Families Who Have Cancer

You know them.  I know them.  Perhaps your family is one of them.  Families who have been touched by cancer. I think that having small children would make having cancer more difficult.  Not only is just doing the every day tasks more difficult, but the emotional facet of perhaps not seeing your children grow up must be factored into the stress of the situation.

Of course, that is not to say that having cancer is any easier for those of us who have grown children.  There are always grandchildren we would like to see grow into adulthood.  Yes.  Cancer is difficult for everyone.

We are not given a choice in life about what diseases we will and won’t have.  Our genetics and lifestyle can and will influence our health, but for the most part we just don’t get to choose.  Famlies are part of the illness and the recovery.

As we pray for the folks in our lives who are will, don’t forget to pray for their families.

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From Nursing Home to Hospice Unit

It was Sunday morning when the phone call came.  The phone call that changed the direction of my next week.  I was getting ready for church when the phone rang and I answered.  Darla told me that Mother was running fever, was very weak, and seemed to be ‘going down hill quickly’.  She told me that when news of Mother’s situation spread to  the staff around the nursing home, they all began to come to Mother’s room when to tell her goodbye when they got off work.  So many of them loved her.  I knew I needed to come.

These types of events rarely occur at a convenient time.  That has been our experience.  When this call came, my car was broken and waiting for repair.  We only had Rick’s pickup for transportation.  But God’s grace is sufficient for our needs in times of crisis.  I went on to church, and talked to my pastor and other friends about Mother.  My pastor, knowing that we had only one working vehicle offered to let us borrow his pickup.  God is gracious.  That pickup was God’s Provision which enabled me to be by my mother’s side. Another God wink.

It was decided that I would take Rick’s pickup to Abilene, That way we could return our pastor’s pickup when our car was repaired.  About 2:00 p.m. I left my home to drive to Abilene.  After traveling about 5 miles my cell phone rang.  It was Darla.  With the sound of panic in her voice, she asked me where I was.  I told her that I had just left home.  She said that Mother was doing worse, that she seemed to be ‘seeing things’, that her breathing was vey shallow, and to “Please Hurry”!

What I did next I do not recommend under any circumstance to anyone.  I hurried.  Rick’s pickup has a powerful V8 engine.  I turned on the emergency flashers, set the cruise control on 90 mph, and drove to Abilene.  That was an amazing trip.  I drove right past highway patrol troopers and it was like I was invisible.  No one tried to stop me.   I tried to go faster, but somehow I could not make the pickup accelerate higher than 90.  I felt like God was saying to me, “Deborah, you don’t need to go any faster.”  God was Present with me as I drove.

When I arrived at the nursing home, Mother’s breathing had improved somewhat and Darla was calmer. However, it was obvious to me and everyone else that these were Mother’s last days, perhaps last hours.  After conferring with Mother’s hospice nurse, we made the decision to transport her to the Hospice unit at Hendrick Hospital right away.  Mother left the nursing home never to return.

Tomorrow: Once again, the feeding tube.

The End is Near

After Daddy’s apparent stroke he had very few moments of awareness and no moments of alertness.  He would sometimes wake up enough to eat a little bit, and he would open his eyes and perhaps smile if someone came to see him.  Otherwise he just slept.

I mentioned in an earlier post that he had complained about his hand hurting him.  The Hospice nurse thought at the time that perhaps the cancer had spread to his hand.  I had never heard of something like that, but it was obvious that something was very wrong with his hand.  The pain continued to increase.

I remember standing by his bed watching him sleep.  In his sleep he moved his hand and tapped the side of the bed.  I nearly cried when I saw how much that hurt him.  He was receiving pain medication, but oh, my, you wouldn’t know it by the pain he was enduring in his hand.

My husband and I went to Dallas for about 3 days.  I had an appointment with a doctor there who specialized in breast cancer.  That is another story for another day.  Our daughter and son-in-law live there and we decided to stay an extra day or two to visit with them.

While we were in Dallas, Darla had a very special visit with Daddy.  Two days before his death, she felt the need to spend some extra time with him. It had been 2 or 3 days since he has shown any awareness of any kind. He was just sleeping. Darla’s twin girls were four years old and still very much needed her at bedtime.  She put them to bed that evening, and then went to the nursing home.  She began to talk to Daddy.  She told him how much she loved him and what a good daddy he was.  She told him that she would try to raise her girls with the same priorities and values he had instilled in us.  Then she began to sing to him.  Darla has always sung beautifully, and she can sing in difficult moments.  I don’t think I could have done this without crying.  She sang for a long time.  She said to me, “Debbie, he absolutely responded to my singing.”  It was a God Wink moment.

Also during our Dallas visit, we received a phone call telling us that my husband’s mother, who lives in Lubbock, had had an accident.  She backed her car out of her garage and then got out of it to do something.   Not turning off the car and failing to shift it into Park, the car began to roll as she opened the door and got out.  She hung on to the car door and it dragged her into the street and into her neighbor’s yard.  Fortunately she was not run over by the car and had no broken bones.  She was however, very bruised and battered.

Because of her accident, we decided to cut our visit with our kids a day short and go to Lubbock to be with her.  As we drove through Abilene I felt the need to stop by the nursing home to check on Daddy.  Our plans were to just stay a little while, and then continue on to Lubbock.

When we entered Daddy’s room, I immediately noticed a difference in the way he looked and the way he was breathing.  He looked paler and his breathing was more shallow.  His legs were continually moving, and he showed absolutely no recognition when I talked to him.

The Hospice nurse was there, making phone calls.  She told me that it was time to move Daddy back to the hospital, this time placing him in the Hospice unit.  She had been trying to get him in for several days, but there had been no openings.  I asked her how much time she thought we had left, days or weeks.  She said, “Hours.”

Oh. I was so glad we stopped. The end was near.

The Cancer Hammer Falls Again

Daddy went into the hospital on Friday, March 28. My memory is unclear about the next few days. I don’t remember going to Abilene over the weekend, but I’m just not sure. Anyway during the first few days in April, the doctor wanted to do an endoscopy. I didn’t go. I stayed home, trying to keep from using more sick days than was necessary. Mother was staying at Darla’s house. She was just too weak to be at home alone and she was too weak to be at the hospital with Daddy. Neither of my sisters went to the hospital for the test. They were teaching and working as well. Truthfully, we didn’t think it was that important of a test. Daddy had had endoscopies before. Everything had been fine. Not this time.

This is how Daddy told the story. Before the test the doctor came into Daddy’s hospital room and said, “Where is your family?” Daddy replied that they were all working. After the test, the doctor came back into Daddy’s room and emphatically asked again, “Where is your family?” Again, Daddy said that thare are all working and couldn’t come. The doctor said, “Well, you have cancer” and walked out. Daddy called Mother and Mother called me. We were all stunned.

Yes, we felt horrible, because we could have all been there for him on that day. All three of us. We just didn’t do it.

However, after that day, at least one of us was present for almost every test. We learned our lesson.

This just couldn’t be. There had to be some mistake. Perhaps this was just an awful dream, no, nightmare. How on earth could both my parents have cancer at the same time? That just doesn’t happen. Does it? Yes, it does and it did.

Daddy told us that the results of his biopsies would probably be in a couple of days later. Yes, I went. When I arrived at Hendrick Hospital in Abilene, we had one of our major “God winks”.

As I was walking the sidewalk up to the hospital, I looked back and saw Darla coming up behind me. Neither of us had talked to each other about being at the hospital. We just showed up at the same time and went in together. The moment we arrived in Daddy’s room was the moment the doctor walked in with his pathology report. Talk about God’s timing. It was amazing.

The report was bad. The doctor told him that he had esophageal cancer, stage 4. He told Daddy to think about whether or no he wanted to fight the cancer, but also to get his affairs in order. Considering the news he had just been given, Daddy held himself together very well. The doctor left.

Daddy wanted to see Mother. They had not seen each other for several days. It was time. I went to the house and told Mother about the report. She cried, then dried her tears, and I drove her to the hospital. She stayed with Daddy as long as she could take it. They wanted to be alone for a while. After Mother left, I spent the night at the hospital with Daddy. We talked and talked about many things. We talked about death. What it would be like to die. We had our first conversation about his funeral. I didn’t cry. How? I don’t know, except that God was giving me the strength to do what needed to be done at the time. I would have never believed that I could have had that type of conversation with my father. Oh, this was so hard. But there would be harder days ahead.

Daddy decided that he wanted to fight the cancer. The next day he was moved to the oncology floor. I will share more about this amazing place later. Daddy had 3 days of chemo. He was almost giddy those 3 days. He laughed, told stories, and jokes one right after the other.

The day after the chemo treatment was over Daddy was sent home. It was April 10. That day and the next all h.e.l.l. broke loose. There I am spell cussing again.

tomorrow: Put Chulupa (the dog) in the drier.

God Winks

During our family’s journey down this very difficult path, there were many moments when God  made His Presence known.  I remember someone calling these moments “God winks”.  I define a “God Wink”  as a moment or event that you know God planned.  For me, it was at these moments when I felt like God was saying, “Yes, Deborah this is tough.  This is difficult. But I am here.  You are not alone.”  This was a great source of comfort for me.

If you have had “God Winks” in the midst of trouble and crisis, please share them in this section.  We will all be inspired and encouraged by your experiences.