Monday, July 15, 2013

Eleven Rainy Months

Losing my Dad, Part 1
by Rachel

I guess I'm ready to break the silence. Hello, world. If you would like to know what I've been posting to the internet in my absence here, please check out my work blog for the Museum of World Treasures.

My parents, photo taken June 2012 (two months after the first diagnosis).

There are many reasons why I haven't written a personal blog in so many months, and there are also reasons why the posts stopped so suddenly. 

My dad died. 

It is difficult to find sufficient words to describe the last year of my life, or even just the last six months since I came home from England. It's hard to make the words in this post even feel as if they are flowing together to form sentences, but at the same time I feel as if I could write an entire book about the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to me (my dad would tell me to stop being dramatic if I had said that out loud). As long as this post is, it is only a summary of the months leading up to the day the doctors told us it was time for hospice care. 

When we found out that my dad had cancer in April of 2012, there were so many questions and so few answers. Not only did he have cancer, but it was a rare and therefore less-researched kind (bile-duct cancer). What treatments could we do? How long would we have? Why was this happening to my dad, the most health-conscious and fitness-concerned man I know? 

The summer brought few answers, but some treatment options. He went to chemo at least twice a month but continued to work full time, or as much as he could, even with his laptop in bed in the hospital. He continued to work as he was able until the week we were told that the only option was hospice care. That was also the first week he took pain killers throughout the entire ordeal. 

My mom, dad, little sister, and myself in London November 2012.
 I struggled over the decision to go abroad, but at the time he seemed to be doing so well. We had hope that we could have as much as several years, although they would be filled with chemo and treatments. It was hard to leave, but I had faith things would be the same when I returned at Christmas, and my dad encouraged me to take the opportunity.

I will forever be grateful that my parents were able to come and visit me over Thanksgiving in England. For that week, I was able to show my dad a world of new and exciting things that he had only read about and seen pictures of. Together with my mom and little sister, we toured the Tower of London, drank Guinness in Ireland, and explored London by the Underground. My dad was struggling as the cancer and treatments took their tole, but hiding it from the world and doing his best to continue on as he always had. Over and over again he repeated throughout the last year that sometimes we cannot control what happens to us; what we can control is how we react and whether we allow things to devastate us or whether we continue to move forward and grow as human beings.

My dad and I when he came to visit me in London.

I came home on December 20 and had a wonderful Christmas with my family. We took our annual trip to Branson, MO, although we worried it was too cold for my dad. It was the last time we would all be together in Branson, the place where my parents cultivated years of precious family vacation memories. 

My parents celebrated Christmas in Branson with the entire family.
 Everything began to change quickly in January. I started my new job at the Museum of World Treasures, moved into a new house, and started classes in Kansas again. Unfortunately this time of change also marked the first time in 2013 that my dad went into the hospital. He was re-admitted time and time again throughout the weeks of January, February, and March as they fought various infections and problems associated with the cancer. 

It was chaotic and stressful for me to try and balance a new job, school, and needing to be with my family as much as possible. Sometimes I felt like I wasn't doing a very good job at any of those roles, but I did just as both my parents had always taught me to do: I fought on, sometimes blindly, and kept going.

Things got worse over the weeks. The days at the hospital began to outnumber the days at home, but we still had faith and my dad was ready to keep fighting to do whatever possible to beat the cancer, or at least live with the cancer. And up until the end I truly believed, with everything in me, that he was going to and that cancer was not going to take my dad from us at only 57 years old. 

The first weekend of spring break Raymond and I were scheduled to visit his family in St. Louis. My mom called the morning we were supposed to leave and asked me to cancel the trip. We found out that day that the unthinkable had happened: the doctors said there were no viable treatments left, and that they were recommending hospice care.

My family had already weathered many months, but that day the storm got worse.