Surgery, Cancer, Love, and Life

My dad recently spent several days in the hospital after surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his colon and connect it back to his intestine. My dad is 83. He has had back surgeries, a quadruple bypass, and other medical issues throughout his life. He admits that he didn’t expect to live so long and his lifestyle didn’t do anything to change that expectation at all. But he is living this long and he is reasonably healthy for being on this earth for 83 years.

The surgery worried me because he was expected to get notes from his cardiologist and his pulmonologist allowing the surgery. I saw the note from his cardiologist and it said he “would be high risk for a major cardiovascular event” associated with this surgery. In my mind, I was sure they wouldn’t do the surgery. But the option was letting the cancer spread. Not a good option. All of his doctors said he was a strong guy and they knew he would do OK. I translate that to say that he’s a tough old bastard. And that he is.

We waited in the waiting room for something like three hours (it’s easy to lose track when you’re sitting for hours). Doing our part for the family and obviously signaling the surgeon that it was time to come talk to everyone, my sister and I went down to get coffee for everyone and the doctor came in so we missed him. The surgery had gone well and Dad was in recovery. He was there for another few hours until they moved him to ICU and we got to see him. He was so thirsty and eventually got some ice chips and made some crude (and hysterical) comments to my mom, so I knew for sure he had made it through and was on the way to recovery. He has had some other issues at the hospital (mostly from a lack of communication by hospital staff), but each time muscles through and keeps going.

The biggest lessons from this entire experience were:

  • My dry sense of humor is all compliments of my dad.
  • I love spending time with my siblings. We were probably laughing inappropriately for a hospital waiting room and ICU, but we are damn funny people.
  • My sister (the retired one I’ve complained about, I mean, mentioned before) is absolutely an amazing human being. She has pretty much single-handedly handled both staying with and advocating for my dad as much as she could in the hospital and taking care of my mom who is suffering from dementia. That task scares the crap out of me and she handles it like a pro. My other sister, brother, and I (the employed ones) have helped as we could, but she has carried the lion’s share of the load. I have no idea what my family would do without her.
  • I need to take care of myself. Family medical histories suck.  I have many health issues–most of which are caused by my excess weight (and some genetics). But I’m not doing anything right now to fix that. And that’s pretty much signing my own death warrant. I know better, I need to do better. And I will. I have too many things to do and too many grandbabies to watch grow into their own lives to screw this up.
  • Hospitals are not fun places. They tell you to rest and then come in every couple of hours to check vitals, give meds, draw blood, etc. But sometimes that’s where you need to be to get the help you need. A whole lot of the experience depends on the people working there. And it is the same in life. Just be nice! You could make a huge difference in someone’s life just by smiling at them, opening a door for them, or paying for their Starbucks in the drive thru lane. Be nice!
  • Love deeply and often and then tell people. In the blink of an eye, we could have lost my dad on the operating table, but we did not. I do not spend nearly enough time with my family and I want to remedy that. We often think that people know we love them and they do, but everyone likes to hear it. Unless you’re a creepy stalker, then don’t do that.
  • Life is indeed a blessing. Make the most of it–every day!

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