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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dad's Battle

I'll admit, I've become quite the hermit since the diagnosis of my father's cancer.  Between his recovery from surgery and the ultimate nightmare coming true, the last thing I've wanted is to talk about it or to have any contact (other than immediate friends and family) with the outside world.

I've had many people tell me I can write the story of his battle.  I can write the downfall, the grueling details and intimate memories, and ultimately (and hopefully), his recovery from this evil spell he is under.  For the record, I don't see my father's disease as a "Get Rich Quick" scheme for myself.  It's much too personal of an experience to go and write about it.  Although, I don't want others to feel alone in their battle, writing about his isn't exactly my cup of tea...not right now anyway, and probably not in the near future.

I am not in any condition to write about what he's going through at the moment.  I am in no position to write my fears and hopes.  I write to teach you all a lesson that I am learning fiercely from the strongest man I know, my father, Tighe.

The way it all happened was quick and tragic.  It all seemed too surreal and still does.  The series of events that have happened since he went into the hospital on January 22 still have sunk in yet.  It started with stomach issues.  He went in thinking it was an ulcer.  I gave him my expertise on the matter, since I have become the queen of stomach ulcers.  After some blood work and a partial physical, the nurse from his doctor's office called him and suggested he go to the Emergency Room in order to get an ultrasound on his stomach without having to wait for an appointment.  They told him his enzyme levels were high.  That's when it all started...

He was admitted that night and stayed in the hospital for over a month.  After countless MRIs, CAT scans, and a few endoscopes,  the doctors decided to cut him open.  February 3rd he went in for surgery and was in surgery for over six hours.  My family and I sat in the waiting room patiently, hoping they didn't come out giving us the news we all dreaded hearing.

They had removed a quarter of his intestine and a large tumor located on the backside of his small intestine.  Based on where it was located, it was tough to detect in an MRI or any other test they performed.  I went to see him almost every day for the remaining time he was in the hospital.  We talked a lot and I really got to know the unbelievable man I was blessed with as a father.

I was there the day the doctor came in and told him it was stage four, diffused Pancreaticobiliary Cancer (cancer of the bile ducts in the pancreas) and it seemed to have spread fierce.  I sat silently in the room with him and cried without him seeing me.  After a long silence, he told me to stop crying.  He said he was going to be fine. 

After many more tests and a second opinion from one of the greatest cancer facilities in the world, we still have many unanswered questions. They did find a gene, most common in women causing breast cancer, but can cause cancer anywhere really.  Chemo now consists of being treated for this gene and breast cancer, but also being treated for the pancreatic/general stomach cancer.

He has his ups and downs.  He's still recovering from the surgery, all the while adjusting to the chemo.  But there is something magical about this man.  There is something I have never seen in another human being that lives deep within my father.  He is a walking miracle.

He is unbelievably patient.  He has yet to complain about the unanswered questions.  He puts all of his faith into the doctors and into their knowledge.  He also puts his faith into his strength.  One night after the surgery and when he was coming off of the Morphine, he told me he was going to do what he needed to overcome this.  He didn't seem worried or afraid.  He told me that as if he were talking about his next project in the yard or the new exhaust he had to put in his Cadillac.  His attitude and patience has put my mind at ease.

My father has yet to complain about anything.  He didn't complain in the hospital, he hasn't complained about the chemo or the recovery.  He keeps to himself and does what he needs to do to recover from this.

I really wish everyone could be more like my father, including myself.  He is admirable in this battle he is facing and he is better composed than anyone I know.  He is the one going through this pain and he is calmer than his whole family is about the situation.  He has a one-track mind and that track is to fight and triumph.

When someone says their relative has cancer, you always feel sympathetic and upset for them.  You say, "awww, I'm so sorry. That's too bad."  But it's a very different feeling when it actually hits home; when it's a parent or a child.  I don't ever wish this on anyone, but should this happen to a loved one of yours, I pray they have the patience and strength my father has.  Chemotherapy isn't what is going to heal my father, that's just a small part of his recovery.  He is his own medication.  He will overcome this and live to an old age.  I have no doubts in my mind after watching him and being by his side through this.  Not only is my father the strongest man I know, he is my hero, my serenity, and my strength.


  1. That was very beautiful, I actually was tearing up a bit while reading it. I saw your link on Facebook. I have to say it is very true, inner strength and faith are probably the single most reliable sources of keeping on. One of my favorite song lyrics is "only faith can bring to life one who falls by the wayside" from December by Weezer. I want to get that in a tattoo soon when my biopsies are done, which I hope will come back normal. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your father and the rest of your family!

  2. Thank you very much! My prayers are also with you that your biopsies come back normal. I've also been through the whole biopsy ordeal and I know how scary it is to have to wait for results you never thought you'd have to wait for. Good luck and again, thank you! :)

  3. Malia, you know that I am always here and my prayers are with you, your dad & the whole family, always. This was beautiful, and your strength is probably a big part of his strength, so always keep that in mind. I love you sugar plum!!

  4. I know EXACTLY what your are going through.... I was by my father's side through many years of fighting. I lost my father 2 years ago October 16th for he could not fight anymore. It was exhausting. I cared for him in my home with the help of Hospice. Just stay strong, be there for him & do all you can.