It's a pain like no other...

by Kim
(Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

On September 1st, my mother informed me that my father was diagnosed with colon cancer. We had anticpated this, due to the symptoms...but it was still very difficult to hear. I guess I started grieving at that point. I knew my parent's lives would never be the same. Chemo, being homebound, changing their routine was all something that was new for them. But they went at it as a team.

My father was breezing through Chemo with hardly any issues. His tests were positive and we just knew that he was going to beat this horrible disease. He even enjoyed the social time he had with the people he met, during his "treatments" and they were taking everything in stride. Then the dreaded thing father, somehow, got pneumonia. It was the one thing my mother was fighting harder than even the cancer. As an RN, she knew the risks involved with Chemo patients. This is why they didn't leave the house, unless it was necessary. She used lysol wipes, lysol spray, disinfected every surface...especially when they had visitors.

It didn't matter...he was sick. Very sick. He had difficulties breathing and had stopped eating. She took him to the emergency room, where they gave him antibiotics and sent him on his way. He was given another course of antibiotics and finally admitted to the hospital to get the fluid removed from his lungs. While in the hospital, we still had hope that he would regain his strength, start eating and get back on the treatments. This continued to be the goal...even after the doctor expressing the fluid punctured my dad's lung. He recovered and was sent home. I spoke to Mom shortly after his release and she sounded defeated. He had finally ate something, but it wouldn't stay down. After a particularly awful episode, she told me she thought "the end was near" and was in need of guidance from his doctor. Days after that she finally was able to get him an appt.

On Feb 11th, my Dad turned 75. He received a number of phone calls. I remember this conversation as if it happened yesterday. Because I play it in my head over and over again. He sounded just like my Dad. He sounded strong. He didn't need the oxygen that he received on the last hospital release. And he asked about how we were doing and how my "doggies" were, especially my oldest one. Again, the hope was renewed.

During all of this, I'm hundreds of miles away in Florida. They are in South Carolina. I work full-time, but from home. I had spoke with my boss and he had said that I could go anytime I wanted, and we would "work things out" to allow for me to continue with my job. I didn't go. I have a number of reasons why I didn't go...but none of those excuses seem valid now. Now that it's too late.

The dreaded call arrived the weekend of Feb 15th, just 24 hours after I had to let go of my 16 year old dog (my Dad's "little buddy"). Mom tells me that it would be a good idea to come to South Carolina. Dad is in the hospital and it doesn't look good. On Monday, Feb 18th, we planned to leave and make a two day trip. Mom called again and said we needed to be there sooner...things were that bad.

We arrived in Columbia and went straight to the hospital. Feb 18th was the last day my father spoke to me. I'll never forget it.."Hi Baby, you look good" with a wink and a smile. He didn't look like my dad. Down from 215 to 135. He was so fragile and so sick. We stayed with him every day. Mom didn't leave his side. His family and friends from Ohio paraded through to tell him bye. Their closest friends remained with us to the very end.

Mom and I held Daddy's hands as his breaths became further and further apart. Mom knew...she knew that Friday was going to be his last day. We sat that way for hours. I began talking to him and telling him it was okay to let go. That we had people that were going to take care of us. That Mom and my sister and I were going to be just fine. He can let go without worries. At 10:44 pm, February 22, 2013, my father took his last breath. A minute later, his heart stopped. He was gone. I still remember the fear in my mother's eyes and the anguish on her face. It was fleeting, but it was there.

My mother wiped her eyes and began asking what happens next. I couldn't let him go. I didn't want to let him go. I just held on..and cried. I'm still crying. And not sure when I will ever stop.

With broken hearts we traveled to Ohio for the funeral. We had it rather quickly...Mom wanted it that way. There was no need to wait for weeks. Who was going to be there, was there. It all remains a blur. None of us knew what to do...who is an expert on death?? The family came together and everyone was so wonderful to us. Supposedly the healing begins. I guess I just need to hang on for this ride of a lifetime. I can't get around it or hurry it up. I just need to feel it and let it ride it's course. All I know is that I miss him so much.

Comments for It's a pain like no other...

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Mar 13, 2013
It's never easy.
by: Kim

Doreen,I'm very sorry to hear about the loss of your husband. I can't even imagine what you have been through. Not only the pain of watching the man you love and partner of 44 years go through such an agonizing and wasteful disease, but to have to deal with so much "red tape" afterwards. Fortunately, my Mom and Dad had already purchased their "cemetary plots" ahead of time. Mom just had to pay an extraordinary amount to open the "drawer". She is still waiting for the death certificate to allow her to straighten out the financial part of things. That is one worry I have had for my mother, will she be financially able to make it on her own. She reassures us that she is "fine" and she won't be losing all of my father's pension. They actually prepared well for such a situation. Life insurance, no debt annuities and Mom has retirement from over 45 years as a nurse. Now it's a matter of learning to live alone. After almost 50 years of marriage. She is in South Carolina by herself. There is no family there. Mom and Dad decided to move from our family home in Ohio to retire in a warmer climate. It was their dream...and fortunately they were able to live it for 9 years.

I realize that losing my father is very difficult. It is someone that loved me unconditionally. But losing a partner, lover, husband and best friend...I can't even bear the thought. I am very glad to hear that you have a strong familial support system. It is times like these that we realize what our friends and family mean to us. I guess that is one of those "positives" that we should take away from this experience. I do..and the very deep admiration and appreciation I have for my mother.

I thank you for sharing your experience. It is helpful to know that we are not alone. I do wish you luck with getting all straightened out and hopeful that you can put all of this to rest in the near future.

Kind Regards,

Mar 13, 2013
It's a pain like no other....
by: Doreen U.K.

Kim I am sorry for your loss of your father and also for your mother's loss of a husband. The day you get that awful news is the day your grief starts. The day my husband was told he has an incurable, inoperable, aggressive cancer was the day my world fell apart and I had to look into the face of my husband who was going to die. He died 10 months ago from lung cancer caused by working with asbestos. He was ill and deteriorated over a period of 3yrs. when I nursed him till he died. It is a horrible experience to go through. Now is the time we have to pick up the pieces of what is left of our lives and do the grief journey for however long this may be. I am in the same place as your mother and she must be going through a very difficult time with grief. I was married 44yrs. and just when I am facing retirement I do this alone.
You are right. None of us knows the process of what to do after a loved one dies. The first thing one does is pick up the death certificate from the General Practitioner, then register the death and only then can you start to make the funeral arrangements. We did this and had a difficult time as my husband died of an Industrial disease and so I couldn't register his death it had to go to inquest. A lot of running around and to and fro. Then we had to let the government departments know so they could take back my husband's pension and give them back the overpayment of one or two weeks. Then the tax man, car insurance, banks, etc and so it goes on for all your outlets. The paperwork and phone calls last for months. But the government seems to harass one especially if you have a home. Then you have to sort out the Will. It goes on forever. I thought I would never get through it. But this is where a good family support structure is important as everyone takes one section. Then everyone brings food over and gathers to support each other and deal with the funeral arrangements. Ours has been a bit of a nightmare. It never ends. There is so much to do in life and when you die the family has so much. I now have to leave an instruction manual for my family for them to deal with my death and closing things down. Good thing I purchased my grave plot above my husbands so all my family has to do is arrange the funeral. But nothing is straight forward. this pain of grief is like nothing we have ever experienced. Keep hope alive as you will get through it all in time, but it is a very painful time for everyone. Life does change forever.

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