Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cancer sucks . . .

I wrote this 4 years ago on this blog. I decided I would share it again today since he passed away 14 years ago today. . .

Gary Romine. My dad passed away 10 years ago this fall. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1994 and had a radical neck surgery. The lymph nodes on one side of his neck were removed along with a large tumor in his tonsil that wrapped around the jugular vein on the same side of the neck. He went through radiation as a precaution because they did biopsies on his lung and were certain that they got it all. Later that year he started fainting and had some MRIs. They attributed it to scar tissue and he resumed work and normal life. He began to eat well and began purchasing natural products such as deodorant and toothpaste to avoid cancer causing agents.

My dad changed during this time. He was given another chance and was a better person for it. He lived for his family and friends. He became even more involved in our church. He apologized for the things he did while we were growing up. You see, my dad was super strict. He made me tow the line. He was all about earning your way, respect and following rules. It was a difficult childhood, but I believe I am better for it. I believe I had values instilled in me that I hope I can pass to my children. Dad, however was not an easy husband to live with. There were times when I was a teenager that I questioned why my mom stayed. Now as an adult, a wife and a mother I understand. You love someone and you deal with what comes. That was yet another value I had instilled in me . .. you don't just quit and leave, you fight for your marriage and you fight for your happiness. I suppose it wasn't until I was older that I realized what a strong woman my mom was.

Shortly after the beginning of 1996 my dad had another MRI. He was given the results to take to the doctor on Monday morning with him. Of course he opened them. IT said that he had a massive tumor at the base of his brain. What a way to find out. He was home, alone. I drove up shortly after he read this, and he collapsed in my arms telling me it was back.

He fought. He fought hard. The doctor's said there was nothing they could do. It was terminal and they couldn't do another round of radiation on the same area. Mom and dad began visiting clinics that specialized in experimental therapies to see if he could be accepted. One by one they denied him because he was too far gone. See, clinics such as this rely on good outcomes so that they can get their treatments approved. They need a high success rating. Dad would not be a good candidate for recovery so he could not participate. My parents decided that dad would go to Tijuana Mexico for alternative treatment. He received experimental and natural drug therapies. He was there for about 5 weeks. By this time he had a traecheotomy and a feeding tube. Dad was a fighter. I'm not so sure he believed that this treatment would cure him, but it definitely made the remainder of his life a bit better because his body was healthier and stronger. He did not simply waste away.

The tumor was growing through his throat and would cut off his airway. The doctors would go in, cut it back, but it would slowly grow back. Once the tumor began growing so quickly that they could not keep up with it, it had gone too far. Dad went into the hospital on a Wednesday morning. He was last aware of his surroundings on Friday evening. During this time he spoke with our pastor about his assurance that he would go to heaven. He didn't open his eyes again until about 2 minutes before he breathed his last breath. We didn't leave his side as a family. We were there from Wednesday to Sunday evening when he passed. That's how my family is . .. we are hospital sitters from way back.

It funny but I can remember every minute of those 5 days even 10 years later. They are embedded on my brain. It still seems so unreal to me, like I was living someone else's life even after all this time. I can remember the conversation the doctor had with us about not giving life sustaining electrolytes and basically making the decision to discontinue life support on Thursday morning. Even though dad had a living will that said he would not to sustain life above and beyond fluids, I still struggle with having to make that decision. You do feel as though you have caused death. I knew dad was fighter, but I knew dad wouldn't want to hang on for 3 more weeks with support simply to lay in a bed and waste away, but it still haunts me.

I gave the eulogy at dad's funeral. We buried him on a Wednesday. I still take my kids to the gravesite to visit grandpa Gary. I wish Robert had met him. They would've been close I think. I would've loved for dad to walk me down the isle, to hold his grandbabies, to see me grow up and become a wife and mom, to see me make a place for myself. I was 26 when he passed away, but I was still his little girl.

I love you daddy!


Jennifer said...

That was beautiful. I lost my grandfather to cancer last year and a great aunt this month. Cancer does suck.

Missy said...

This is beautiful post in honor of your father. I love hearing about good father/daughter relationships. You were blessed with a good father.

MomInTheTrench said...

What a blessing to know he's in heaven.

I am so sorry for your loss. My dad had throat cancer and died in 2007. It does indeed suck.

Susie said...

Sheri - I am just returning to work after 8 weeks of taking care of my husband in his final stages of cancer, which began with stage 3-4 in his neck in Feb 2008. The cancer metastasized to his brain, liver, kidneys, lung, abdominal cavity. His last weeks were spent mostly in a hospital. From 2008 until the day he died he dropped from 165 lbs to <100 lbs. He fought right up to the end and was my hero. I had to make many of the same decisions your family had to make with regard to life support with one additional one: he was being kept alive with medicine to increase his blood pressure to 80/50 during the last week. That was the hardest thing because he knew and agreed to go off the medication knowing he was going to die because of it. During the time you wrote this post, we were at the start of our last hospital stay. My husband slipped into a coma in the early morning of Saturday, September 4 and passed away peacefully and without regaining consciousness at 5:20 that evening. He was 52 years old with 4 children, 1 step daughter, and 4 grandchildren.

He was my hero and he took my heart with him.

Sheri said...

Susie, my heart breaks for you! Please take care of yourself, please hug those you love a little tighter, please, please know that while the hurt never goes away it does come to be easier to live with. Cancer truly sucks!