Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My dad died (part 2)

In this post, I talked about his initial diagnosis and day 1-Christmas Day 1992.

Merry Christmas to us-right!? Your dad has Leukemia, the prognosis doesn't look good, now go open your Christmas gifts. Not my idea of fun, nor anyone in my family!

After that first day, things looked pretty dismal. We, as his kids, had no idea. We were young and innocent. My sister was 8, I was 11 and my brother was 13. We didn't know anyone that was in the hospital, anyone that had cancer, or anyone that was "that sick". Over time, I’ve found out that my dad was given less than 2 months on that first day.

Boy, were we in for a shock! Yet somehow, it became the norm. After Christmas, it was time to celebrate New Year's. We always went to my Godparent's house, the Schuster's on New Year's Day, so what else would we do but go! Everything seemed quite normal except my dad wasn't there to celebrate-he was in the hospital. We skated on the rink, ate yummy food and enjoyed the company. And then, the ritual of visiting my dad in the hospital began. On our way to the hospital, we picked up KFC. I distinctly remember him saying that the hospital food was not good and he wanted something tasty to celebrate the new year.

So...KFC and a visit to the hospital it was.

Whatever family routine we had before my dad was admitted to the hospital was all thrown out the window. The new routine was school, bus home, then we'd go down to visit my dad. From what I remember, it was almost everyday, unless we went to a friend's house or had a sporting event. I know my mom was there daily, and can only imagine how exhausting that must have been-to watch the love of your life, the one you shared your most intimate secrets, the one who fathered your children, the one who swept you off your feet when you were a hippy-loving Californian-to watch him fight the battle of his life right in front of your eyes. I can't imagine, and I pray for those who have and are fighting like this with their loved ones.

From all indications and from how you'd think a normal family life would be, it was rough; yet when I look back I don't ever remember it being that bad. From my mom's standpoint though, I can only imagine it was horrible. Try going from being a mom, wife and homemaker who rarely paid the bills, much less knew anything about where they were paid to, out of which account and whatnot to being the bill-payer, mom and dad, dinner-maker, chauffer to the hospital, confidant to your husband, cheerleader for my dad, peacemaker during the chaos, and all else that comes with being a wife to a cancer patient and a mom to 3 young kids whose dad has cancer. It sucked. I can assure you of that.

Then, there's the pain. My dad was on a constant stream of pain killers as his body was enduring the vicious-ness of chemotherapy. Pain killers to dull the pain of mouth sores. Ever had a canker sore? They hurt. A lot. Now try having your whole mouth be a canker sore-hard to imagine...right? Another horrible side-effect: Chemo affects your cells. All of them, whether cancerous or not. Know what that means? Butt sores. Yep. I remember my dad having to sit on a donut-an inflatable little ring-in order to be able to sit comfortably. Glamorous! Just lovely. And these two things are just the pain-related items that I clearly remember. I know there were 100's of other things he had to endure throughout the struggle.

On a brighter note, with him being confined to the 4 walls of the hospital, it allowed others to love on our family. My dad received so much mail on a daily basis that they ended up giving him his own PO box in the hospital. All of the cards and notes he received were placed on the walls of his room to brighten up his day. We also received and outpouring of love and support through meals, people driving the 3 of us around town and to/from the hospital, as well as sleep overs and other forms of help. It's amazing the community you can build in an instant when something like cancer happens.

Back to the timeline:

November 1992-back pain

December 1992-fell off roof

December 25, 1992-admitted to hospital

December 26 or so, 1992-diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia

December 1992 to April 1993- in hospital receiving rounds and rounds of Leukemia in order to rid as much of the cancer as possible. Never once stepping out of the hospital…can you imagine not breathing fresh air for 4 months!?

As you can see from the timeline above, my dad endured almost 5 months of chemo and all the nasty side effects that go with it. He was on the 4th floor ICU at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, MN for the whole time. He never left the floor he was on in 5 months. No going outside, no riding in a car, nothing. Imagine that!? I can't. Watch life go by as you sit in your hospital room with a drip of poison in you all day long. Know what though? I never remember my dad sad or unhappy. I know it is something he must have worked hard at doing, but he was always the usual David George Guimond that we knew and loved. Same great big bear hugs that are closely mimicked to this day by his cousins, Gary and Randy O'Brien. Same loud laugh that he was so notorious for! Man, makes me want to bring him here right now.

To be continued....

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for linking to your blog...I read this post and my heart aches for you, because I know time doesn't necessarily heal all wounds. I lost my brother to cancer in 2009. It takes it's toll on the whole family, and our family is still living in the wake of grief and brokenness. I'm glad you are able to conjure up memories like his loud laugh. Knowing what people with this illness have to endure just to try to stay alive makes all of our petty hardships pretty insignificant, right!? Thanks for sharing.