First off, let me apologize for my blog silence over the past couple of weeks. I wish that I could say that it was because I was off on some fabulous family vacation (I wasn’t) or even because I just had nothing to say. It’s not, but I promise that it was for good reason. Please know that I did talk to my family before writing this, and they are good with it.
This is a post that I wish I never had to write. That way, I would have continued on in my little bubble, enjoying the hot sunny weather and pretending not to make plans in my head about Q starting Kindergarten in the fall. Although not perfect, things were not bad either. Sometimes, though, life has other ideas, and BAM! Things can change in the blink of an eye.
It all started a few weeks ago. My mom asked if I had noticed any changes in my dad and told me about a few things she had noticed. she said it seemed like his personality had changed and that he was much more laid back than he had ever been. I agreed, to a point, but for the most part, aside from being a bit forgetful, he was pretty much the same. Then one day, we stopped by for a visit before heading out in our anniversary trip to Whistler the next day. Dad was in his chair, not unusual, but what was strange was his demeanor. He was laid back to the point of almost seeming sleep and dopey. When we were leaving, my mom told me that they had been to the doctor the day before and that she was running some tests, a blood work up and a CT scan. Mom also told me not to worry, and that she wasn’t worried. Of course, being me, my mind was filled with thoughts of Alzheimer’s and dementia and of course I was worried. How could I not be? But I felt that my mom’s calmness should be my guide too, and tried to put it to the back of my head while we were away.
Fast forward a couple of days, and it was our last night in Whistler, and the night before our actual anniversary. I had been thinking about booking us in for one more night, so we could celebrate and really enjoy the day without having to run home. My phone rings, and it’s my mom. “How are you?” she asks. “Are you done dinner?” “yes”, I tell her, “we just had Mexican food”. “Oh good” she says. ” your Dad is in the hospital with a brain tumour and he’s been admitted. I thought you guys might like to stop by the hospital to see him on your way home.”
“A brain tumour?” At this point, my brain stopped. Braintumourbraintumourbraintumour. That’s all I could hear. “B, I just thought that it would be good for Q to see him before…” Before what? BEFORE WHAT? My brain is screaming now and I feel like I can’t talk or breathe. I’m silent, not because I don’t care, but because nothing is coming out. Tears are streaming silently down my face as the thought, the awful, horrible thought, of life without my dad hits me square on in the face. “…before he has surgery, as that’s probably what is going to happen” my mom continues, unaware of the shrieks in my head on the other side of the phone line.
That night I cry. I cry for my dad, and for my mom, and for myself. I cry for Q, who adores his Lolo more than anything. I cry for the thought that he may not grow up with him in his life. I cry for the worst-case scenario and for the unknown. My husband tells me that it’s going to be ok, that my dad is tough. He’s a fighter and not to write him off. in my head and heart I know this. I just don’t seem to be able to process it. The tears flow off and on that night and the next morning. How will we explain this to Q? Will he understand?
Later the next afternoon, we are finally at the hospital. My dad is at a bed in the hallway in the Neuro ward. In the hallway. He seems a bit confused but is happy to see us. I decide to send the boys home so Q can make it to football practice and stay with my mom and sister to wait for the surgeon to come by. When he finally does, it’s fast. He walks by the bed “the scans look god. The tumour looks good. Surgery will be on Friday” and with that he was gone. The tumor looks good? Say what? how the hell can a tumour look good? The doctor is pretty sure that it is a meningioma, which, if you are going to have a tumour on your brain, is the “good” one. He also thinks it looks benign. At that point, I allowed myself to breathe, just a little. This was good. Dad was going to be ok. When I speak to M on the phone on the way home, he asks what the doctor said, and when I tell him, he says that this is good. That Sheryl Crow, the singer, had the same kind a couple of years ago. That this could be treated successfully. That the outcomes looked good.
Still though, it was major, huge surgery. The next few days pass in a blur. 2 hour round trips to the hospital with a 4 year old in tow. Expensive parking, which seemed almost predatory. Runs down to the Tim Hortons in the hospital for snacks. Worry. Dad seemed better once he got into a room, more settled somehow. All the while though, Friday looms in my head. I force myself not to google it. To focus on what was in front of me and directing every ounce of positive, helping energy I could muster up for my dad. To pray, and ask and beg other people around me to do the same thing. To believe. In the surgeon, in my dad and in the universe. My dad said that he had faith, and knew that God would take care of him. He was strong in that. I owed it to him to be the same. My dad taught me never to give up, never to quit. To be strong and tough. And he was. Throughout this whole thing, he and my mom both have unflinchingly believed. How could it turn out any other way? I wrote vague Facebook statuses asking my friends to send me thoughts and energy and prayers. They did. Friends of friends prayed for my dad. Everyone came out in force. One day, when longtime friends of my parents were leaving the hospital after only a short visit, apologizing for not coming for longer, my dad replied “why? I’ve got at least another 40 years! Are you writing me off already?”
As for Q, he takes it in stride. He is happy to spend time with his Lolo, and sit with him on the bed and watch TV or play with his DS or someone’s phone. He charmed the nurses. It was as though he knew what we, what I, needed from him and gave it the best he could.
The day of Dad’s surgery, Q and I headed in to the hospital a couple of hours before to hang out with him. I tried to keep my mood light, even though inside I was wracked with fear, a fear deeper than I have words to express. I knew that he woud be ok, but the “what if’s” were eating away at my mind. I made sure to make sure that no words went unsaid. I told dad about a billion times that I loved him. He told us that he could feel all the prayers that people were saying for him, and that it was bringing him comfort and strength. So if you were one of those people saying a prayer for him, or sending good thoughts or healing vibes, thank you. We know they were heard and received.
We stayed with him until the orderlies came to bring him down to the operating room. We followed him into the surgery waiting area (at least that is what I called it), where he continued to tease the nurses. We sat with him when the anesthesiologist came to prep him and when the surgeon drew on his head to make sure he got the right side. Then it was time. I tried to hold it together, and although my eyes brimmed, no tears fell. We were told that the surgery would take about 3 hours, and the surgeon assured us that he did “2 or 3 of these every week!” like it was no big thing. Since it was almost 4:00 when dad when in, and we knew that he would have to spend a few hours in recovery afterwards, Q and I head home to wait. Thankfully I had a dance class scheduled for that night, which I hoped would help with the stress and give me something to take my mind off of the surgery.
At just before 7:00, I get a text message from my mom. Dad was out of surgery, it went well and she would be able to see him in about half an hour. I literally jumped for joy and gave my friend the biggest hug. He would be ok. HE WAS GOING TO BE OK!!! All of a sudden, it felt as though the world was lifting off my shoulders.
The next day, Q and I went to see him. We knew that we couldn’t stay long, but it was important to be able to say hi. Traffic was bad going into town, and when we got there, the ward was closed for “rest time”. Mom, Q and I went to see Turbo, which was a great way to take everyone’s mind off of the stress of the past week. When we got back, dad was already in his old room. Although he had a big bandage covering the front of his head, and a train coming from his head, he looked good. His face was swollen, but it looked a lot better than I expected. I had no clue what to expect from him less than 24 hours after brain surgery, but what we found was not at all what I had thought. Dad was chatty, happy, and even thought he was in pain, in good spirits. It was another relief to see.
On Tuesday, only 4 days after his tumour was removed, he was discharged from the hospital. All told, he was in for one week and one day. Apparently the doctor came into dad’s room, pointed at him, smiled, and said “you’re good”. Dad told the doctor that he owed him his second life, and the doc replied “no, you owe me a cup of black Tim’s coffee”. It was a done deal.
Since then, there has been a lot of adjusting happening for everyone. Dad can’t be out, or around loud things, or do much yet. But every day he is getting stronger, and remembering more. His wound is healing, and his hair will grow back. He is my dad again, the dad I know and love, and not the shell of a man that I feared he might be left as. Although it will take a while before he is back to his ballroom dance class, he is more alert, engaged and aware than he has been for a while. The confusion is gone. His hearing and sense of smell are coming back. His follow-up appointment with the surgeon this week went well and although it’s going to take a while, he’s been cleared to start getting back to a daily routine. No driving for a while, but that’s ok. He’s smiling, and grateful for his second life. And we are grateful to have him.