Month: December 2014

Miss You, Dad. 

Originally posted on December 23, 2010 (hence the reference to Reverb10). Bumping back up/Re-posting on December 23, 2015

I hate this day. I will always hate this day. On December 23, 2006, my father died from prostate cancer. As deaths from prostate cancer go, he was lucky. If you can describe dying far too young from a horrible disease lucky. He’d been diagnosed a bit more than 3 years earlier, had 3 good years where we all thought the disease had been caught early enough, the treatments were working. He was going to be one of those men who died 20 years later from some other old age related condition *with* prostate cancer. Not someone who actually dies *from* prostate cancer. I mean, who does that. As cancers go, isn’t prostate cancer one of the least deadly????

That’s what we thought. That’s what so many people think.

Yet, prostate cancer ranks second among cancers for deaths in males. Each year over 32,000 men in the USA die from prostate cancer.

I said my Dad was lucky. At least lucky for those who this horrid disease kills. He did not have years of suffering because the prostate cancer had invaded his bones. Internet searches yielded story after story of men who spend years in pain from prostate cancer of the bones. My Dad’s prostate cancer went to his liver, caused electrolyte imbalances which eventually stopped his heart. It happened fast. Far too fast.

In April of 2006 his PSA readings were normal, as they had been for the 3 years he’d been on hormone therapy. At his August check with the urologist, they had sky rocketed. In early September he and Mom toured England. While on the trip he started feeling some soreness in his hip (the start of a bone metasis).  A late September PET scan showed the spot on his hip, but also spots on his liver. October brought unproductive attempts at chemotherapy. Several trips to the hospital were needed to stabilize his electrolytes. I last saw him Thanksgiving weekend. He made a heroic effort that weekend to remain strong, appear normal to Kiddo. Shortly after we left, he collapsed. The following week he was so weak, he had to be moved to a nursing home. On December 23, as we drove to see him, he died.

His death and the Christmas season will always be intertwined.

The day 19 prompt for Reverb 10 was healing.  A prompt especially poignant for me this week. Because this is a wound which will never fully heal for me. A routine evening drive, just Kiddo and I, a quick detour to look at Christmas lights….suddenly the bandage was ripped away. The old wound exposed. I found myself with tears streaming down my face, quietly crying as we drove. Hoping and praying Kiddo wouldn’t notice, that I wouldn’t have to explain.

I remember after Dad’s funeral asking my cousin, who’d lost her father the year before, when it would get better. Her answer, “Never, but it gets easier”. 

Each year in the US, approximately 217,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed. Diagnosed early, this disease is often treatable, manageable, and not necessarily life threatening. Simple tests – the PSA blood test and the digital exam can spot problems early. I will never know if he hadn’t waited 3 years between his PSA tests whether the outcome would have been different for my Dad. But I often wonder. Don’t leave your family wondering. Get tested.
My cousin was right; now I can remember Dad fondly, think of him often, each memory doesn’t bring fresh tears. Grief securely tucked away. But this time of the year it all comes back. The pain, the anger, the questions, the guilt. Exposed as if he died yesterday.

And so, I hate this day. I hope that on the other 364 days of the year, I honor him in what I do. Use the life lessons he taught me, the gifts he gave me, the example he set. That these are apparent in my life, in how I raise my son. But this day, the day he died, will always be a day to condemn this awful disease. And remind the men in my life to get tested. Every year.

In December I’m doing an on-line initiative, called Reverb 10, designed to help participants reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011. Each day participants are given prompts or thought starters to blog, tweet or journal.. 

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