Sunday, August 14, 2005

Mixed-Up Melange

Mixed-Up Melange

August 13, 2005 -- Written in Retrospect

It has been nearly a year since I made my blog and I have felt unmoved to write. One inciteful individual sent me a response as to why we write stating that it is an individual's need to be heard. I have given this a great deal of thought. Another friend views it as an individual's right and ability to be heard that makes the opportunity of blogging unique. He likens it as a revolution in the way that the printing press brought the common man the printed word and it was no longer held within the power and purview of the Noblesse and Church. Philosophy of the blog.

At any rate I have been sitting here and considering what it would benefit me and given this year it might be good. My life in many ways has exhausted my friends. They have stood by me through the worst of what my life has offered me and now I do not want to burden them, but I feel a need to communicate, to talk, and to share. And if you who read this feel like you think I'm sappy, self centered, or boring you can go to another blog. Some are very entertaining.

My life in August was wonderful. It was happy and full. I even remember wondering how life could be so joyful and if it would always be so. I could not envision life being less or presenting us with a problem. I think the act of questioning this was the beginning of realization that something might happen. I was doing some initial sketches for a tapestry I wanted to do. It is a stream of consciousness type work. It started with a face and then with movement around the page and then with 2 more faces. I was thinking creation and came up with three fates and one was cutting a string. I was somewhat afraid and I stopped working on the project. It worried me that it had appeared.

In July my father told us much later he had not felt well, had started losing wt. My father was never a heavy man. He had always been healthy and carried a good wt. He went to a spa in mid-August where there was very simple pure food, no alcohol, and mild exercise. He lost 20 lbs in two weeks. This should have been a warning sign. This is not normal or healthy!

At the end of August my father was supposed to visit me after a business trip. He called me and told me he had to get back home and could not make it. I later found out he had thought he had experienced a terrible terrible painful stomach flu or had an ulcer. His G.P. at the time being young... did not tests, but prescribed a strong ulcer/antacid type medication. Later, One of his friends commented on his wt loss and told him it was not normal and that something was wrong. My father laughed even when sorely pressed by his friend and said that nothing was wrong.

In mid October we had a family wedding and there was so much joy. We were all so happy to be together and we enjoyed eachother. The only thing I noticed was how thin my father was. I asked him about this and he told me he was as thin as he had been in high school. I told him I thought he was a little too thin.

About 3 weeks later my father was hospitalized with some kind of intestinal blockage. About 2 weeks after that we knew that he had pancreatic cancer. I have felt since then that I intuited a message and the message was about life changing and the shifting of places that occurs through the passing of time.

I want to write about my time this year and remember it. I'm going to share it and it is my hope that it will be helpful to someone. I will tell you that so many times I felt alone. I knew I was not, but my life was turned completely inside out. I will say that I am not a fundamentalist, but God was with me and sometimes a moment of prayer where no words could express, but I just felt and tried to be open would help.

Dad went into the hospital in mid October 2004. The Doctors tried to get the blockage to go away with less intrusive methods. He needed to have an endoscopy done to determine what was causing the blockage. An endoscopy is where a small incision is made and a little camera goes in to have a look around.

I went down to the surgical floor with my Dad and I had to stop at the big doors leading into the 'no visitors - Dr's and Teams preparing patients' area. I had to leave him and I was so afraid. I was 42 and he was my big strong father and things were happening I could not bear to think about. I leaned over him and I smiled and I told him I would be waiting and how much I loved him. He had lost about 30 lbs by this time and he was seriously thin, but to me he was still my strong and handsome father, who was impervious to bad things. Nothing could go wrong and he could never die. And yet... I knew he could die in surgery. I was scared. We all had laughed off the idea of cancer. We all thought it was diverticulitis. It would have been wonderful if it was.

Dad went through the big doors and I was told to go to the surgical waiting area. My sisters could not be there with me. They have small children. Mine were 9 and 12 and they were on the opposite coast. My amazing friends were picking them up after school, feeding them snacks, monitoring homework, and taking them to soccer for me. Devotion and love. I can never repay them for this year.

I was in the waiting room. I was waiting, sitting, not daring to go anywhere. I was alone by myself and my father was upstairs being photographed inside his abdominal cavity. I cannot tell you the loneliness of a waiting room. I cannot tell you the fear. The human imagination is an amazing and powerful thing. It is better to focus on something. Reading was right out. I am a fiber person, but the usual spinning and knitting were right out. My hands were too shakey. I had a little notebook (something my father had always kept) and I took notes in it, guarded telephone numbers, and reminded myself of things... all surrounding the subject of my father and his life. I dug through my bag of books, knitting, spinning, waterbottle and snacks of nuts to find my little notebook. It was a green spiral 5X7 notebook. I opened it up and I wrote out the 23rd psalm. I wrote it out twice as I remembered it and then I read it over and over again. In my state of mind I could not say it in my mind without reading it from a page. I read it for hours and I believed it.

In our current culture we don't really understand what a shepard represents to a sheep. We don't know the total dependance of the sheep upon the shepard. What is a rod and why does a shepard use a staff. What does it mean when a shepard makes a sheep lie down in green pastures beside still waters. Consider what peace of mind is given to the sheep, because he has a shepard. It is in the worst moments of our life, when we have to be responsible for people who have been responsible for us or when we believe we are going to fall or fail or not be able to go on that the idea of peace of mind and someone caring for us is seductive, cherished, craved. When we have to be the shepard it is a hard thing and if we can find solace in finding a divine power who can be our shepard some of the burden is lifted if only for a while.

After many hours the surgeon came out of the elevator and came to me. He wanted to sit down and talk. I had been so stressed and filled with anguish. I could not believe the calm that came over me. I could not believe the smile and the motherly feelings I had for him. I know he was older than me, but none the less I wanted to care for him, because I knew he didn't want to tell me what he saw.

So Dad's surgical doctor told me that he had looked inside my dad in his abdominal cavity and his intestinal area in specific to find the blockage. He had found 'tumor deposits', 'tumor seeds'. He had found them on the abdominal wall and he had found them in many places on his intestines. Although, they were extremely tiny, the tumor deposits were compressing into someplace on his small intestine and it was causing the blockage. He told me that it was definitely cancer.

That word is a hateful insidious word that we all despise and fear. I felt the cushion of the seat under me and I looked into his blue eyes. I said, " It must be very hard for you to tell me this. I think you are doing a very good job." This surgeon is a surgical oncologist. The gastroenterologist must have suspected what was going on. Doctors at this point will not tell you everything. You have to craft the questions in non-emotional medical terms. At that point I didn't have any medical terms to go on. That came later. I asked him if he had biopsyed the deposts and he said yes. He said it looked like adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma comes in several flavors, but I didn't know that at the time. I now believe in hindsight and seeing the whole picture that he knew what kind of cancer it was. It looked almost textbook from what I later found out.

I believe I was in some kind of shock. I was kind of mentally floating, asking what questions I could. Dad was in recovery and it would be two hours until I could see him. I was ready at that moment to handle it all. I was not going to tell my sisters until later. My Dad had to be told by the Doctor. We had to get the biopsy report...we had to, we had to , we had to do ..... something. It is being active that keeps us sane. Inactivity leads to breaking down. Somehow one has to find restful activity so one doesn't burn out and so one stays same at the same time. HAH, well, easier said than done. Wisdom in retrospect... I hope it helps someone. A quiet walk was all I was later able to muster on sketchy regularity.

After he left I just started to breakdown. I had two hours to wait until I could see my Dad. Two eternal hours. I called a friend at home and broke down and cried. Moments after I hung up my therapist called me. Somehow he intuited the moment and called at one of the worst moments I could ever have imagined. Later it would be more painful and terrible, but at that moment it felt like every awful thing from my life didn't matter and that the depth of darkness could not be more than in that time in the waiting room. My therapist is an amazing person. He has good sense, compassion, and he can reach into a dark space and provide a lighted tunnel to another place. The thing he told me that sticks with me almost a year later is that I did not and should not bear this burden alone. He told me to call my sisters, that they should be there with me and would want to be there with me. There was more said that remains with me as a sense of comfort and some kind of guidance that I did not have for myself.

I called my sisters and told them both to come to the hospital. Both of my brother-in-laws came with them and I was glad. When I told them; my middle sister (I am the oldest) was like she had been physically punched in her middle and she semi fainted into her husband. It is not so dramatic. It really does happen. It is like we are being beaten to have our world so threatened and so beyond our control. The Surgeon re-appeared as if on cue. He came to say we could go up in 30 minutes. My middle sister interrogated him. She really hoped I had gotten it all wrong and was aggressive in trying to prove it. I wish I had mis-understood, but the surgeon repeated what I had relayed and the verdict was still cancer and it was very very dangerous. We understood that immediately.

My husband was not there with me. My husband was holding down the fort at home and helping me to be with my father. There was no one to hold me. No one for me to physically lean on. I felt a need to be strong again and I did not break down. I told myself I was a rock, I was a rock, I was a rock. I would not break. I would be strong.

There are so many little details I could write. One of my little nephews wanted to run around. We needed to go upstairs. We needed to pretend everything was fine. The surgeon would talk to my father in the morning when the anesthesia had worn off and he had rested. We went upstairs. We kissed our father. We held his hand. We smiled. He had cryed from the pain and there were tear tracks on his face. My heart already breaking, broke again and again. How much I loved and love my father. How much I felt the depth of all the love I could bear and all the threat against my father, that scraped at me again and again. How could my father suffer and be threatened?

That day and that night went so slowly by. The pain in me was a lump and also all encompassing. It was unbearable. But one has no choice and humans have the capacity to feel and bear all kinds of pain. I want to say that this year was about pain, suffering, death,parting; but it was about so incredibly much more and I do not have the capacity in one sitting to write it all down. So it will come out slowly and maybe I can make some sense of it over time.

My sisters and I went home. I was staying with both of them.. sort of splitting myself so that both would have a chance to have me with them. I went home with my middle sister and we had to make some decisions. We had to call his sisters and a couple of his friends, but we also knew our father did not want people knowing he was sick at all. He always downplayed these things, but we could not lie to our Aunts and our adopted Aunts and Uncles, our father's closest friends. So we called them and we told them what we knew and what we didn't know. We exhorted promises not to tell our cousins to keep it all very quiet until Dad had been told and until Dad talked to them. This turned out to have been a very good decision, because sometimes a person can't say a thing and yet wants you to know. They don't know how to tell you, how to put into words in this case that your life was being threatened.

My Dad was a person of amazing optimisim and action in the face of the most difficult situations. He had beaten odds most wouldn't believe. Part of his method was a wierd outward denial with an inner truth and positive determination to move forward in an optimistic way. It worked. Sometimes it was frustrating to be on the other end or to watch, but it did work for most everything and everyone with him. He was like water dripping on a stone. He was stubborn and didn't give up. He was long term in his goals and in his fight. Dad was many many things.

The next day, we visited the hospital. Dad had been visited by the Surgeon early in the morning and he was silent, pre-occupied; mentally - physically - spiritually in pain. His mouth and cheeks moved like he was chewing on something... a cud... a problem and his eyes frowned and I felt like they were watery almost crying. He was a man facing something he denied was there and that was his own mortality. Probably if I guessed, why was this happening, how could it happen, it wasn't possible, and how will I tell my daughters.

My youngest sister is not actually his daughter. My parents were divorced when I was five and my mother remarried and had another child with her husband, my step-father. That child is my sister, 12 years my junior. She was amazingly close to my father and he loved her incredibly much.

We three were in his room and we rotated the three of us, two of us and then my middle sister took my youngest sister away and I was left there. I mostly stayed every day all day with Dad at the hospital, when I was there.

I considered my father. He would not talk to any of us and he for the most part would not look at us. This had gone on for several hours and finally I decided to dance around the issue a little and perhaps make it easier on him. I said, " You know, I had a long talk with your Dr. last night." "You did?" "Yes, and I am completely aware of what is going on." "You are?", "Yes, and so is L. and so is M.". This is practically verbatim. It is clear in my memory like a movie. And as I looked at him he seemed less fretful and as if a weight had been lifted. 'How can I tell my daughters I have cancer?'. It is a horrible burden to consider and an awful weight to have to tell others particularly your children, who believe as a matter of course that you, their parent, are immortal.

So it was in retrospect good to have told our Aunts and Uncles. Truth is better than covering it up. Covering it up leads to even more of a burden and more stress. Eventually, one has to uncover the burden and bring it out into the light of day. Nothing or precious little stays hidden forever. I have found through this process that more openess is better than less. The question of how, when, who, and how much are subtlties that must be considered. A steam roller of truth is not useful and is often destructive where constructive is needed. Tact, diplomacy, truth must be considered.

That is all I am going to write tonight. It is long, written in retrospect and 20/20 hindsight. It is the first chapter.

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