10 Years of Peace with his Cancer – Plus the Row80 Check-in

I stood at the back of his chair, rubbing his shoulders. It took a full moment for the gravity of what was transpiring to sink in. His breathing was far too labored. He’d complained all morning that it hadn’t come easy to him, even with the oxygen tank. With one smack against the wall I had alerted the nurse on staff and her voice rang through the intercom. Arguing with me for only the briefest of moments, she promised to send someone up right away.

Too late. Leaning forward, his breaths all but stopped. My sense of urgency sang out across the wires to the nurse once again and the calls went out – 911. Shock set in. This couldn’t be happening. Only ten minutes ago I had given him permission to do what he must. I never expected him to cash in that ticket so soon. I felt like a five-year-old as I called out to him, “Daddy?” But he was already gone.

I held back the tears as his friends arrived at the door to see him for his first day in his new place. First and last day. The surprise and shock registering on their faces at the site upon their arrival, as the paramedics lay my father out on the ground looking for his heartbeat.

And then the moment of truth. I’m asked if I want them to attempt resuscitation. My chest tightens and heart quickens. I resent this pressure being put on me. I know his wishes but I don’t want to be the one to say “No.” But for the love of him I let the word slip from my lips. I stand frozen, horrified as they pack up and leave him there staring up at the ceiling. He deserved better.

This is the song I wanted to play at his service, but I let my uncle pick the music so it never happened.

Fourteen years ago today, my grandmother moved on to the next phase of her life. Four years later to the day her son, my father, would join her on the day described above. Yes, it’s been ten years since I said goodbye to my father for the very last time. I gave him permission to go and he faded before my very eyes in mere minutes. The days that followed were difficult, but the years between I’ve held up strong. Until now. This last week I found myself revisiting the past. I’m not exactly certain why. Maybe it’s because of the ten year mark or because his ashes are no longer with me for the first time. Or, and this is most likely true, it’s because I opened myself up this last year more than I have in the past. Either way, I’m feeling it, and I’m rolling with the flow.  I see it as a wonderful healing process. One I may have denied myself in the past.

Since before I started blogging I knew I wanted to write about my father’s death for this anniversary. I thought I would focus on the moment I watched him slip away and what it felt like letting someone go. But I realize now that I want to focus on something else, his condition and what we can do to give support and inspiration for others that suffer the same plight.

With great love and respect I blow a kiss to my grandmother, but today’s for dad. Or more likely, what took him so early from this world. You see, my father had Multiple Myeloma. That’s a cancer of the white blood cells. From the day he was diagnosed they gave him three years to live.  It actually would have been shorter because of the way the treatments fought with his diabetic meds. But because of the fine people with their wonderful research at the City of Hope, he gained an extra year of life. They developed a procedure that allowed him to be his own donor. So one Christmas, my father and I stayed at one of their deluxe cottages while he was hooked up to a machine that filtered out his blood, purified it and filtered it back in.

It allowed him to live long enough to meet his grandson for the first time. Three months later I’d yo-yo back and forth, driving an hour between my dying father and my newborn every other day. I would do this for over a month and a half. When the time came, my father was ready to make his peace. Cancer doesn’t care if you are young or old, rich or poor. It will affect any and all. We were lucky that my father had filed many wonderful years behind him already. Not all are so lucky when cancer comes calling. In the end, he may not have been one of the success stories, but there’s plenty of amazing success stories heard every day. Several months ago another member of my family was diagnosed with stage 4. At the last check-up all was clear! If you know someone touched by the Big C (stupid cancer) or are simply inspired to help those around you touched by the disease, there are ways to get passively involved.

The beautiful chemo look

My father was able to be his own donor, but not everyone has that opportunity. One well known place to start helping is at the blood banks. You can be a blood donor. They need blood and they are always looking for those special donors who can provide universal platelets. But here’s something you may not have considered. Many of these patients spend a lot of time in hospitals or centers for treatments or during their illness; they are always looking for good reading material. Fresh new and used books in good condition for all ages are a welcome donation. For the little ones: clean, fluffy stuffed animals are also in demand.

If it’s someone close to you that is taking this path, there are six important things you can do to make it easier on them. But please – only offer these things if you are really ready to deliver. No one appreciates one who builds false hope.

Acknowledge – One of the worse things you can do when you know someone close to you is ill is ignore it and say nothing. It leaves that person feeling alone and isolated. Acknowledge the situation!  To cry together is far better than to be left feeling abandoned and uncared for.

Offer – There will come times when they won’t be able to do the things we take for granted, like a trip to the market, or the doctors. Offer to pick-up, or deliver meals, dry-cleaning, medications, groceries, or walk the dog. But remember, only if you can follow through. Offer up a specific day of the week or date to make your commitment blend better with your own schedule.

Listen – The road of chemotherapy is a rocky one. Be ready to be there to lend an ear. Always keep a positive attitude (very important).

Remember – There will be days when they are more down than others in the fight. This is when you must remember hope is a gift. Don’t push the hope or positive attitude on them, or you risk the chance of making them feel like a failure. Wait and remain open, and hope they will share their burden with you.

Guard – Privacy is an important thing and it’s up to them with whom they will share their condition. If you have been privileged and allowed into their trust, don’t share information with others without their expressed permission.

Ensure dignity – When life is kicking you in the shin, there is nothing worse than losing your self-worth on top of it all. Help them through reassurance. Let them see their value is still intact.

Like any difficult path, the one of cancer is made easier when there is love and support.  If those of us who are able create a checks and balance system to help those in need, catch them when they stumble, then maybe we help build hope for what the future may have in store.

Inspire * Encourage * Never Give Up

Ducky found the perfect cuddle buddy

Cancer doesn’t discriminate (above)

The Limits of Cancer     

Cancer cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot eat away at peace,
It cannot destroy confidence,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot shut out memories,
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot reduce eternal life,
It cannot quench the spirit,
It cannot lessen the power of The Resurrection.

—Author Unknown

>O<>O<>Basement<>O<>O<

Would you be here looking for a Row80 update? Hmm. Well, let’s see. This week I was sick, knocked out with migraines, in a slump over my dad, feeling low over my grandparents packing up and hightailing back to the east coast midweek, and playing the role of a single mom the entire week. Yeah, I didn’t get a whole lot done. :-/ I guess that makes this a super-fast wrap-up.  I let a Beta read my cleaned up chapter one. I made more changes to my second chapter and I only got halfway through editing chapter three. That’s where I stand.

I did get my three blogs out for the week, if you count this one. I held back on the Wednesday post since I was posting on Thursday for August’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest. I will go back to the regular schedule this week, but may fall back to the Monday, Thursday, Saturday night schedule after that so that I have more time for my WIP.  I’m looking forward to moving ahead with this new schedule and making great strides. Wish me luck!

O<>O<>O

Hope I didn’t bring anyone down with my Big C post.  I really tried to look at it with rose colored glasses. Have a fabulous Sunday! Blessings to all.

If you enjoyed this post or any of my previous posts, I’d be delighted to have you follow by email or RSS for any future posts. Likes, comments, and shares are also greatly appreciated.

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About Debra Kristi

Debra Kristi is a mother, an author, a Pinterest addict, and sometimes DIY home decorator. Hang with her to organize your everyday and leave your mind open to the fantastical.
This entry was posted in Dealing with Loss, Health and Body, Life, Row80, Tribute, Updates, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to 10 Years of Peace with his Cancer – Plus the Row80 Check-in

  1. alberta ross says:

    No not down – a good post for your Dad – he had that extra year and he saw your baby – so as he had to go that was a good time, with your permission – I’m sorry though that you couldn’t chose the song. I am a recovering cancer girl – 4 years now and fingers crossed every day.

    My Dad died in ’91 but I never had to make that descion it happened just as we thought he would make it – Good memories keep us sane and talking about the person especially to those younger than us keep them real

    all the best with coming week

    • Debra Kristi says:

      Congratulations Alberta. Knock on wood. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. Thank you for your kind words. You’re right, he did get all that. There never is a perfect time for those of us left here to recover. He handled it beautifully.

      I’m sorry to hear about your father. I’m thankful you weren’t put in that position of making the hard call. It’s never easy, even when you already know what you’re supposed to say.

      I agree, memories are important, keeping the person real and part our family always. That’s why I make sure my kids know who their grandfather was.

      Thank you for your well wishes. I wish the same for you. May your week be sunny and bright.

  2. Marcia says:

    So sorry you lost your Dad and your grandmother that way–such a horrible disease! i lost my Dad 5 years ago and also had to make the decision to ‘let him go’ and one year ago with my first husband, with whom i had remained very close. Both had heart conditions. It’s not easy to say ‘yes let him go’ and it stayed with me. Wishing you more peace down the road.
    Understandable that you got little on your list done, but you did make some progress and I hope you feel good about that. Hope you’re feeling better and wish you a productive week ahead!

    • Debra Kristi says:

      Thank you so much Marcia. I know you understand. I am so sorry to hear about your father and first husband. No illness, heart or other, is easy to come to terms with. Thank you for your well wishes. I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  3. Your dad had a really nice smile. Cancer just sucks so much. And the only thing you can do when it attacks someone you love is exactly what you did. Be there for them. And honor their wishes. However they want to ‘do this,’ whether you agree with their choices or not…even if they don’t want you there at the end. Which is what my father asked of my siblings and me because he didn’t want us to see him die. That was one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to do…sit home, over 400 miles away, and just wait for the call. All we wanted to do was be there. This August will be nine years. I’ve wondered if the tenth anniversary would be hard. But every year has been so why would that one be any different?

    I’m sorry you had to experience this milestone with so much other stuff going on. Being sick is hard enough but migraines on top of it… Hope you have a better week, Debra.

    • Debra Kristi says:

      Thank you Kristy. Wow, I’m so sorry to hear that about your father. I’m sure he thought he was both sparing you and his dignity. But I understand where you are coming from, you didn’t get your closure, your final goodbye. I have that same regret with my grandmother and uncle. Although, I wasn’t there for other reasons. *hugs*

  4. I don’t think there’s really any way to look at “C” with rose-colored glasses. It doesn’t hurt any less ten years later – and I’m sure not a day goes by that you don’t think of your dad. But wow, so wonderful that he was able to get treatment that kept him around long enough to meet his grandchild! And you have some lovely memories of him too – thanks for sharing with us! Don’t worry about the writing – some weeks it just isn’t happening. I hope you’re feeling better! It’s a new week, so jump back in when you’re ready – we’ll be here to cheer you on. 🙂

    • Debra Kristi says:

      Hi Jennette. I wasn’t talking about the loss of my father to cancer so much as what we can do for others still fighting the fight. That’s where I want to be positive. I believe that something good should come out of everything. Sometimes it’s just a whole lot harder to see it and it takes longer for the smoke to clear for it to be visible. Timing was everything. My son came just in time so that my dad got a few precious months with him. That was golden. Thank you so much Jennette. Bless you.

  5. I’m sorry for your loss, debra. I can’t imagine being in your situation and then the milestone anniversary overlaid by migraines. Clearly you had a deep and abiding relationship with your dad. and he honored you by letting go when you gave permission. He respected you enough to believe that you’d be okay. What an honor and a responsibility that you’ll acknowledge and carry forever. My heart goes out to you.

    • Debra Kristi says:

      Thank you Louise. I think he was just waiting for the okay. He felt such an obligation to wait out my grandfather to protect my inheritance which really wasn’t necessary. He was more important than such petty things.

  6. Debra,
    What a moving post. I am so sorry for your loss. I’m glad to know that you are allowing yourself the ability to heal once again. And I think that using your experience to help support others and spread the word is beautiful.
    Just this past week, my daughter’s uncle (by marriage on her father’s side) died of a very rare form of cancer. He had a tumor in his sinus cavity but it was so close to his brain and large enough that it was inoperable. In less than a year of his diagnosis, he lost his battle. He was only 34. I hope that in time, his wife will be as strong as you have been and eventually find peace as well.
    Don’t be hard on yourself about the ROW80 goals. We all have weeks that just don’t want to cooperate. I’ve had several! lol! And my professional opinion about migraines – they totally suck. But it looks like you are getting back on schedule and in the groove again. Good luck this week and hope you feel better soon!
    Jennifer

    • Debra Kristi says:

      Ooh Jennifer. I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter’s uncle. That’s so tough. I knew a wonderful lady many years ago who went to my church. She had one close to the brain. She refused to operate at the time because she was pregnant. By the time the baby was born it was too late and her life fell apart. Her husband couldn’t handle it and left. It’s so sad to see what this brings out in people. Their strengths, weaknesses, integrity, etc.

      It will take time for his wife to heal. It’s different for everyone, but it won’t happen overnight. I’ve had a lot of years with most of my losses. It’s a rollercoaster ride, full of its ups and downs where emotions are concerned. Hopefully, in the end she will find her spirit and come out strong again. Pray for her.

      Thank you for all your wonderful words, Jennifer.

  7. {{HUGS}} That’s all I can say about that 😦

  8. You didn’t bring me down, Debra. I found your post very moving. Thanks for sharing your painful, but beautiful story.

  9. Tears are good for the soul. Hugs, Debra.

  10. Karen Rought says:

    You are awesome, Debra. That post was beautiful! It reminded me of my grandmother who died of esophageal cancer when I was in 8th grade. I have some great memories of that time, though, because she never lost her sense of humor. No one is disappointed that you didn’t get much done this week, so you shouldn’t be either! I’m glad you let life take the front seat and that you had time to reflect on your father and everything that has happened to him. Great advice for those who are currently going through the situation that you’ve already been through. Way to pass around those rose colored glasses. 🙂

    • Debra Kristi says:

      I’m so glad your grandmother was able to hold on to her sense of humor through it all. That is an important ingredient to life. She sounds like she was an amazing person! I’m glad you got that time with her.

      Thank you for your lovely complements. It means a lot to me. 🙂

  11. artistlynne says:

    Your post shows an incredible journey of a very young and strong woman through a very sad and traumatic time in your life. New firstborn baby….. dad dying of cancer. Talk about UP and DOWN emotions! You never had the opportunity to truly express your grief before. This is a wonderful tribute to the life of your dad (and your grandmother) and a deep-down-in-the-soul expression of your love as well as your great sense of loss that he cannot be a part of your life today….although I think he really is. Thank you so much for listing all the ways we can help others that are going thru this terrible journey. Luv U Much

  12. artistlynne says:

    P.S. I can’t think of a more beautiful song!

  13. Thank you for sharing such a moving story with us, Deb. Life can be so unfair. We never know what’s around the corner. The best we can do is endure with grace and love and believe that better days are ahead. You have all those bases well covered. Take care on this most emotional of days.

  14. Your post brings back emotions of when my dad passed away. I wasn’t there. It was long, sad flight from California to Pennsylvania. With dad, It happened suddenly–complications from surgery–but he made it clear to my sisters and me (and in a written directive) that he wanted no extreme life-sustaining measures. My sister had to verbalize the difficult decision you faced. But, we knew it’s what Dad wanted. Had he survived, his life would have been one of dependency–far from what he wanted.

    My mom? She had been institutionalized with advanced stage Alzheimer’s for over a decade. Her death was bittersweet in that it was time for her to go home.

    What better way for you to pay tribute to your father than to educate me on how to handle loved ones with a serious diagnosis PLUS you used your experience as a call for us to help. I’ve put off registering for bone marrow registration. Your call to reach out touched me. Deeply. Add donate blood and bone marrow registration to my Row 80.

    Condolences and cyberhugs.

    • Debra Kristi says:

      Thank you Gloria. And thank you for stopping in. I’m so sorry to hear you couldn’t be there for your father. I completely understand the decision he made. That was what we were faced with. It came down to quality of life verses quantity. I don’t think I need to tell you which he went with. I would have done the same.

      Sorry about your mother as well. At least you know she was finally released for the shell that held her and was once again whole. My grandmother had a stroke in the end and was paralyzed down one side. She couldn’t move or talk. She ended up starving herself on purpose because she didn’t want to live that way. That’s no way for a person to have to live after having full use of their faculties for 80 some years.

      I think that’s great if you decide to donate blood. I uploaded a picture to FB the last time I did to prompt others. I think I only managed to gross people out. LOL

  15. I’m sending you lots of air hugs and prayers. I am so sorry that this last week has been so difficult, but thank you for sharing with us about your struggles and memories of your dad.
    Last week I had a 6 month check-up at MD Anderson Cancer Center here in Houston. I do not have cancer, but have some problems that have me seeing a specialist there. Every time I walk into that building I am blessed. Blessed by the courage of the human spirit, blessed by how people fighting for their life can still find a reason to laugh and help one another, and on and on. I love your ideas for helping those with cancer. There are so many organization that support this cause. No one seems untouched by this disease, thank you for sharing your story.

    • Debra Kristi says:

      I hope everything turns out alright Kara. Even if you don’t have cancer, there are other things that will concern them and sometimes push them to operate. I know, I’ve seen it. I am not on the regular watch list either. Although, not as extreme as what you have going on. I do have to go in every six months for the next few years. Let’s hope I drop back to regular status after that. I’ll be praying for you. You are not wrong though, there are many different forms of the disease that touch so many lives in so many ways.

  16. Thank you for sharing. Your post didnt bring me down but rather made me think about some things and some people that I haven’t thought about for some time. In my profession I have to keep a hold on my emotions and these things, those people will open my floodgates. It may be time though. So, thank you.
    I hope you’re okay.

    • Debra Kristi says:

      Thank you. Yes, you would have to detach yourself in your line of work a little bit. You see so much. We just had a family member retire from a state job a few weeks ago. I used to deal with the public on a daily basis. You meet all kinds. Some of them will use you for all they can get out of you. You always have to be on your guard. It’s so sad. But when you step away from the job, you need to fully step away and let that guard down or the job wins over you. Don’t stop feeling my dear. It will make you a better writer and poet. All of it will. The good and the bad. 🙂

  17. What a touching post, Debra. And what a perfect song! I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story in this way. It will no doubt help and inspire others. Good luck with your new schedule! No matter when your posts appear, I DIG them. 🙂

  18. Wow. Tears to my eyes. I am sending you a huge hug. Anniversaries of the death of loved ones is so desperately hard. I find some times, some years, some weeks I still mourn my Dad like it was yesterday even though it was over 20 years ago. And some years, I manage quite ok. What I’ve come to learn is that we grieve in different ways, at different stages of our lives. And that’s ok. Some anniversaries are harder than others. Some birthdays. Some occasions. I try my best to let it in, mourn, grieve and heal knowing that this too shall pass.
    I can’t imagine going through what you did. Know that we are all thinking of you and are here for you in whatever way you need. I LOVED your steps to helping support a loved one going through cancer or any other illness…wonderful advice that I will keep close to my heart!
    HUGS!!

    • Debra Kristi says:

      Thank you Natalie. You are always so sweet and kind. I know you understand. I can’t imagine losing my father at the young age you did. My heart goes out to you. {hugs}

  19. Aw Debra, I’m so sorry girl. I know your sorrow and empty place in your heart. I lost my father on April 11, 2000 to cancer, and every year on that day you still remember. Yet it is because of my faith in the future that I know I will see my father again.

    And fret about your ROW80 check-in. Girl I’d say you did mighty fine. I had a family reunion this week so I am behind with everyone’s posts. But I do plan to catch up, if that is possible? I hope so.

    I hope you have a better week. I know that you are extremely busy. I hope to chat with you soon! 🙂

    • Debra Kristi says:

      That’s a good faith to have Karen. I believe in it too. I’m sorry for the loss of your father. I understand loss and I’m here if you need someone to talk to.

      As for catching up on blogs – I don’t think you ever really catch up. The best you can do is jump back in the saddle and start visiting again. There will always be some that get missed. It’s the nature of the beast. Hope you had a wonderful family visit.

      Already doing better over here. 🙂

  20. Debra, I can only imagine how difficult it must’ve been to give your dad the peace he asked for. Your were both so fortunate to have that extra year to spend together and share your precious baby girl. May your dad rest in peace, no longer suffering from the cancer.

    I’m sending loving hugs your way.

    • Debra Kristi says:

      Thank you Sheila. It wasn’t has hard as you might think. When you see someone you love in so much pain, the last thing you want is to continue causing them pain. If you love someone, set them free – right?

  21. susielindau says:

    I have to admit to skipping over the Row 80 posts since I have tons to read every day, but I am so glad I read this. It’s great that you are writing a book about your experience. So many go through painful loss, but you are unique in that you were responsible for an infant at the same time.
    Excellent story and I am glad that you have remained hopeful! Such great advice!

  22. Debra, what a lovely post. I was honored to be with my father when he took his last breath, it was a moment of wonderful, transcendental love and I thank my lucky stars every day that I was able to participate in that moment. All my best wishes to you and your dad. I’m sure he’s still in your corner, cheering you on.

  23. Lena Corazon says:

    Debra, this is a beautiful tribute to your father, and a wonderful list of ways that we can all care for the people in our lives who have been affected by cancer. I send you many hugs, and all my love. Take care of yourself during this time of remembrance.

  24. Debra, what a wonderful, loving tribute to your father, your grandmother, and to all the people for who must face the big C in themselves or someone they love. There is no way to make cancer not scary, but you have given tools to uncounted people who needed them. I would say that outweighs any thing you didn’t check off your list, in a really big way. ((Hugs))

  25. What a beautiful tribute, Debra. As someone who recently had an anniversary too (thank you for stopping by and reading it), I whole-heartedly concur with your advice. Acknowledging and listening means so much to someone going through chemotherapy. Know you did the right thing for your dad.Good luck with the new schedule and WIP!

  26. Thanks, Debra, for sharing your tribute to your dad. I can’t imagine what you were going through ten years ago, when tugged between a new baby and very sick father. Your devotion to family comes across loud and clear as does your practical matter-of-factness with “six important things.”

    My husband and I have signed medical directives that request no resusitation if we pass. I expect my children to do as you did: to respect my wishes. What a wonderful daughter you are.

  27. andyholloman says:

    hey debra, very moving post, thanks for sharing the info and best of luck in your healing process

  28. Emma says:

    Hi Debra. This was a beautiful post. Your father was a lucky man to have you with him when he passed. Sarah McLachlan’s Angel is a beautiful song (I’m listening to it right now); it always brings me to tears.

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