Tasty Buttered Toast

Quips and Quandaries from a re-employed house husband

And I Walk The Long Road

My father has always been a strong man.  Not one to cry, even when in immense pain, he would just bear down and take it.  I wouldn’t call him a very emotional guy either, at least not on the sad end of the spectrum.  He was definitely one to be proud of his children’s accomplishments, typically one of the loudest parents on the sideline at soccer games or volleyball matches.

That’s why it KILLED me when I sat down in my dad’s office at work and asked him what he wanted for Father’s Day and he got all choked up and started to cry.  It was late May and I wanted to get him something special, more specifically, something that he really wanted but I didn’t know what it was.  I just sat there, not knowing what to say or do while he gathered himself.  He took his red handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped his eyes and nose.

In between gasps for breath he said “Save your money.  I don’t want anything for Father’s Day.”  When I asked him why all he could do was tear up again and lightly say, “I don’t want anything for Father’s Day because I don’t know if I’ll be around that long.”

He was diagnosed with Stage 3 Small Cell Lung Cancer on January 24, 2005.  He had been a cigarette smoker for most of his adult life, having quit some 5 years prior after he had a fairly severe heart attack.  He had changed his diet, started to exercise more, basically doing all the things his cardiologist had told him to do to get healthy and now he was delivered this.  The whole family was there for the news and it was decided that the best course of action was to get in right way for chemotherapy and radiation since the tumor in his lung was inoperable.  He had less that a 20% chance of surviving the first year and less than a 5% chance of being cancer free.

In the face of such adversity I’ve never known him to be so strong.  I realize that someone going through Chemo typically isn’t viewed as being heroic, but to me he was.  He knew the nurses were pumping him full of poison, but he also knew that poison was his only chance to extend his life for his family.  Truly one of the most selfless acts anyone can do.  Purposefully poisoning themselves for the family, I really commend him for that.  Keeping food down was difficult; he started losing weight like crazy.  The pain would get so bad that the big, burly man that used to be my father was now a brittle, shell of a man that would yelp in pain if you hugged him too tight.

Kate and I were married on June 23rd, the day before Father’s Day.  He was there to celebrate with us as best he could.  Dressed to impress, he even made it out on to the dance floor for a few spins with Kate.  By now we knew the first type of Chemo wasn’t working and other options needed to be explored or change gears and focus on pain management.  My father being my father felt the need to try another form of Chemo, regardless of what it meant he had to go through.

After the first few weeks of this new type of drug therapy it was discovered that the cancer had spread throughout his entire skeleton and another tumor had formed on the base of his brain.  No amount of Chemo or radiation was going to make this go away and it was decided that the doctors would do their best to make him as comfortable as they could.

My father celebrated his 49th birthday on August 9th, 2005.  His whole family was there, numerous boating friends from over the years, and even a few old friends from high school managed to make it for the party.  By this time he wasn’t able to walk much anymore and could only get around on a motorized scooter.  His speech was starting to slur due to the pressure on his brain, but his mental fortitude waged on and even though he was hard to understand at times, the one liners’ rolled off his tongue as smoothly as they had only a few months prior.

He died in his home 5 days later with his family around him.  Kate and I were able to say our goodbyes before she took me to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy… but that’s a whole different post for a different time.  I believe he is in heaven, no longer has cancer and is able to enjoy all that heaven has to offer.

I take comfort in that when the anniversary of his “going home” as we like to call it, comes around.   We take a trip out to Lake Michigan, where we spread his ashes, for a little visit.  I usually have a brief one sided “conversation” updating him as to what is going on and what he should keep an eye on.  This year Ed will know that he is at the beach, I look forward to telling him all about his Grandpa Steve and explain why we had to the lake every year around the same time each August.

This post is part of the Cancer Sucks Blog Hop… Please check out the other posts HERE.


Single Post Navigation

17 thoughts on “And I Walk The Long Road

  1. We should introduce your dad to my grandfather up there in Heaven. I think they might have fun together.
    This is a lovely tribute post, sad to read but your dad’s love of life and family shines through.

    • Thanks Kristin. I’m guessing your grandfather and my dad have probably already made introductions and are having a hoot up there. He was a very friendly guy so odds are they’ve met. 🙂

  2. sigh…great post. i love it when you write/talk about your dad. love it. love you.

  3. Wow! I lost my grandather to cancer too. I remember seeing him wither away too. I am truly sorry for your loss. It is great that you are able to talk about it and keep his memory and presence alive. Thank you for posting to remind us all that we can’t stop fighting for a cure.

  4. Thanks for sharing and I am so sorry for your loss. I’m sure it helps to write about it to keep his memory alive. I lost a parent this year as well and I know that writing will help me move through the grieving process. Thanks for the reminder…

    • Thanks Craig. While this time of year is tough because we remember that we lost him, I’m trying my best to use today to celebrate his life and enjoy those fun times from years ago.

  5. Cort,
    Thanks for sharing such an intimate part of your life, it touched me deeply. Especially because I know the great man you are talking about, and he was that. You were blessed with such a great dad, and I hope that this is a reminder to others that we are blessed to have our parents around as long as we can. To make great memories that will last a life time. Great post Cort. He was and still is a great man 🙂

  6. My mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died a year later, when she was 51. I was 12, and it is still the saddest thing I’ve ever been through. My dad had a brain tumor in 2002, was diagnosed in December and passed away by February. It was so fast, but I was thankful he didn’t have to suffer long.

    The hardest part is not getting to share my children with them. But, someone very wise once told me that you don’t have to know someone to love them. I keep them alive for my boys through stories and memories. My dad loved the ocean, spent most of his time around the water. I always picture him in heaven floating on his back in the ocean.

    Forty-nine is so young. He must have been a really special man to have been surrounded by family the way he was. I know you miss him. Thanks for sharing this really special post.

    • Losing a parent at such a young age is never easy… I commend you for having to go through that twice. I can only assume your support structure was there for you when you needed them. Thank you for reading and sharing too.

  7. Love this post 🙂 Its beautiful. I really like to hear other people talk about dad like this, because when I hear others’ memories of him it feels less like he is so far away. He just feels a little bit closer with every story shared 🙂

  8. Trisha on said:

    I love that you all have sites that I can go to, read and remember! Great job with this story! I just saw the motorized scooter tonight at my parents house… every time I see that thing I think of Steve riding around so sick, but with SO much wit! We all miss him so much, but it is always great to remember! 🙂

  9. I’m so sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing this amazing story. Your dad sounded like such a fighter and he obviously had the most loving support system!

    I love the term “going home” and the fact you remember it yearly. Keep the spirit alive.

  10. Pingback: For the Love…Of Blogging Q&A Thursday « Sluiter Nation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: