The L Word
September 15, 2010
I finally gave up and decided that we both probably needed to go play outside for awhile.
Three months ago, my mom mentioned my dad's platelet count. Among probably a good five or six other things that were of concern. Ever since the roller-coaster ride of his heart surgery and multiple bouts of pneumonia, I haven't written much about my dad, I know. There was almost too much to say, what with the continued irregular heartbeat episodes, his permanently damaged lungs keeping him tethered to an oxygen machine 24/7, his diabetes, his hearing loss, the falls, macular degeneration, mysterious bruising, overwhelming fatigue, and the depression that inevitably comes when your age and body and health turn on you so dramatically, when the few simple pleasures you have left -- reading and watching baseball on TV -- are slowly slipping away behind increasingly cloudy vision.
He only leaves the house for doctor's visits, and there are so many, and there never seems to be good news or an all-clear from any of them anymore. Something else to watch and monitor. Suspicious growths that need to be removed, minor surgery to be performed, something new to be followed up on in three months, give or take the specialist's vacation schedule.
So I didn't really think much of the platelet count thing at all.
Instead, we all threw our energy into figuring out the house situation -- to get them into a smaller, single-level place, preferably one for seniors that would allow my mother some freedom for the first time in years, where she could feel safe leaving him for longer than it takes to make a furtive trip to Target Pharmacy for prescription refills. So the need for her own visit to her own doctor wouldn't lead to a tearful, panicked phone call because there's no one to watch your dad that day.
This lead to cleaning and purging and sorting and donating. Then came the discovery of expensive house repairs, at just how overwhelmed they've been in their small townhouse for all this time. Then we found out about a home equity line of credit and more debt than we were expecting. They'll only get how much for the house? The top-choice communities want how much upfront?
The next-door neighbor had a psychotic break and did WHAT out in her front yard? OMG, that would almost be funny if the whole situation weren't so terribly, horribly sad.
The house is going on the market on Monday. The follow-up visit for the platelet count issue was yesterday.
The doctor took one look at the bloodwork and ordered a biopsy performed on the spot. The results were definitive. It's leukemia.
The lab is now looking at the biopsy and we'll know the extent of the cancer by the end of the week, but his doctor was kind yet blunt: We are probably looking at something acute. The diagnosis alone means he is already officially too sick for the senior community they planned to move to. He is already saying he does not want to go through chemotherapy.
My mom related the information over the phone last night and I sat down on the floor. I felt like I was floating. I couldn't really cry. I remembered the time she told me about his throat cancer in a Taco Bell parking lot. The time I sat on the floor in my dorm hallway five years later and she told me it had come back. The time my brother-in-law called in the middle of the night to tell me about the aneurysm.
At some point, the calls drift together and aren't quite as distinct, even though they kept coming. A mysterious fall. A heart problem. We're at the hospital. At the ER. Headed to the doctor now. Diabetes. Skin cancer. Heart surgery. Pneumonia. Collapsed lungs and more pneumonia. Congestive heart failure. His eyes, his ears, his lungs, his heart, again. It was always something, he was always aging, always sick. Perhaps I'd started to just expect it, and the phone calls.
But I wasn't expecting this one. I just wasn't expecting it to be this.