It's been a rough 7 months. The roughest 7 months I've ever known...or ever want to know again. There were many, many days I had to really reach inside of myself to find the strength to keep going. The depression and anxiety that were probably always lurking (even though I went to therapy for the first time after being diagnosed with postpartum depression) went gangbusters in my brain.
This all may be pretty normal for someone who's lost a parent, right?
My father, since his suck-ass diagnosis, had been a trouper (or is it trooper? I've never really known.). He took chemo like a champ, and I think did WAY better than any of the doctors thought a crusty 77 year old man could do. PET scans showed that the one involved lymph node was no longer swollen. There were no metasteses to any other organs. Even the activity at the main lesion was quieted. There was only one area that was still lighting up on the scans - a spot on his sternum. As the heavy chemo meds were taking a toll on his aging kidneys, his doctors recommended a break from chemo last summer. His hair grew back (my husband was jealous), albeit now more white than the salt and pepper it was before. Other than the fact that his job was not calling him much - obviously the car industry was doing a swift tanking. The dealer did not need him to pick up any new cars or go to any auctions. This was probably the first step.
He noticed a bump beginning to form on his sternum.
This grew a little more, and the doctors did another bone scan to try and get a better idea of what it was. The radiologist thought that it was just "superficial", and since it was starting to cause some discomfort, they decided to try some radiation. His heart was doing better, so it was felt to be safe.
I don't think they really, truly explained and made sure he understood that radiation, especially to the chest, can be damn uncomfortable. I wish they had.
He began a cycle of radiation last November, traveling the 45 miles back to the cancer center and hoping winter weather would hold off a little longer. I never really knew how much he was hurting, but my mom started mentioning that he was coughing a lot, and it hurt to cough. He also started having trouble swallowing (something he'd never even had with a lesion in the esophagus) and would gag on his food at times. My dad did NOT like to be pampered and did not like people to see him get sick like that...even his wife of 57 years. He went back to the oncologist and they mentioned how painful the area was. The oncologist, knowing their medicare prescription coverage was being stretched to the limit, mentioned that Hospice would be able to supply pain meds.
That was the wrong word to mention in front of my strong willed father.
I never got the chance to tell him that the oncologist probably didn't mean HOSPICE the way it seemed...that he was, against all odds, doing pretty darn well for his age and diagnosis. I never got the chance to ask him to please hold on, for me, for my daughter, for all of us.
I'm not sure exactly how long it was after that conversation with the oncologist that my father made his decision, but I know it wasn't terribly long.
On the morning of Sunday, December 21, in a horribly awful snowstorm, while my mother was at church, my father ended his own life.
That'll bring the conversation to a halt, won't it? No wonder I don't advertise. No wonder it took me so damn long to write a post about it. I almost didn't.
It hurts me deeply to write those words. I feel like people will judge him for choosing that end. I feel like people will judge me for being the daughter of someone who would choose that end. I'm devastated. And sad. And PISSED. If you'd asked any one of my family members whether we'd ever thought that scenario possible? ANY one of us would have answered hell to the NO. I'm still in disbelief.
So now, we try to heal. It's been a long, hard road...the anxiety and depression have had a grip on me like no other while I try to beat them back. I don't want to be dependent on medication, although I know there may come a time where I will have to have it.
The winter this year was long. My family was scattered off in different places this spring. So, on July 5, we brought a second step to a close. We buried his ashes in our church Memorial Garden. In a way, I felt just a wee, teensy, microscopic bit of weight lifted off my shoulders after that.
But it has been a HARD 7 months. 7 months that included too many "celebrations" without my dad. Christmas for starters. M's 4th birthday in February. What would've been my dad's 79th birthday. Father's Day. 4th of July, when we've always had a (paternal) family reunion. Too many celebrations that I just wanted to be left out of, to cry and mourn a little more.
But I have to start living again. And realize that, even as I mourn, I can still enjoy life, and laugh. My dad loved laughing. I need to honor him that way.
*I apologize if this post sounds scattered. There were so many ways I wanted to set it up to tell the story, but I never took notes or made any damn outlines or blah blah blah. It says what it needs to say, and that's it. Period.*