At the start of the year our-lives were thrown upside down. My Dad, my happy, healthy, big hearted, beautiful and much loved dad was diagnosed with stage 4 small bowel cancer. Months, not years, months.
I can't put into words how profoundly devastating it was to hear this news. My dad, who I believed would be here always, would always be at the end of the phone, 5-minutes away, just always be here, to see his grandchildren grow up; this idealistic notion was quickly shattered into pieces and reality hits.
Cancer, the devastating disease was destroying my dad's life, and devastating my mum's life.
Prior to his diagnoses, he had been ill for a few weeks, he felt fine within himself, but he was unable to eat without holding it down. He had a few tests which came back unconfirmed and we didn't know what was the cause. I never once thought it would be cancer, not once. My dad was healthy, he was well, but that is not how cancer works! Just after Christmas further scans and tests were carried out, but this time and for the first time, we heard the word 'cancer', which was tied in with the words 'tumor', 'inoperable', and 'rare type'.
The range of overwhelming emotions from feeling numb, is this a dream, this can't be real this doesn't happen to my parents, lack of sleep, nausea, no appetite - crying, I don't know where all these tears come from! Pure helplessness takes over, as well as just plain anger and panic.
His choices when it came to handling his cancer were extremely scary and intimidating. From the start, he opted for chemo and to also have an operation to fit two stents in his bowels, this was because of the tumor in his small bowels was so bad that he was literally not able to eat, everything was coming up. He only had one round of chemo, because the stents that were fitted caused infection after infection and he just wasn't well enough to have chemo.
The stents didn't work.
He had another operation a balloon inserted to widen the stents, but this didn't work.
He went from bad to worse and it got so bad, he was quickly starving to death, they had to fit a tube through his nose to pump the bile out (the bile was coming up and out none-stop) and a Gastroenteric feeding tube (to stop him from starving to death).
The surgeons wanted to do another (3rd attempt) operation to widen the stents, but my dad didn't want that, he'd lost faith in the stents working, he was fed up with the liquid diet he was on, he was fed-up with the infections. So he opted for an operation to move his bowels, to bypass the tumor that was blocking him completely, to give him some quality of life back with the little time he had left. This was a major operation and the odds were against him, but this was what he desperately wanted, and it was extremely scary. He'd put all his hope on this one last attempt to give him some quality of life back, so he could eat again, his last wish to be able to eat one more time at his favourite restaurant.
It was too late.
Although this operation was a success, he never recovered from it, and the cancer had spread to his lymph noids. And at this point, no matter what the doctors tried, they couldn't keep his potassium levels up. This is when the palliative team were introduced to my parents, this is when they stopped all treatment. This is when grieve comes crushing down tenfold, the sheer panic, the desperation.
Grieve was already there, grieve comes right at the start of the terminal diagnoses. Throughout the whole time, the grieve slowly crushes you and zaps you, until in the end you are functioning on numbness, anger and desperation.
To see someone you love slowly fading away and to know there is nothing you as an individual can do to stop the disease, makes one feel so desperately helpless.
My dad is at home now, where he wants to be, he is receiving end-of-life care. Since last week, he is refusing to take his medication. We are taking one day at a time.