Leaving Dad at 0300, Mrs Nomad and I hand over the watch to my elder cousin before curling up on waiting room chairs. He was in a good place. The dimorphine and midazolam were doing their job and he was sleeping soundly; the best sleep in weeks.
I awoke to the pizza boxes being cleared away by my sister.
“Why haven’t you cleared the last one?”, I muttered.
“Thought you might like cold pizza for breakfast”, she honestly retorted.
No, I didn’t start the day by wolfing down congealed pepperoni and bouncy, drying pineapple. Immediately recalling Dad’s good form during the night, I felt buoyed with hope. Yes, his comfort was drug induced but even so, his body was physically coping with the oxygen being delivered to him. He can stay like that for what… days? A week? More?
Scratching my unwashed head and feeling the product of 8 slices of Domino’s on my teeth, the world looked a little bit rosier.
Walking in to Dad’s room, the sound struck me first. The bubbling, gravel- crunching breathing sound is back. The bottom of his lungs is filling up again, limiting further his capacity to process oxygen. He wasn’t awake either. Still dozing, the shallow, strained, forced chest movements bellowed limited puffs in to his lungs. The monitor showed diminishing saturation levels.
Not over yet, the pain-relief of the dimorphine and anti-anxiety effects of the midazolam mean that Dad is not physically fighting to compete with the monitor’s score-keeping and is able to relax as much as possible, efficiently processing the O2 on offer.
But he is filling up with fluid. And the clots in his lungs are restricting blood flow. And his diaphragm is damaged from repeated chemo. And there’re those rapidly growing tumours.
The medication can be upped. And it can be upped again. Soon though, it can’t be upped any further.
That is the exact moment I am dreading and want to run from. The moment hope dies.
Our Team retreated to the home of close friends to shower, eat breakfast and, perhaps more importantly, play with the kids. Their laughter brought a little of the sunshine out and Summer almost seemed on its way again. I went to work for a few hours, Mrs Nomad took the Team to the hospital. The “Wales lot” were decamping, packing away, brushing hair, chatting, wandering, making excuses not to enter that room and say goodbye. Dad’s mum, “Granan”, with stoicism of an almost forgotten generation, made her farewell. She’s 84. He’s 58. Trembling tears and kisses from his sister, tight hugs and kisses and tears from his nieces, a stuttering, gentlemanly handshake and hug from his brother-in-law. This was their last goodbye.
I received a text from Mrs Nomad telling me his sats were dropping again; I logged off the utterly meaningless and irrelevant systems, unable to comprehend their screens anyway. The car journey to the hospital apparently took place. There was lunch in there somewhere, and conversations with the focused corum of Mum, sisters and partners happened. Oh, and the oncologist. Dad wants more air, doc will see what he can do. (Nothing). I hug my elder sister, she’s the medical one. She knows too much. She has the burden of knowledge, knowing not to hope, knowing the reality. No tears from us…..yet. …..just the long, tight, understanding embrace.
The numbers on the monitor fluctuated. Dad took a sip of diet coke, his sats collapsed to rock bottom. Mask on, sats slowly rise….but not as high.
It’s just him and me now. Complaining overtly for the last few months about womens’ intrinsic need to fill silence with noise, we sit quietly. I have nothing left I need to say and it would be selfish to make him talk just to satisfy my own cravings to hear him. Besides, the medazolam inhibits new memory formation, what would he take with him anyway? It’s enough that I am here next to him, right now. Father and son time. He can have his quiet.
The younger sister, the practical one, is chasing tasks for Mum. Arranging accommodation shutdowns, darting around town, keeping busy for other people, relieving the burden of us and herself in the process.
He awoke to take the monitor off of his finger before then drifting off once more. No longer competing with the mechanical scorer, perhaps there’s less pressure on him.
Sats at 72. He wanted the monitor connected again but the alarm sounds immediately. We silence it and he sleeps, roughly, coughing occasionally, with some irritability and agitation.
We take the 3 Action Princesses to see him and he clocks them immediately, removing his mask and beaming at them through struggled gasps and gulps. We take them back out again, blowing kisses at him, just in time for him to replace his mask and suck down his O2. A lot of pride and dignity in my old man. I love him. I miss him already as he stumbles out of the door to this life. Dad, I’m so proud of you.
I want him back!!!! Fuck you, Cancer!! Give me back my Dad!!
Where is my equipment to deal with this? Why is there nothing to hit, blow up, run at, overcome? ???
We’d hoped today would be like yesterday and tonight would be like last night. Dad wanted a Gin and Tonic last night but was asleep when it came. We’ve hoped a lot of things but my dreaded moment is almost. ….finally……maybe….maybe not…here.
Stop struggling, Dad. We got this.
I got this, Dad. Stop suffering. I got this.