Life consists of moments when you find yourself on top of a mountain and moments when you find yourself deep in a valley. Most of life seems to be lived somewhere between those two points.
As many of you know, our family has experienced a stretch in the valley for a few months. My dad, having dealt with colon cancer in the past, was diagnosed with lung cancer in late November 2020. A treatment plan was developed shortly thereafter. Eight days after formulating that treatment plan, my mother unexpectedly passed away with absolutely no signs of illness or distress.
She was the mainstay in arranging doctor’s visits, making notes regarding my dad’s health, communicating those needs with medical personnel, and keeping us kids in the loop. With her sudden passing, that chore fell upon her children, and we have sought to get dad to his treatments and other appointments, as well as attempting to help him adjust to this new existence without his bride.
Those adjustments have not been easy for him. We have noticed sharp declines in his cognitive abilities. We have known for some time that he was in the very early stages of dementia. That process has accelerated exponentially. The past few weeks have been filled with numerous days and numerous moments during those days in which he forgets that mom has passed away and calls my siblings to ask if they might know where to find her.
In addition to these mental struggles, the recent results of his cancer treatments have not been positive. He recently had a scan which revealed two new cancerous spots on his lungs. The immune boost therapy treatment they have tried has not been successful.
His oncologist has helped us understand the options we have at this point. I made a flying trip (literally) to Arkansas last week, flying into Shreveport, Louisiana, and driving to his home on a Tuesday, meeting with him and my siblings on Wednesday, and flying back to Pensacola on Thursday. The purpose of that visit was to sit down as a family to discuss options and determine what route dad wanted to take.
He is not a candidate for surgery. Radiation has already been attempted. The immune boost therapy was not successful. His options are limited. He could receive chemotherapy, or he could do nothing and let things play out from month to month, week to week, and eventually day to day.
He has chosen to not pursue chemotherapy. Instead, we will plod ahead and see what develops in the coming weeks and months. He is scheduled for another visit with his oncologist in late August, which we anticipate will lead to another scan in early September. Our hope is that this next visit and scan will enable us to know how rapidly the cancer is growing or spreading, which will help us make some other decisions that will need to be made at some point.
Dad is currently not in any pain. He made the statement more than once that he’s lived a full 77 years so far, that he misses mom terribly, and he’s ready to go when the Lord decides it’s time for him to leave us and be reunited with her. In that we find a measure of comfort for him.
Many of you have prayed for him, and we are appreciative of those prayers. Please continue. I’ll likely plan some time now and then to slip off for brief visits with him, especially as we get closer to future appointments or if we notice deterioration in his health. We desire to be as much of a blessing to him in this season as possible.
I also want to thank someone whose identity is unknown to me, but who I think might receive our church emails. This person has been tremendously kind in making such trips possible by sending a couple of cards with a simple message, “Go see your dad,” along with the means to do so. Thank you. I don’t know your name, but I do know that you are kind, selfless, generous, and a blessing. You’ve left me speechless, which is a tough thing to do. Thank you.
I’m thankful for all the support you as a congregation provide in allowing me the opportunity to jump in a car or on a plane and slip out of town for a few days to walk with my dad and siblings through this valley. At times the distance between here and there provides a little relief, and at times it provides a tiny bit of guilt. Thank you for enabling me to relieve that guilt by going to help, even if it’s just for a day or two..
Again, I’m most thankful for your prayers, and we would covet them in the days to come.