Learning to adjust.

This cancer thing is a real bastard, let me tell you. All we want is a straight bloody answer: where has my dad’s cancer spread to and who is in charge? Can we get these straight answers? No. The thing about cancer seems to be that 74 different people are involved with the treatment and none of them seem overkeen to share information with you or in any rush to get anything much done.

In case anyone reading this is of a medical persuasion and in the future ends up dealing with this sort of scenario, let me tell you something – to go from ’58 year old father potentially requiring a hip operation’ to ’58 year old father with terminal metastatic lung cancer, presenting secondaries in several bones, the lymphatic system and christ knows where else’ in a mere month is quite a journey. It might be commonplace to you, you might see it every day, we don’t. We weren’t ready for this, we weren’t expecting it and so a little urgency from you, a sign that you’re doing something productive and it matters would not go amiss.

The odd thing about cancer is that it moves your parameters. The other day he ate an omelette and we were all delighted. This is because for a few weeks he could only eat soup. A few months ago an omelette would not have been cause for celebration. He isn’t on the lung ward of the hospital like he was the week before last when he got rushed in with pneumonia. We see this as a positive. In days gone by it wouldn’t have even registered because it would have been normal. Currently he has the cancer, the very tail end of the pneumonia and a broken rib where the bone cancer has left the bones brittle but he’s still speaking and making some jokes so we don’t see it as the end of the world. What sad little things you cling to when everything falls apart.  When virtually every bit of news you get is crap you take a tiny little good thing and hang on to it, reluctant to let go and stare the inevitable down. How long will it be? Who knows. Not us that’s for sure, he has good days and bad days so it’s impossible to tell. Saturday was a good day, Sunday was a bad one. Bad days will probably become more frequent as the treatments kick in. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy can take their toll on a person.

 Will my irritating and unpredictable tendency to burst into tears at odd moments outlast my father? Again who knows, I sincerely hope not because having to explain why anything from the Dire Straits ‘Brothers in Arms’ album makes you cry is ridiculous. Cancer is a little bit like being dumped in one way – do you remember when you broke up with someone as a teenager, when it was the biggest tragedy in the whole world and everything on the tv, the radio, in magazines and on billboards was about love and how everyone was in it except you? Well cancer is the same. You end up with a relative with cancer and suddenly everyone on the sodding telly has terminal cancer of one variety or another. And they and their fictional family are all dealing with it bravely and stoically, not crying in a corner over Dire Straits or talking to themselves in the kitchen or finding on Saturday evening they’ve put away the shopping incorrectly and the toothpaste is in the fridge while there’s now two pints of cottage cheese in milk cartons on a shelf of the tins cupboard. Every charity bag through the door is looking for clothing to raise money for cancer charities, Macmillan is advertising on every static space in the city, the papers and magazines are full of cancer charity ads. For the love of god can we just have a TINY break from cancer for 5 minutes? What I didn’t realise until this happened was quite how many people experience it. Where I walk the dog you get to know other owners who walk at the same time, including the owners of 2 Newfoundland dogs. Chatting to them it turns out that her dad died of lung cancer and his dad died of throat cancer. Friends from school have got in touch with their story of a relative with cancer. It’s terrifyingly common.

So there we are, cancer. Seems the ads are right, it DOES turn your world upside down and shake it about. It’s not done with us yet either, who knows where this will go next. One thing I do know is this though – I didn’t get this stubborn-as-shit attitude from the milkman, he’s not given up yet and neither will I. He’ll go down, it’s lung cancer and you can’t beat it but he’s going to go down fighting and that’s all I could ask of him. That and no more.


30 Responses

  1. Christ I’m so sorry Vic! Stubbornness is a v good thing – and I know whereof I speak, what with me and my two (younger) sisters having had surgery for the dreaded b****t cancer and the youngest just now going on to rt after finishing her chemo. It’s a bastard of a disease. I wish you and your family the very, very best and hope the whole sorry process is as painless as it can possibly be. x

    • Jesus, your family have been through it haven’t you? You must be a seriously strong collection of women. You’ve ALL had breast cancer? That’s horrendous. You should write a book, between you you must have some great tips for getting through cancer. We’re gradually learning, we’ve got some innovative solutions for things now and are getting very good at hiding protein and fat in foods to try and bulk him up when he’s able to eat. I hope your sister’s RT is going ok and isn’t affecting her too badly, my dad is having it on the main bone tumour at the moment and he’s finding it quite painful. Thanks for the best wishes, the support of everyone on here does help.

  2. I knew a plumber years ago who actually recovered from lung cancer. He lost a lung, and told me to give up smoking. I finally took notice of him.

    Hoping for the best for your Dad, Vicola.

    • I read in one of the many pamphlets that have come our way recently that you can get by on one lung. I asked why they weren’t doing this and apparently he has tumours in both lungs. Arse. I gave up smoking about 4 years ago and I tell you this, I’ll not be taking it up again. I told my boss to give up the other day, she informed me that if you’re destined to get cancer you’ll get it and that loads of people smoke for years and don’t get anything. I didn’t like to point out that this is what my dad used to say too and that according to Macmillan Cancer support, 15 – 20% of heavy smokers will develop lung cancer. 1 in 5. They aren’t odds I’d piss about with if the losing end involved what my dad is going through now.

      • I smoked for 25 years. Gave it up 30 years ago, and so glad I did. My Dad died at 83 of bowel cancer. He blamed smoking, but I figure if you get to 80+ you’ve done OK. My mother had breast cancer, but lived another 20+ years, and also died at 83. She never smoked. I’m due for another colonoscopy as a precaution because my father died of bowel cancer. I’ve been putting it off, but am psyching myself up for next week. Or maybe the week after…whatever…

  3. I don’t know what to say Vicola. Thank you for sharing this, and I hope it helped, even a tiny bit, to get it all written down.
    Cancer really is a bastard 😦 we are at the beginning of something similar with my grandfather right now (although please don’t mention elsewhere as he doesn’t even know yet!) and it really does shake everything about. All plans have changed.
    I wish I had some advice or useful comment to offer, but all I can say is that I’m thinking of you all and sending some more of those ever hopeful healing vibes your Father’s way xxxx

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your grandfather, that’s awful news and I hope for all your sakes that it’s a form that can be dealt with. You’re right, all plans do change, everything is altered and your parameters of what is normal alter in ways you wouldn’t have believed possible before. If I can be of any help to you, let me know, we’re getting quite good at dealing with random cancer related problems now including a very innovative solution for head sweats at night and the creation of high calorie foods to bulk people up! I’ll be keeping my fingers and toes crossed for your grandfather and thank you for the healing vibes, I’m sending some your way too…xxx

  4. It hits so many people and yet you never really think about it until it hits you somehow. You see the ads, the people asking for donations, even television shows with people fighting cancer and it just goes right over you. Until it hits you. I have several people near and dear to me who have fought it, some won, some lost, but each of them fought and maintained their sense of self during it.

    I hope for nothing but the best for you and your family. It’s a fight that involves not just one person, but the whole family and everyone who loves him. He will need to draw off your strength at times, when his fails him, so do what you can to keep strong as well. And I too burst into tears when certain songs come on, don’t know why either. Gets annoying when I’m driving though.

    • I’m 31 and this is pretty new to me, so far I’ve managed to mainly avoid having anyone close to me hit by it, with the exception of two mothers of friends, one of whom won and one of whom didn’t. It’s an appalling, cruel and arbitrary disease and I didn’t realise how much of an impact it can have on your life until it hit our family. It was always something that happened to other people and now it’s not. The crappy thing about it is that it’s always there at the back of your mind, even when you’re doing something else, and suddenly it’ll just pop up to the forefront again. My brother has given me a little list of songs he’s currently steering clear of too so it seems to be pretty common! And at least I’ve stopped almost bursting into tears if anyone is nice to me, that was getting mighty inconvenient.

  5. I don’t know what to say but I wanted to say something.

    • I never know what to say to people in this situation either. Or I didn’t before. Now I realise that one of the best replies is just that cancer is a shitty bastard. Because it is.

  6. Bloody hell Vicola, I didn’t expect this post. What a truly awful set of circumstances, my heart really goes out to you, I bet you don’t know which way is up at the moment. I am glad to hear that your dad is a fighter, because I truly believe it makes a difference.

    Stay strong…….. x

    • I’m trying Annie, I’m trying. I thought the stubborness streak in me came from my mother’s side but now I’m beginning to wonder. Despite the fact that the diagnosis is terminal and the treatment offered is unpleasant and palliative rather than curative, he doesn’t appear to have questioned at any point whether he was going to do it or just let nature take its course. Straight for the treatment, no second thoughts, no complaints. Impressive.

  7. Wow. Sorry to hear this news about your dad.

    And you are right. Something like this happens and all of the sudden it’s shoved in your face from all over the place.

    • It’s starting to drive me mental. As is saying the same thing 74 times a day. I sent out a bulletin with the latest news on to try and stop people constantly emailing and ringing me. All it achieved was people emailing and ringing to ask for an update and how he was doing now. It’s lovely that people care and want to know but repeating the same thing over and over and over is not only tiring, it’s depressing. It’s my cousin’s wedding on Saturday and I’m thinking of getting handouts printed to save time….

  8. This is just shit and hard, and I’m really sorry your dad, and you and your family are having to deal with it. I hope it helps to know that somewhere out in the universe are all these interwebs people hoping for the best for you and wishing you luck. … and one in particular who’s having a shedding a little tear with you.

  9. This is just shit and hard, and I’m really sorry your dad, and you and your family are having to deal with it. I hope it helps to know that somewhere out in the universe are all these interwebs people hoping for the best for you and wishing you luck. … and one in particular who’s shedding a little tear with you.

    • Thank you, everyone on here has been really lovely and very supportive. Everyone in ‘real world’ has too, from friends whose main job is to distract and talk about things other than cancer to lovely friends who have been sending in practical ideas and soup recipes. Any luck gratefully received as it’s been in rather short supply recently.

  10. Oops! Sorry, for the double post. I corrected a typo and thought I’d caught the first one. Anyway… big hugs etc.

  11. I’m so, so sorry to read this, and sorry that you and your family are going through such an awful time. I’m sending best wishes to you all xxx

  12. Hello..Have not been around for awhile. Cancer is horrible..the medical profession runs a close second. They spread the insurance/medicare/medicaid around as much as possible to their ‘cronies’ and others of the same profession..they split all procedures up decrying any responsibility whatever..they are hard to reach..they make you search and mine for info on your own body in the most difficult of hidden puzzles..then they make one suffer in pain for their personal pettiness if their procedures are not adhered to. The quality of everything is being tested..having gone to shit in the disrespect of the last 12 years or so. Carmela is helping a friend with cancer on the labes..such a deal..then they found a lesion on her lung..burned her with radiation..screwed it up..leaving her begging for relief of the pain.. now are doing their damndest to confuse the issue. On my blog I wrote something to the effect that..my magmnt. skills tell me that despite overview they lost the thread of their commitment and that of the hippocratic oath by not having a continutiy of treatment for the patient.
    Vent and answer rendered..I hope you are well in this world and wish your Dad the best..Peace Tony and CC

    • Radiation treatment is pretty nasty, my dad is having it on the bone tumour at the moment and he’s in a lot of pain too. We’ve been assured that this will past a couple of weeks after the treatment finishes. We’re also confused as to where we’re at, who is dealing with what and what is going to happen next so Carmela and her friend can be assured they aren’t alone there, that seems to be international. I hope Carmela’s friend makes a good recovery and her pain eases up soon.

  13. This comment may sound stupid or insensitive, I hope we “know” each other though our writing well enough for you to get that this is not my intention:
    I still sometimes tear up a little bit when I hear brothers in arms from that album of the same name. So don’t worry about it. It’s not you, it’s Dire Straits 🙂

    • My brother has informed me that he is having to steer clear of Brothers in Arms too. I’m amazed they ever made any money out of since everyone seems to be avoiding it because it makes them cry. And don’t worry about being insensitive, believe me we’re getting more than enough ‘hushed voices, pitiful glances’ from people for a bit of blunt to be a refreshing and welcome change.

  14. Am so absolutely gutted for you – it just must be the biggest kick in the teeth (understatement!!). Lots of light, love and luck to your dad hon. xxxx

  15. It is so difficult to write anything which will be of any help to you Vicola. I am so sorry that you and your Dad suddenly find yourselves in this life-changing position.
    Love each other, and care for each other.
    My thoughts and best wishes are with you both.

  16. Hey Vicola, I’m not going to repeat what I said across on facebook.
    My Dad is still recovering from a stroke over a year ago. He lost a LOT of weight in hospital after the stroke because part if the brain it damaged is the hunger part. In a nutshell, his brain never told him to eat. In fact the opposite, it always made him feel full, so we have some experience in sneaking in calories & fat!

    Your dads doc will be able to prescribe a virtually unlimited number of a special range of weight-building drinks and puddings. Most of them are delicious. Some of the drinks are milk based & others are fruit juice based. The juice ones went through dad like a stabbed rat but he loved the milk ones. Puddings are a similar idea.

    Full fat ice cream ( eg. proper Cornish vanilla) is also a delicious & easily digested source if yummy calories – we took dad to the WVS restaurant every tea time for a coffee & ice cream which he looked forward to while he was in there even if not hungry. Ice reams good like that!!!!

    You’re all in our hearts & prayers.

  17. That’s an awful lot for you all to go through. I’m thinking of you. I know what you mean about being confronted with cancer ‘messages’ everywhere you look. When my mum had breast cancer, over 20 years ago now, there was a Macmillan campaign. The slogan over a child’s drawing of a woman was, “Mummy got cancer. Daddy got very upset. The Macmillan nurse made them both feel better” and I just remember thinking through my anger and confusion HOW? How can they make anyone feel ‘better’ when everyone is feeling so wretched? Sadly my mum died and then I resented those posters even more because some people did get better, but a few years down the line I now know that the Macmillan nurses do a wonderful job – I guess publicising those services are just a marketing nightmare.

    Sorry – I went off on a bit of a ramble there – what I want to say is I really, really feel for you and what your family is coping with and wish very hard that the care your father’s receiving makes a difference. x

    • Thanks Jando and sorry to hear about your mum, that must have been an awful time for you all. I know what you mean about feeling annoyed with people who are going to get better, you can’t help wondering why their relative gets to recover and yours doesn’t. To be fair to the Macmillan nurse, she HAS made my dad feel better but only by doubling his morphine prescription rather than anything very specialized. They do do a great job though and they really know their stuff which I guess in situations like this is what you need more than anything.

      Thanks for the best wishes, he starts his chemo today so we’re all a bit on edge to see how that works out. Given that he has tumours in both lungs we’re hoping chemo will work a miracle. Which is not that likely, miracles seem to be in pretty short supply round here at the moment.

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