Spring, in my part of the world, is a time of warming weather and rapid plant growth. Bees buzz around beautiful, blooming flowers collecting nectar, and birds sing in the trees.
Plants send out tender green shoots and tiny leaves unfurl and seem to grow larger in hours instead of days.
In the face of all this vitality and life it is especially hard to see my dad decline. He was diagnosed late in May of 2011. So last spring, before we had any idea what was going on, the cancer in him was growing. You can read more about it here. He has now been through a series of grueling treatments. He was on a feeding tube that has been removed and he’s eating again. But the illness, chemo and radiation have all taken their toll.
This life limiting illness has been terrible and it is rough watching my dad suffer. My mom has been right there with him, his partner and caregiver through every minute. Even the five days when he had C. diff. and was in the hospital she was by his side for part of every day. That was not a respite because he was so sick and we were so worried – anxiety is not a restful state. It is hard seeing her suffer too.
Now he and my mom have decided to stop the treatment and he is at home under hospice care. A scan in November showed that the cancer that started in his esophagus had spread to his lungs. He isn’t eating very much and his strength and stamina have diminished. He sleeps a lot. Cancer and the treatment he received have aged him. Chemo has taken most of his hair, beard and mustache. He has lost weight and he doesn’t look quite like himself.
Yet I’ve found that I get used to each change. I see the wispy hair and hear the raspy voice but in spite of that I see my dad. He is funny and ornery. He is social and loves having his family and especially his wife close by. We sit by his recliner in turn and visit with him and hold his hand. We bring meals and recently most of the family gathered for a potluck Easter brunch. Those who couldn’t make it for brunch visited within the week.
Though I’m in a choir that sings for those on the thresholds of life, he doesn’t want me to sing for him; he wants me to make him laugh. I save up funny stories and recount them with animated expressions and silly voices. He likes to tease and he calls me a smart mouth but I believe he likes that I’ve learned it from him. He loves their dog, Molly, and enjoys watching her antics.
I heard someone use the term “pre-grieving” or anticipatory grief. We feel sad about what has already been lost and as we anticipate the further loss. I have two thoughts about anticipatory grief. First, I DO feel sorrow, especially when my caring boyfriend or a friend offers a concerned ear. But most of the time I need to make some space for myself away from the sadness. I don’t mean in a stuffing-down-my-feelings way but in a putting-them-to-the side-so-I-can-function at work way.
Most importantly: my dad is still here. I don’t want to put a lot of focus on grieving. I want to make the most of every visit to be with my parents without adding to their anxiety or worries.
This is where the keeping busy comes in. I do my best to maintain a regular physical exercise routine. In a good week I workout at the gym three mornings before work, attend a Jazzercise class one evening with one sister (though she goes more often) and walk every Saturday with my other sister.
Another stress-management tool is my crafting and blogging. Sitting at my wonderful new desk and spending time creating something is a great distraction that takes my time and energy and results in something that gives me pleasure. Making something with my hands is usually very calming and brain relaxing. I sit focused on a project and everything else fades away…at least for an hour or two.
Even though having a loved one fighting cancer has become a lens through which I see things, I know that there is still much to celebrate. I know my dad wants us to be happy.
Having this blog has been an outlet for me to express and share creative ideas and also to connect with friends and other creative people online. Being able to communicate the experience of my dad’s illness here with you means I’m able to ease the burden of sadness because I’m not carrying it alone. The love and support I receive in return is a blessing.
I saw this quote on Pinterest recently and printed a copy for my parents which is now on their fridge. I need to print it out for myself:
Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. ~ Unknown
Thank you for stopping by. Thank you for your support.