Today it’s a lovely day here in Southern Ontario, the sun is shining brightly upon the snow and snowflakes are floating in the air like diamonds. As my eyes swept over the scene out the front window this morning, it occurred to me that I have no idea what the weather was like just a few weeks ago. For a week of my life, I have no recollection of such things as my mind was elsewhere…completely occupied by the invasion of panic and sadness.
A few years ago it became apparent that my father’s health was failing and after much discussion, my Mum and Dad moved in with our family. My Dad had fought and beat prostate cancer, blood clots and a myriad of health issues over the years but was left living with COPD which weakened him. Having them live with us has been a blessing, my girls have the opportunity to run to their living room for a chat, a game of chess or just quiet time with their grandparents which was something I never had.
As the years have passed with them here, we’ve seen my Dad’s health gradually worsen. From last Spring until January his pallor went a purple hue and walking slowly took a toll on his ability to get oxygen to his lungs. He had increased his oxygen use but finally on January 23rd I looked into his eyes and was frightened as his light just seemed to be far too dim.
Dad had been very quiet when he was speaking for a few days, had been sleeping in his chair and it had reached a state when I demanded that he let me into his stubborn British mind and tell me what was really up with his health. This may seem like a simple request, but my father is a man who always provided for others and relying upon others just isn’t in his wheelhouse.
After taking a breath (which wasn’t easy for him), Dad admitted that he had been coughing up blood for 24 hours when he coughed. He had no energy and felt he needed to head to the hospital. “I won’t be coming home…” he said and my blood ran cold.
We called the ambulance and as he was taken to the hospital my sister and I both made arrangements to put our lives on hold. After some time there, the attending doctor told us he was admitting Dad for pneumonia. Although I was immediately relieved, we were to find out later that things just weren’t that simple.
Facing Lung Cancer…
After a night in the hospital, the doctor on the ward took a look at Dad’s history and let us know that he felt there could be one of 3 things going on; blood clots in the lungs, pneumonia or lung cancer. Apparently Dad had what the doctor felt was likely a 3 inch tumour in his lungs. Assuming the doctor’s supposition was correct, this was a terminal lung cancer…
Something happened when the doctor said those words…it’s as if something in my brain clicked off and I was living in a haze where I experienced things differently. I was just a few weeks from being sober for 5 years and I felt a base NEED to run and hide in a bottle. I excused myself from the room as soon as I could, walked out of the hospital into the frigid air and as the tears ran down my face, I texted my sponsor.
Her response brought me back…”Any man can fight the battles of just one day”. This brought me back into the day, where we had NO answers. Nothing definitive. There I stayed for a week of hell, keeping my mind where my hands were and not allowing it to wander into my next worry.
My sister, my Mum and I lived at the hospital as much as possible. We overlapped our time there, reading aloud to Dad as he lay on that bed. The man who raised us was in the weakest state I’d ever seen him, for the first 48 hours we were certain we were at his death bed and our bodies seemed to vibrate with grief, dim hope and anticipation of misery.
As we dealt with our emotions, my sister and I planned how to tell our children who loved their Grandfather deeply. We faced this horrible task, each leaning inwards upon our husbands. The children were devastated and as we cared for our Dad, we also balanced caring for them.
Over those days the doctors withdrew fluid from his lungs to test them, performed tests on his bones and brain to see if the “cancer” had spread. By day 4 we found out that there were no signs of cancer in the brain or bones. This was a good thing but didn’t put a dent into my grief.
The Power of Prayer
That first day when I didn’t drink, I reached out to people and asked them to pray. Funnily I didn’t even think of asking for a miracle, just asked for strength to make it through this and comfort for my Dad. I began praying like I had when I was first sober. Talking to God every 5 minutes, raging at him, begging him and just having dialogue as if Jesus was beside me.
Every minute of that week I lived hand in hand with Jesus. I didn’t open a Bible on my lap in public, those moments were for in my bedroom but as I sat with Dad or at home with my kids…he was with me.
Things didn’t look good, to the point where we researched hospice care for the end of Dad’s life if he did indeed make it out of the hospital. We phoned his siblings in England and Canada to break the news and organized some of his affairs. These are the necessary things you do when death is staring at you.
As we went through these motions, prayers were being raised all over the world. My sister had also reached out to some dear friends and although it was in a private manner, word had quietly spread.
We were to find out the results of the lung fluid tests on Friday, and on Wednesday (a week in Dad’s hospital stay) the nurse mentioned my Dad’s doctor was aiming to send Dad home on the weekend. With this news, we began preparing the house for him in order to facilitate his weakened state. We were preparing for Dad to be comfortable for the last months of his life.
As I was working away on the Thursday evening I was weeping and praying. Again I raged at God, begging him to give my father just one night of true sleep. Dad hadn’t slept comfortably in quite some time and it was all I asked. I actually said to God that I wouldn’t pray for him to take away the cancer…that I knew we were past that.
The next morning I arrived at the hospital to hear that my Dad had slept well and felt much better after a good night’s sleep. I thanked God and gave him a high five. I had to leave before the doctor gave the results and when my phone rang later I was in Winners.
When my phone rang, I didn’t hear it because I was busy looking at duvet covers. After so many days of being intently focused on my Dad’s health, somehow I zoned out as if thread count actually mattered. When I saw there was a call from the hospital, I frantically dialed my Dad’s room without even thinking that I may want to go to the privacy of my car or home to receive the news of the results.
My Dad answered the phone “Hello this is the miracle…to whom am I speaking?” and I was confused. I couldn’t wrap my mind around what he was saying but finally I got it and as I stood in the housewares aisle in Winners I yelled far too loudly “You’re joking, it’s not cancer?”
Dad explained that there were no cancer cells in the lung fluid and the “tumour” had shrunk after days of strong antibiotics so the doctor now calls it a mass. A MASS! They were continuing testing but all signs ruled out cancer at this stage.
WHAT? Not. Cancer.
Elation overwhelmed me as I dropped onto a lovely wing backed chair on display. My body seemed to just stop, as I blinked a relief such as I’d never known came over me. Not a true relief because as quickly as it came, my mind remembered that Dad isn’t a healthy man. But relief it was…we weren’t waiting for his immediate demise anymore.
Over those days in the hospital my sister, my mother and I drew together in strength. We leaned upon one another, knowing it was safe to do so. We shared private time with Dad, shared grief and some of our deepest fears were faced. We came together with each other and God in ways we hadn’t before. This is time I wouldn’t ever have asked for but it’s enlightened me and changed me in beautiful ways.
When I prayed deeply that night when I asked not for a miracle but for just a sleep…well I now know that I was not giving God the credit to which He is due. I didn’t ask for the miracle…but others had and God granted that wish.
I am humbled, still living in awe as I look into my parents living room and see my Dad here. He is continuing with treatment for pneumonia and has many doctors appointments but he’s gained weight, sleeps well and has a health appetite. He has the energy to be the man I haven’t seen in many months and I’m grateful for him.
I’ve not been able to share this experience with you all until now, and in fact I’m not sure that I’ve written it well enough as I can’t really understand it. The one thing I know is that prayer is powerful!!