I totally dropped off the face of the Bloggy Planet, and I'm sorry. I've been pretty good about reading, but a terrible commenter and I obviously haven't been writing on here. Please know that I'm keeping up with all of you and I'm thinking of you, even if I'm not writing out those thoughts. All will be explained. It's been shitty.
A week ago Monday, I woke up very early to catch the bus out to my dad's. He had a chemo appointment, and I was just going to stay out there till Thursday anyway since it was Christmas and there was a lot to do. I was not looking forward to the week. As I've been mentioned at length in other posts, Dad has been down, he hasn't been eating well, and his health has been pretty poor. We talked a few days before his appointment and decided that a) it was time for him to get a CAT scan to see if these meds were even working; and b) that he needed at least a week off from his chemo to try to recoup his energy and appetite.
I was dreading the appointment because I was worried that we would get push back from his nurse on taking off the week from chemo, and I was generally dreading the week because I had so much to do (Christmas shopping, cooking, present wrapping, dealing with my sis) and I worried that it would be a week of trying to buck up my dad which was increasingly feeling like an impossible job. I sat on the bus, waiting to leave Port Authority and I gave myself the Megs patented pep talk that I give myself before all things I am dreading/scared of. "You've got this. You have got this. You are Megan and there's just no way you can't handle this because you can handle anything." You get the picture. It's stupid, but it helps.
A LOT happened that day so I am going to give the shorter version otherwise this post will wind up being so, so long and probably boring for most people. Dad picked me up from the bus stop and we headed to chemo. He was really quiet in the car and when he did speak, I could barely hear him so I had to keep telling him to speak up. Please note that no one in my family is soft-spoken, we come from a long line of excellent voice projectors so this is unusual. I got pissier and pissier because I thought he was "just" depressed and I was starting to feel sorry for myself and how I have somehow become the goddamn adult in this family even though I'm the youngest and why isn't anyone helping me, and why is everything so damn difficult and blah blah blah.
When we got to the doctor's office and started walking in, it became clear to me that I was an asshole and my dad was very ill. He was walking so slowly and struggling to breathe.
"When did this shortness of breath start?" I asked.
"Um... just now?" Dad offered.
The nurse couldn't even get any blood out of my dad - that's how low his blood pressure was. I immediately told Mary, our nurse practitioner, about the shortness of breath, she took Dad's pulse (120!!!) and listened to his lungs. She shared her concern - that Dad might have a pulmonary embollism (blood clot in his lungs) and the best thing to do would be for me to take him straight to the ER at our hospital because they could give him the necessary tests immediately. Dad was NOT happy, but that's tough shit. They got a wheelchair, wheeled him down to the car and off we went to the hospital.
"Wow, you'll do anything to get out of going to Sissy's for Christmas dinner," I cracked. Dad laughed.
The ER sucks, people. I hate it there. The last time I took Dad, when he had his bowel obstruction, we weren't stuck down there for too long before Dad was admitted. It became clear pretty quickly that a) Dad would wind up getting admitted, at the very least for observation; and b) the ER was super busy. We were stuck there for over 6 hours before we finally got admitted to the oncology ward, which I realize isn't that long, but it felt interminable. Dad has an iodine allergy (which he developed from repeated exposure to the CAT scan contrast dye), so in order to get a CAT scan with contrast, he has to take pre-meds. That takes too long, so they had to give him a nuclear scan (super old school, but it works fine, it just takes a long time) to check for the pulmonary embollism (PE). So we wound up separated for nearly 3 hours, I got kicked out of our curtain area, they stuck me in a horrible, cold, smelly consult room which had an alarm that kept beeping and I couldn't get it to turn off. And then the nurses abandoned me, were short and rude to me, and never bothered to tell me when Dad was returned to the ER. I hate them all. And I should say that I love nurses - but this small handful of ER nurses on this one day? They sucked. Even once Dad got cleared of a PE and the doctor had said he wouldn't have to have any surgery, they still refused to give him any water or hook him up to an IV of fluids, until I started getting a little sharp (politely sharp, but sharp nonetheless) and convinced them to go talk to the doctor.
In the middle of this shit show, I called Sissy to tell her what was going on, and she was her usually stressball self. Not helpful.
Once we were up on the ward, all was much better. The nurses on the oncology ward are wonderful and kind and competent and I was so, so happy to be there after the nightmare in the ER. Dr. T's partner was on-call that day and she explained to us why she wanted Dad admitted and then the cardiologist came by and explained in excellent detail the various things that could be wrong and what had been ruled out. In the end, he felt fairly confident that the main cause of Dad's shortness of breath was his recent extreme weight loss and fatigue, which can cause muscle deterioration and can just make it that much harder for your body to do anything. But he wanted Dad to have more tests to thoroughly rule out any heart problems. And Dad would also finally have his CAT scan with contrast to check on the cancer.
I left Dad in the hospital that evening. When I got to his house.... well, I don't want to say I found it in shambles. For a lot of people, this would look normal, but my Dad keeps a tidy house and he never leaves dirty dishes. There were two dirty pans from Friday when I had made Dad french toast and bacon.... it was now Monday. That means that from Friday till Monday Dad did not wash two dirty pans. That is so, so unlike him. There was also a rotted banana that he had not bothered to throw away. I had talked to him on both Saturday and Sunday and he had done a good job of making me think he was feeling okay. Clearly he was not. And from what I could tell, he hadn't been eating anything other than Ensure. My first thought was "Hmmm, I decidely do not got this." And then I thought "I'm going to have to move home and take care of him, I can't leave him alone anymore." Jeeves pointed out that we could hire someone to come in and look after him and that calmed me down a little.
So, that's how my Dad wound up in the hospital until Christmas day when they finally let me spring him. Jeeves came out to NJ on Christmas Eve and helped me wrap the presents for Dad and my nephews. I spent a lot of time at the hospital. Dad got better while he was there, and ate more food than I've seen him eat in weeks. In the end, his heart and lungs look just fine. His CAT scan shows that his liver metastasis are stable, but the pelvic mass and the lymph nodes have continued to grow, so he's off the chemo for the time being. We'll see Dr. T after the New Year and he'll come up with something new. In the meantime, Dad and I talked about the things we need to do to make his life better/easier. We'll see.
Once we got Dad home from the hospital, he opened his presents and stayed home to rest. Jeeves and I went to Sissy's and had a really nice time with her and my nephews, who loved their gifts. We stayed at Dad's till Friday to make sure he was well and truly on the mend. He's been eating well and getting stronger.
The week was long, and exhausting, and stressful. But it was filled with really good things too, like the love and support of my husband, time with my nephews, Kate and her family who fed me and supported me, some new cookbooks, kind nurses, and deep, albeit short, sleep. We came back to the city on Friday and fortunately/unfortunately had no down time because my college friend Meg came to visit for three days and we went to my college roommate's wedding.
Tomorrow is New Year's Eve, and I hope the new year brings all of us many wonderful things and that we can say adios and good riddance to crummy 2013.