I’m sitting in my dad’s hospital room. He isn’t here, he is getting a biopsy on his lung. It is my understanding that the biopsy will tell us what type of lung cancer he has and which stage. I don’t know what to hope for, I just want to make sure he isn’t in any pain.
I am afraid to see him. I am afraid that he will look even worse than when I saw him yesterday and yesterday was very bad. He looks like a skeleton with skin stretched over it. And he doesn’t have his teeth in, which is always a little alarming.
I’m not sure if he understands what is going on. He is pretty “with it” as far as I can tell, but he has no grasp of the medical field so I’m not sure that he knows what the doctors are saying to him. They are throwing around words like rehab, palliative, and hospice. They are telling him that he can’t live by himself unless he gets stronger and to get stronger he has to eat. He just looks at them, blankly. He asked me if I thought he should be intubated, should that need arise. I said, “I respect any decision you make, but in my opinion, you would not want that.” He agreed.
Paul and I are not at all surprised that my dad has lung cancer. I’ve known in my heart for a long time that he either has it or would get it. For all we know, he’s been living with it for a while. My dad has refused to go to any doctor’s appointments. The only reason he would go anywhere besides church is that my mom made him, even after they divorced. I haven’t forced the issue because I knew that he would retreat and I want a relationship with my dad.
We knew he was on the decline when he stopped singing in the church choir in November. He told us that he couldn’t walk the stairs anymore and his choir robe was too difficult to zip. We offered up mobility devices, finding the easiest pathway in the church so he wouldn’t have to use stairs, driving him to and from church, switching his spot in the choir loft so he wouldn’t have to climb to the top, and adding velcro to his robe. No, he didn’t want any of that.
In January he fell twice in his apartment. The first fall left him black and blue and with a huge scab down the side of his face. It’s possible that he needed stitches or had a concussion. He wouldn’t go to the doctor.
Paul and I have many, many conversations about what to do, but ultimately, we do nothing unless my dad requests it. My dad will let us do his grocery shopping (he only requests frozen food), he will let us dig out his car, and he asks us to go to the liquor store for him. Although, he has recently told us that he’s stopped drinking because it makes him stumble around. We have known for a long time that there was no way we could get him to a doctor.
My dad has been constipated for many weeks. He found minimal relief through laxatives. On Monday, he called and asked me to purchase him an enema, and this is when we realized we might be able to get him to the doctor. I knew he wouldn’t be able to administer the enema himself. And, although I am able, I really didn’t want to do it for him. I said that maybe we should have a doctor administer it, and he agreed. In the time between the phone call and picking dad up, Paul and I had a frank conversation. I said, “This is going to end up being so much more than dad being constipated. This is going to be bad.”
My dad doesn’t have a doctor, so our only two options were urgent care and the emergency room. We decided that this wasn’t an emergency so we were going to urgent care. When we picked dad up, he looked really bad. (My dad always looks sickly, but this was even worse.) I changed my mind and asked Paul to go to the ER instead. That way we would be in the hospital already, should dad need to be admitted.
And, here we are. Waiting on tests. Waiting for the doctors and nurses to give us info. Waiting to see how much longer his life on earth will be.
All he wants to do is sleep, and so, he sleeps. And we love him.