Hi Lisa Ann- I was drawn to your post intially because your story seemed so similar to mine. My wonderful Dad was only 69 when diagnosed.
He was so healthy all of his life... in August of last year he and I were building a fence at my house... in fact my Dad, myself, his friend and a neighbour built three fences. I secretly told the neighbour not to let my Dad do too much because he would end up doing everything. My Dad was just like that, he loved to work.
This time of year is a little sad for me because it is when he started complaining. He had pain in his legs. He ended up going to a walk in clinic, they took blood and gave him a prescription for a Tylenol 3 type of medication.
A few days later the clinic called and said he should see his family doctor, that the blood work showed an inflammation in his blood. We never anticipated anything more than arthritis, or rheumatism... he was 69 and pain would not be unusual. The doctor sent him for x-rays and the next day called my mom and scheduled a pelvic ultra sound as well as a bone scan.
My mom called me at work in a panic. I called the doctor's office to find out why they were sending him for these tests. The receptionist read the x-ray report to me saying that they found extensive metastasis to the bone and the suspected primary was prostate cancer. Lisa Ann... I was in shock. They aren't supposed to release information like that, but she did and all I could think of is if my Dad has cancer that has spread, he has no other option.
I shut my door and started crying... I am an only child, always had a close relationship with my parents and my Dad was and is my hero. I couldn't believe this... the unfairness of it, it was like being struck by lightning. My Dad was not only my hero, he was an amazing man... was kind, gentle, hard working, respectful, positive, he was and is my greatest teacher. I was so afraid of losing him.
The journey for him was not a long one. I was with him during the bone scan and saw white all over his images. I asked the technician if we could know the results then and she said she'd ask the doctor to speak with us. By the end of the scan she said she'd forgotten the doctor had a lunch time conference call. When we left, she squeezed my arm and told me to have a nice weekend... I'll never forget the look of sadness on her face. Still, I pushed it away.
The moment I realized my Dad was sick I packed my things and moved in with my parents. I live in my own home a half an hour away, but I knew they'd need me. I am still with my mom as she's had a very difficult time. I pop into my house often to check in, but do not have the heart to leave my mom yet. It's painful for me to sell my house because my Dad and I did so many things in it together... I had it built and every weekend my parents and I would see its progress. Every picture was hung by my Dad... he was looking forward to finishing my basement. Now it's so difficult to be in my basement, see my Dad's tools there and know that he isn't with us.
This was a Friday- the bone scan... we waited all weekend and had an appt. on a Tuesday. The results of the scan were not in and we waited as the doctor contacted the hospital. She came back in with the results and the look on her face said it all. English is not my Dad's first language, so I was there to translate. Lisa Ann, the words stuck in my throat as I had to be the one to tell my Dad he had cancer. He put his hand on my knee and told me not to worry, he'd be ok. I was crying, and he was comforting me... imagine that. At that time I felt more like a 3 year old, not a 39 year old.
He deteriorated very quickly... was in so much discomfort because he developed ascites. Went into the hospital one day because he was vomitting so much we were afraid he was dehydrated. They ended up giving him IV fluids and he needed a transfusion. His haemoglobin was so low, he could have had a heart attack.
They kept him for almost two weeks trying to find the primary. He went home and a week and a half later had to come in again for the same thing. This time they kept him in and he never left. They discovered he had CC, a Klatskin tumor that metastasized to his bones... very rare and rarer still that it went to his bones. I was able to get a consult with a leading oncologist who works in Canada/ US and he had some options for my Dad, but the outlook was grim.
Lisa Ann, the last two weeks of my Dad's life, my mom and I never left his side. It was heartbreaking watching his life slip away from him day by day. There was a day when there was a noticeable and drastic change in his appearance, and I knew the end was near. He passed away with my mom and I at his side, holding his hand. At that time I felt relief for him because his suffering was great. He was on medication that we were told was 40 times stronger than morphine. Yet, he was lucid up until the day before he died. His voice was barely a whisper, but he still managed to tell us he loved us.
It has been eight months now since he has been gone. There are good days and there are bad days. I've only started to post again on this site because I found the stories too difficult to respond to... it was like living it all over again. Your post reminded me so much of my experience and when you initially spoke of your dad's pain, I wanted to share my experience, because I didn't want your dad to suffer like mine did. The doctors told us that with the cancer my Dad had in his bones, they marvelled that he didn't complain... in reality, he must have been in extreme discomfort, but he never let on.
We can only speak from our own experience. I sometimes wish that for my Dad, that he would have had an instant death so that he wouldn't have to suffer. However, an instant death means that the individual and the family has no preparation.
There are still those heart wrenching days that I don't know how I will make it through. I've learned that you can cry enough tears that your eyelids will actually peel. I've learned that your mind and heart can be so heavy that the rest of your body stays still and you can actually forget to eat. I've learned that you can become so exhausted and spent at life that you can actually get past the point of being tired, and consequently, sleep never comes. I've learned that if you rely too strongly on any one thing without believing in your own power to heal and in your own heart, that the healing you do might be shallow and you might find yourself back to the beginning of your difficult journey.
I have also learned that although my Dad is not with me in the same way, his blood runs through my veins. That means that if I am quiet long enough, I can actually hear him whisper the wise words he always had for me. If I don't wish too strongly to see him, I can actually take notice that we are actually quite similar in appearance... those hands of his that represented strength, hard work, and honesty are actually my hands, only mine are smaller. That smile that was always ready to turn into a laugh is actually my smile, when I let my self go and laugh a little. The crinkles that were always punctuating his beautiful sea grey eyes are actually the same type of crinkles that appear beside my own earth brown eyes. The same crinkles that I wear proudly, not hiding them under make up, or making them disappear with cream, because I know that into their making went many stories, much laughter, and boundless happiness.
What brings me back to that "place" of peace that is present sometimes is remembering my Dad. I have his picture in my locket because wherever I go, I can look at his photo and that brings me comfort. I had a ring made with our family name on it so that on the days when I forget who I am, I can look down and see exactly who I am and where I came from... that gives me strength. At work I have photos of my Dad... I have a very stressful job that at one point would cause me much anxiety and now I have a different view- everything in my life that had caused me stress once before pales in comparison to what happened to my Dad- so his pictures at work bring me perspective.
His illness taught me unconditional love. His quick and painful journey to the end of his days taught me grace and courage. His attempt to fight and his surrender taught me dignity. His life taught me love and his death taught me life.
Those last few weeks of my Dad's life were so painful as I watched him slip away, but I can honestly tell you that they were the most sacred moments I have also experienced. Being with my Dad in his moment. I am honoured to have been holding his hand at that time. I imagined that I was holding his hand just until another loved one was ready to take it on the other side.
I wish your dear father, your mom and you peace and comfort.