Around this time last year, my dad went through his first "complication" since being diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer with mets to the brain. My parents were just getting back from a vacation in Pennsylvania to visit my mom's family. On the way home, my mom couldn't help but notice how tired my dad was. He slept for the majority of the trip.
When they came back, he continued to sleep. With that, came confusion. One night, on the way to our family softball game, my dad got lost driving to the field. Keep in mind, we've been playing at the same two fields for over 10 years. Panic then set in when none of us could find him. His phone was going straight to voicemail and he wasn't at the house. I then received a strange voicemail from him telling me that he was safe at Hogans, a restaurant on the opposite side of town. My mom called Hogan's, but it was too late. Even though he was visibly confused, and he threw up at the table, the restaurant let him drive off. (We're still not happy about that). Thankfully, he made it home safely. When he walked through the door I burst into tears- I had never seen him look so confused. I told him that we were taking him to the hospital.
At first, we weren't sure if this was the cause of brain tumor growth. That's what my gut told me. As it turned out, it was radiation necrosis, which is basically radiation induced swelling around the tumor. With the help of steroids, the swelling went down, and Dad came back around.
But that didn't last long. Weeks later, after the sudden death of my Uncle Mike, my dad began to act strange again. He was confused- at a routine doctor's appointment, he did not recognize his oncologist. Nor did he even know why he was there. Cue the panic.
We took him in again, and this time we were in the hospital for a solid month. I can easily say that it was the worst month of all of our lives. This time, my dad would have days of being comatose, he was having hallucinations, and he couldn't speak or eat. I can't go into too many more details because the pain of those memories is still very real for me. I will just say: My dad became a totally unrecognizable person. And we weren't sure if he would EVER snap out of it. I didn't know if I would ever have my dad back.
The cause for that turned out to be steroid psychosis, a pretty rare thing. When my dad finally came back around, he had to spend a few weeks in a rehab facility. By late October, things finally settled down.
I gave you that whole backstory to lead to this: I can't help but feel anxious at this time of year that something like this is going to happen again. I can't speak for my entire family, but I know my mom feels it too, and I'm sure the others do.
When I tell people I'm scared that something is going to happen again, I usually get told to stay positive. Or they easily dismiss my fears by saying "It won't happen!". Here's the deal, you guys. Just because I'm scared doesn't mean I'm not positive. Also, I appreciate your confidence that this won't happen again, or that everything is going to be fine, but the reality is it MIGHT happen again, and things won't always be fine. We will deal with it as we always do, but it doesn't mean we can go ignore the fact that there WILL be other bumps in the road.
I have nightmares about once a week where my dad is back in the confused state, or even worse, the comatose state. Just last night I had a dream that he couldn't remember my sister. I wake up from those dreams crying, terrified that it is some sort of sign that things are about to go downhill again.
The entire situation means that making plans gets touchy. I haven't said this to my friends, but with every outing we plan, I am tempted to add the addendum : But if my dad gets sick, I won't be there.
I'm really not sure what has inspired me to share this. Maybe it's because I want to explain why I (or someone else in my family) is iffy about making plans. Maybe it''s to explain why I may be on edge, as the memories of last July/August/September creep in. Or maybe, I just needed to tell someone about it. I don't expect everyone to understand, or to "fix" anything (unless you have a cure for cancer, because that would fix a lot of things). I guess I am just putting this out there as an ask for patience, for prayers, and to remind you all that we never really know what's around the corner.
Think of it like this: Imagine being on a roller coaster, but in the pitch black darkness. You're about on the middle of the ride. So far, you've had some twists and turns. One drop was really scary, you held on as tight as you could and felt immense relief when it was over. But now you are feeling anxious again, because you can't see what's coming and there may be another big drop. You're trying to tell yourself to stay calm, and that if there is another drop you'll be fine, you survived the first one. But that doesn't make the fear vanish. You're just slowly coasting, your feet dangling, anticipating another drop.
Thank you all for reading, for being patient with us, and for the prayers.