Well. It has been an interesting start to the year.
I’ve been on the fence about how much “personal” content to post here, ever since I started this blog over a year ago. Not that I don’t want my posts to be personal—certainly, I’m not a robot, and don’t want to sound like one—but topic-wise, I’ve largely gotten away from daily journal, day-to-day posting that I did in the past on my blogs to focus exclusively on food topics here.
I think everyone will excuse me for this particular deviation, though…
Every once in a while, life will throw out some curve balls. My family has unfortunately been at the receiving end of many when it comes to adverse health conditions over the past 10-15 years or so.
I thought we went through the worst of them with my mom’s kidney failure, which culminated with her transplant in 2009, but in 2016 my mom had a stroke and my dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, starting the cycle of hospital trips all over again.
Fortunately, at that point, the doctors felt that they caught my dad’s cancer early enough. After two rounds of chemo and radiation that year, he beat it, and as of fall of last year was still cancer free after a routine follow-up scan was performed. He still had other issues, including COPD from years of breathing in various cleaning chemicals at his job and a heart problem that was going to need to be addressed with likely a stent and a heart valve repair or replacement at some point, but we were relieved that the cancer seemed to be behind him. My mom had also improved from her stroke and was able to live a mostly “normal” life again. She can drive, read, write, and speak fine although her speech can be better or worse, depending on the day or on how much she practices. (Dave likes to playfully chide her for not doing her speech therapy homework on a regular basis.)
So when my dad went to the hospital this January to see about the stent and heart valve procedures, most of us expected this to be just another “blip” in the road.
The doctors were able to do one of the procedures successfully, but they didn’t continue with the other after they found some suspicious lesions and follow-up lab results were also looking out of whack. They suspected either esophageal cancer came back or multiple myeloma developed, but a biopsy was needed to definitively say what it was and how to proceed.
Both cancers, based on recent research from the American Cancer Society, are considered rare when compared to the more “common” types of cancers: lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate. The ACS estimates that the lifetime risk of getting multiple myeloma for a person in the United States is 1 in 132 (0.76%).
He was on the fence about the biopsy—from what I understand, it’s a painful procedure involving a needle in the spine to collect samples—but mom and I were able to convince him to go so we could know for sure what was going on. Whatever type of cancer it was, it developed aggressively over the 3-4 months since his last scan so the biopsy, although painful, was important.
The doctors were able to perform the biopsy and confirm it was multiple myeloma, likely at stage 2.
Things deteriorated rapidly soon after and for a variety of reasons; among them, he stopped eating and drinking, and developed pneumonia.
Some days during that period felt really long, and others slow. We waited for his pneumonia to improve one week while his nutrition worsened, and when both seemed to get better it didn’t last long, or something else would look odd with blood work results. We were on a roller coaster of trying something, then waiting to see what would happen, and waiting and waiting some more…
As hard as it was to admit, I knew in my heart as the days and weeks went on that things weren’t going to improve. He was in the hospital for about 8 weeks before getting transported to hospice care closer to come, where he was for just a day.
On March 31, he passed away, just a few days before what would have been his 68th birthday on April 4.
Coming up on almost two months since my mom called me that day, a beautiful spring Saturday morning, to give me the news, it’s still hard to comprehend how fast everything moved. Those few months of traveling to and from the hospital, to and from rehabilitation centers, and having countless discussions with doctors and others moved very quickly, and now feel like they happened so long ago. When I slow down and take time to reflect and remember that we’re only six months into the year, I’m baffled all over again about the time. I guess it’s hard to explain the passing of time and events when you’re going through so much in a compressed period.
So, I’m taking a day at a time.
Writing has always been a go-to outlet for me—this blog and the others I had before, various forms of journals, lists, and notes all included—to help slow down and put thoughts, ideas, and feelings to paper. Lately, slowing down has been the primary challenge for me before I can do anything else; I’m still finding ways to process everything and get back into routines again, a day at a time.
I do know that making routine posts here is still a goal of mine. It was never even a question.
On that final note, I’m excited to share all of the things that Dave and I have been doing and things we’re cooking or creating here at our little farm home, which continued to happen among all of the havoc. Namely, the patio that Dave worked on expanding on the side of our house over the course of a few weekends, and our gardens that are starting to take shape, with more projects to come over the summer months. Unfortunately, no farm animals yet (boo), but we keep talking about the idea of getting some chickens, goats, or other furry creatures one day.