I rarely talk about the details of this, this story will have to be in many parts.
Two weeks into my first year University, my Father called. He broke the news that he was just diagnosed with a rare form of throat cancer.
My heart instantly shattered, my mind raced, and my breathing became erratic. In an instant, I was lost at sea, and faced with drowning. My parents had just moved back from posting, my Father had just arrived to a house full of boxes, and had complained of a sore throat.
It all happened so quickly, it was hard to digest. That night, I remember needing to be numbed, I went out and drank, but couldn’t get drunk. That year was a horrid blur, I went home to help take care of my ailing Father, pretending that everything was fine at school, I would go back to school not ever uttering a word of my Father’s illness. No one knew, it was just my way, I figured I spent a lifetime keeping secrets, this one was no different.
I came home for summer, and knew my fate. While everyone else was out getting job experience, I became a nurse, and confidant.
The Cancer had spread, his ears and neck were being eaten by the cancer. The smell of rotting flesh was so overpowering, that you would have to attempt to not gag while changing his bandages. His feeding tube was the only method of giving him morphine and liquid food. His wonderful voice, the one that made speeches, the eloquent English and fluent Latin, Spanish and French became garbled. His feet were swollen, and he needed a walker.
I never slept, I could barely cry. He didn’t discuss what he believed in, or how much pain he was in, or ever talk about his fears. My Mother would often disappear for hours, she never went far, she often would get in the car and go to a parking lot to cry. I would be left to tell my Father jokes, to feed him, get him out of bed, change his dressings, and give him morphine.
My Mother hired nurses, but my Father was very particular, he became paranoid, and wouldn’t let them touch him. For 2 months, I was the only one who could give him his morphine, or help him suck the mucous out of his mouth, or even help him get out of bed. When my siblings would visit, my Father wouldn’t let them help, he would cry out for me. Sometimes it made me angry, I felt trapped, wanting to help, but thinking it was unfair that at 19, I was dealing with all of this medical stuff.
The one night I went out, I had to get out. My friends picked me up, never realizing what exactly I was doing all day or night. That night, I drank, I just wanted an escape, but it was short-lived.
I got a call, he was in a coma.
I got home, my Mother was vomiting. I had to call the nurses, then the my Family. The head nurse came in, I instructed her to give my Mother something to help her sleep. While my Mother was knocked unconscious, the nurse told me to prepare.
I couldn’t even cry, but I told the universe that I hated what they were doing to me. I couldn’t understand why my Father had to be taken away.
As Family made arranged to fly in. I watched my Mother sit by my Father holding his hand. My Father by now was in a hospital bed in the middle of our livingroom. We had moved everything out-of-the-way for all his medical equipment. Nurses often commented on how much we had been dealing with. My Mother didn’t cry, I knew her heart was so very broken. She was my age when she and my Father met, the love they shared was always magical, they had spent 30 years together.
It took 4 days from the beginning of the coma, to his very last breath. I will never forget watching him slowly slip away. With his last breath, my life went black…