This was the screen that welcomed me in to my dad’s room at 0230. Having sped down here yesterday after he was rushed back in to hospital, I made my way 2hrs back to London to change clothes, have a bath and get some sleep. An hour in to blissful solitude, my younger sister phoned with an update that brought me right back down again.
Yesterday was looking positive, truth be told. All the family from wildest Wales had been through the room with smiles, jokes, balloon flowers, hugs and kisses. Even the sun made a wonderful pre – summer showing. Dad was chatting between sucking down on his O2 mask. I thought we might even have weeks left with him.
I mean, if you’re gonna have a view from your hospital room then this isn’t a bad one, right?
But now, the night has taken hold.
The darkness fills the windowscape.
It might be hours, not even days.
My dad is struggling to breathe, his oxygen bag failing to fill as he gulps it all in immediately, despite the 15 litres being pumped through to him. I will it to fill each time, begging the pipes to give him just a little more. His shallow, swift breathing scrapes his desert – dry throat. He’s fighting. He’s somehow keeping control of his intake despite hypoxia, mild delerium and aching pains throughout his body. He is still so strong, he won’t give in despite the odds. He humbles me as I sit next to him and stifle back my tears, welling sadness and budding grief. Mum grips his other hand, my younger sister retreats under a blanket in exhaustion while the elder one takes her shift on guard. Holding his hand, the damage of 3 courses of increasingly destructive chemotherapy are evident. Patches of missing hair along his arms, muscular weakness where even last year there was natural strength; him wrestling my three young daughters before Christmas is still clear and fresh in my mind, in fact. The speed of this degradation borders on insanely criminal. How dare he not be given a chance to fight back and win? Fuck you, Cancer, give me back my Dad!!!!
He’s not slept properly in days but can’t for fear of losing the forced control of his breathing. He presses on.
He’s just told my mum, “don’t be afraid, I’m ok”.
It’s 0400 now, his SpO2 drops to 59% before crawling back up the charts to rest in the mid 60s……come on, Dad.
His breathing rasps on, a gravel-like hoarseness, in and out.