's when daddy was told the chemo wasn't working, and they were looking for other treatment options. Crap. Another appointment, another special note. Daddy said the doctor didn't seem too positive. Bigger crap.
The next appointment was an "extended" appointment. Anxiety was pretty high for all of us, but you try to keep it in check. Stay positive. Monday we found ourselves back in the ER. He was having chest pains. Nothing was found, and he was released the next afternoon.
Thursday. Big day. Come what may. The doctor comes into the room, and right away it feels...off. The doctor begins to explain that he was given the best/strongest treatment, and it was working. But it's just one of those fast growing cancers and it's become resistant. There is another option, but it's not as strong and the side effects are worse. So...decision...choice...live.
The doctor continues talking and I'm looking at daddy. Watching. Does he comprehend? Still nodding my head making sure the doctor knows I get it...stop nodding your head Schiller, pretty sure you look like a bobble head. Hospice. Oh G-d, oh G-d...I'm too young to be witness to this. Hold it together. Why do I need to witness this, why am I here, what am I learning from this. Daddy begins to cry. G-d, how do you comfort someone that's just been told their life is coming to an end - rub his back, let him know he's not alone. The doctor starts to explain he doesn't have to make a decision today. Go home. Pray about it. Be with family. And even then you can always change your mind. And he leaves, giving us some time to compose ourselves.
Daddy is sitting, hunched over and starts playing with his cane. The cane Fred bought him. He begins, "you know I gave this all over to G-d, and if he wants to call me home a little sooner then I guess that will be okay." Then he started talking about trips he wants to take. And I'm relieved. Or as relieved as one can be in that situation. Because he wants to live. Enjoy this bit of time he has left. And then I'm heartbroken because we're here so quickly. Too quickly. I'm not ready.
So with all the emotion that comes. With an end. I'm writing. Writing my story. Writing our story. Because that is what helps me process. Because I have a lot of anger, and frustration, and sadness. Because I don't want to be numb. I need to get it out. Now. And it will be irrational and gross. I'm giving myself two weeks. Two weeks to get out all the gross. And then I'll focus on the life. On the days I want to remember. Forever.