Living with Cancer

Many people have told me that they can’t imagine how I am feeling. Some say they would never want to know and others, surprisingly, have asked me to try and explain how I feel. No matter how hard I try, I always come up short of describing what it’s like. How do you explain something they don’t even have words for? The best way I can describe it is to compare it to feelings I have had in the past and multiply them by a million. I was 24 when my dad was diagnosed and died of cancer. He was 51. I remember my cousin Keith driving to my house because he couldn’t get ahold of me by phone. He said your dad is in the hospital. I raced there, my mind filled with questions. I had just seen him the day before and he was fine. When I walked up to the hospital, my family was all outside crying. My stepmom couldn’t even tell me, she asked my uncle phil to explain. He told me that my dad had been confused earlier that day and when they did a cat scan they found numerous tumors in his brain. I was a nurses aide for a long time and worked hospice. I knew it was important to stay strong and be optimistic for my dad.  I knew he would be scared. I had myself all pumped up before I went in to see him. I remember walking down the hallway and telling myself smile, be positive, don’t cry. As soon as I got where he was, they pulled the curtain back and there he was laying on a bed in a hospital gown smiling at me, but uncomfortably fidgeting. I cried instantly. I couldn’t be the strong person I wanted to be. This is my dad and he was visibly scared. The man I loved more then anything in the whole world. It hurt me to my core to see him so nervous, so scared. Whatever THAT feeling I had is called when I saw him, that’s how I feel at any given minute everyday since Nash passed. Later that day all my brothers and sisters and I were all gathered in his hospital room. A doctor came in with test results and told my dad I have some news and I think it would be best if your kids stepped out of the room when I discuss this with you. Picture all six of us, and Peggy, and all my brothers’ and sisters’ spouses, it was a packed house. My dad told the doctor; “I’m going to tell them anyway, so I would rather they stay.” As the doctor started speaking, my gut wrenched. Hearing doctor after doctor come in and tell my dad that they found the cancer in yet another organ. I wanted to scream: “stop!!!! we get it!!! It’s bad!!! He is going to die!!! Enough!!!!” I didn’t say any of those things, I just watched my dad and our family get ripped to shreds. Our happy bubble bursting. Tears streamed down my dad’s face but he still looked at us smiling, trying to keep up some sort of front. He couldn’t fool us though. We knew our world had just changed forever. Whatever THAT feeling is called is what I feel when I go into Nash’s nursery. My dad went through chemo and other procedures for about a year when we were all called over to the house. I knew in my heart what this family meeting was going to be about. He sat in his chair and told us, he was dying. That the doctors told him to go home and be with his family. I sat there shocked, it was too much to take in. He looked at us and said, “can I get a hug?” I jumped up to hug him. I could feel his ribs through his robe as I hugged him but he still had that familiar smell I always remember my dad having, old spice and cigarettes. Whatever THAT feeling is called is what I felt when I held Nash at the hospital minutes after they stopped CPR. One day my grandma was visiting my dad. He had asked for her. I had always seen her as my grandmother, not my dad’s mom. I watched from the doorway as she came to the side of his bed and put her hand on his face. She said, “Dave, I’m here, mom is here.” I looked at them and the smile my dad had and thought to myself no matter how old you are when you are sick you want your mom. Looking at my grandma tend to my dad and that helpless look she had that she couldn’t fix it, is what I feel when I see Todd look at me since Nash passed. The day before my dad died is a day that stands out to me. I was sitting on the floor next to my dad holding his hand and crying. He was so weak, so skinny, I knew the end was near. My family was gathered around in the living room. I remember saying this isn’t fair. I’m not ready to lose him. Whatever THAT feeling is called is what I feel when I wake in the middle of the night thinking of Nash. My dad was in his recliner pretty out of it. He needed to be put to bed. My cousin Dennis is a nurse and he helped put my dad in another chair that we could wheel into his room. As Dennis went to move him, my dad startled. The scared look in his eyes, as he cased the room seeing all the family and trying to take in what was happening. That look haunts me. Dennis paused and said, “Uncle Dave, it’s me Dennis, I’m just going to help you to bed.” My dad smiled and patted Dennis on his back and then Dennis placed him in the chair. When they got close to his room I kissed my dad goodbye for the night and he looked at me and said, “I love you.” Whatever feeling I had then is what I felt when I placed Nash on the hospital bed and walked away. The day my dad died we were all in bed around him. My stepmom had him in her arms and he went very peacefully. I’ll never forget the look he had and watching the life leave him. Seeing his eyes focused and then not, THAT’S how it felt to see Nash for the first time when I got to the hospital. When the funeral home came and I saw them push the Gurney out with my dad in a plastic bag is how I felt when I saw the marks on Nash’s head from the autopsy. My baby boy who never even had a scratch, had a cut all the way across his head that was stitched closed. Now multiply all of these things by a million and that’s how I feel. I think back to those days with my dad and although it was extremely painful, it doesn’t touch what I’m going through now. I wake up every morning like you do after you have a bad dream that was just a little too real. The one you thank God was just a dream. Every morning I have that, except mine isn’t followed by relief, but the realization that this did happen. Not to a friend. Not to someone I know, but to me. In a lot of ways, I relate more now to what my dad must have been going through. I think of those many looks he had when he was dying and I can relate to that haunting feeling. Losing Nash feels like what I would think it would be like to be told you have cancer. That no matter how healthy you are, how young, how caring, how many kids you have, it doesn’t matter. This is your life now and you have to live with it. It may kill you or it may make you stronger. Either way you will look at the world differently. You are faced with your own mortality. You have to put all your faith into God right after you are given the worst diagnosis of your life. The very God you prayed  would protect you to begin with. You do though, have faith…..it’s all you have now so you hang on to it with the last bit of strength you have.

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4 thoughts on “Living with Cancer

  1. I can never finish one of your entries without tears rolling down my face. I am so sorry for the loss of your child! I pray for you and Todd and sweet baby Nash often! I know it has been a long time now, but I am also very sorry for the loss of your father! My mother passed from pancreatic cancer Easter Sunday 2 years ago, I was also 24. I pray that God holds you near!

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  2. Shelly, you have touched my soul. I know your feelings and live them every minute of my life. I feel so bad for you. Its not fair what life hands us and worse for the ones that keep living after the loved ones are gone. I can only say that with time it will get easier to live with the pain, as it will never go away. Go fore ward with your new life thats in you and on the way now and may God bless you and Jeremy. Your Dad was one of the goodguys.

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  3. The pain is still so overwhelming… The hurt never stop’s… My mother died September 21st 2008 my sister died the following September 25th 2009 ..1 year and 4day later..then 18 months after that my brother died in May the 10th..I had lost my father at the age of 15..so now I have lost half my family…..it all seems so unfair yet I am very thankful for the time I had with them and was very blessed to have been part of them…I wish I could tell you the hurt goes away..but I can’t.. I can only tell you God has made it possible to make it through each new day with his love and strength..I pray for you daily for God to hold you and Todd through this painful time in your life..I wish I could take all the hurt away..but I know that is impossible.. So I will continue to ask God to watch over you both..to hold you to give you strength and to know his love for you is unmeasurable.. prayers and love sent๐Ÿ‘ผ๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’œ

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  4. I have read every one of your post but have not commented until now. I really struggled with this one. We lost my dad to cancer almost exactly 1 year ago. I had to stop reading quite a few times so that I could calm myself down. I can relate far to much to this post. While I will never say that I know what you are going through with Nash, for those of us who have lost a parent this puts things in perspective on what you have to deal with everyday. You have been in my prayers since i heard the news. I don’t know you personally but am from Fenton and know quite a few people who are either related or close to you. Thank you for this post. You help others without knowing and I wanted to make sure you knew this time.

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