Whitey Dog, Christmas and Dad’s Final Days

Lamp and Ball jarMy Dad loved dogs. So it was only fitting that a large, yellow-white dog showed up one day at the house. We called him Whitey. He roamed between the yards of Dad’s house and our neighbors. He was there as we helped Dad get into the van for a doctor’s appointment or ER visit. Upon our return, he ran to greet us. One evening carolers stood outside the patio door to sing for Dad. Here came Whitey, taking his spot beside a little girl who was usually scared of dogs but for some reason not of him. Dad quietly sang some parts to the songs under his breath. My tears flowed at the sound of his voice and the sacredness of the moment.

We finally made it to the chemo education appointment. Dad decided that he would not do the chemo and radiation. Hospice began to come to the house three times a week to drain his lung. He continued to not be able to eat. He lost more weight and weakened.

My sister, Cassie and her husband, Tyler came down from Minnesota for our last Christmas together. It would be their first time seeing him since his diagnosis. They stepped right in to care for him and for us. My sister cooked us meals, tended to Dad and even got to have her own trip to the emergency room with him. She came up with a great Christmas idea for us: we would get ornaments and pictures that represented some memories we wanted to share with him and go through them on Christmas morning. 

A few days later, it was time for her to say goodbye and travel back home. I can’t imagine the sadness and pain she experienced as she said goodbye to Dad knowing she would not see him again. He stood at the glass door watching as they pulled away. How hard for him, too.

New Year’s Day arrived. Nothing to celebrate. Dad finally realized he could no longer stay in his recliner and moved to the hospital bed. Close friends came to visit. He and Mom held hands a lot. One evening he seemed almost himself, making jokes and laughing. But that quickly passed, and he began to weaken even more. On Thursday, January 3rd, the hospice nurse told us she didn’t think he would make it through the weekend. His eyesight was gone and he wasn’t able to talk. But she said he could hear and we should talk to him. I noticed Whitey was now sitting at the patio door. He had never done that before. Mom and I agreed that he probably sensed something was wrong and wanted to be there. Later in the evening, Doug and I stood at his bedside and Doug read Dad’s favorite scripture, Psalm 100, to him. He also promised him that he need not worry about Kay; he would take care of her.

Mom, Doug and I all knew he wasn’t going to make it through the night. Mom asked Doug to move our vehicles in preparation for the funeral home director to be able to get in to remove his body. Around 2:15am, we three gathered around him holding his now cold hands and weeping. We watched each rise and fall of his chest wondering if it would be the last. At 2:44am on Friday, January 4th, Dad did breathe his last and his chest rested.

Through it all, Dad was never angry or questioned God. He walked by faith, knowing that Jesus would be in his sight when He passed from death to eternal life. Whitey was never seen again. I like to think he ran beside the vehicle carrying Dad as it was leaving the driveway and he ran until he could run no more.

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
(English Standard Version)

Posts in this series:
Impending Doom and Dad’s Diagnosis
Food Fights and Cancer Staging

Food Fights and Cancer Staging

autumn autumn leaves blur close up

Photo by Vali S. on Pexels.com

“Dad, you are going to have to eat if you want to beat this,” I told him. His appetite was already decreasing and he hadn’t started chemo yet. He tried to eat, but his favorites no longer tasted good. Sometimes food would get caught in his throat. The white trash can beside his recliner was his new best friend. He coughed up phlegm over and over, sometimes it seemed like for hours.

One of the hardest things for me was to watch someone who loved food no longer be able to eat. He tried to drink Ensure, but dairy products worsened his phlegm issue. I was angered by his inability to eat. Did he not understand, if he didn’t eat, he would never make it through chemo? I pleaded, “Dad, please, just a few bites.” I threatened, “If you don’t eat, you’ll have to have a feeding tube.” Finally, I had to resign myself to be happy with two bites of jello. He tried. He really did. There comes a point when it’s no longer worth arguing over.

On October 30, we met with the oncologist. She staged his lung cancer as Stage 3. This stage seemed doable and hopeful to us. She was confident, that with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation, he would be able to beat it. Before anything could be started he had to go through Chemo Education. We scheduled the appointment. He wouldn’t make this one, though, because of an infection. Later we learned the cancer could have caused a false positive for it. Days continued to pass with no treatment.

The day we returned for Chemo Education, Dad was very sick. He was weak. His breathing was labored. The nurse walked us to the conference room to discuss the chemo/radiation plan but I stopped her before she could start.

“Look, my Dad is not doing well. He’s having a hard time breathing. We don’t know what to do.”

She asked a few questions, left to speak with the oncologist, and returned to tell us to take him to the Emergency Room. This would be the first of a few ER visits. Once again Chemo Education was rescheduled. Mom and I spoke privately about the chemo. For whatever reason, it seemed God was keeping him from it.

There were two ER visits that week. He was finally admitted to the hospital on the second one. That weekend we learned through the pulmonologist just what malignant pleural effusion meant. This was one of his symptoms from the lung cancer. His cancer was now in the fluid lining his lungs. If you Google it, as I did, you realize it’s prognosis is poor.

“Doctor,” I said, “we just want someone to be honest with us. What are we looking at here?”

“Well, I’m not an oncologist but anytime there is cancer in the fluid it is Stage 4.”

Silence. Stunned silence.

Dad responds, “But she said it was Stage 3.”

“She is wrong,” the pulmonologist stated emphatically. “It is Stage 4.”

We stare at him in disbelief. Tears well up. Somewhere in the conversation six months to live was mentioned. Those words changed everything.

To be continued.

Posts in this series: Impending Doom and Dad’s Diagnosis

Impending Doom and Dad’s Diagnosis

yellow notebookUrban Dictionary defines “Impending Doom” as apprehension or a feeling that something bad is about to happen. For several weeks, I was hit with this feeling-a heaviness of spirit intermingled with thoughts that indeed something bad was about to happen. I questioned myself: Is it Dad? Is he going to have another heart attack? Is he going to fall again? Is it my Mom? Is Granny going to die? Is Doug, my husband, going to be hurt? What would we do without his income? What if it’s me? Over and over this heaviness came in waves. For those who have experienced it, you understand what I am talking about. Then something unrelated to my family or health issues occurred. It was dramatic to me and I assumed this event was it. The feeling of apprehension left and life continued on.

My Dad had been dealing with breathing issues for several months. He was finally diagnosed with COPD and put on medication. Yet, his breathing worsened. He was referred to a pulmonologist. She discovered some issues that needed further investigation. On October 6, 2018 my Dad had his first PET scan. Almost two weeks later, on October 17th, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. This was the impending doom. 

I suppose, just as there are stages of cancer, there are stages family members and friends go through with their loved one. I will be sharing my stages. Initially it was disbelief, only to be short-lived and quickly followed with a fighting spirit that says “We can beat this.”

I bought a little, yellow spiral notebook to record the future doctor visits. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to fill it with many visits. Cancer is funny that way. I call it “The Beast.” Some survive it, some don’t. Some can handle the chemotherapy and for some it is the chemo that kills them. In the end, we make our battle plan to fight this beast, but the Lord in His sovereignty still controls the outcome.

“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”
-Daniel 4:35 ESV

To be continued.