I’ve been staying in Tucson longer than I originally anticipated. 9 weeks ago I arrived with endless hope and energy. As today comes to a close I feel the weight of endless sadness – reckless sleeping has pushed down my weary shoulders and clouded my eyesight. I am amazed at the amount of tears that continue to fall many times a day. I duck into an empty bathroom or I sit in my car, or suddenly I can not hold myself up as I am standing alone washing the dishes in my father’s empty home.
Is this the way life is now? I am unable to see out. Suffering from serious sleep deprivation as I make endless decisions for my father’s care. I find myself with the suprising and distracting task of convincing caregivers that my father is in their facility to recover from throat cancer and chemo – not die – recover! I have learned the hard way that because my father is quite thin and is on a feeding tube many false assumptions have been made. My hope and faith is tested as I take someone aside to explain that my father is already a miracle! can’t you see that he is walking unassisted?! He was in a wheelchair only 2 months ago. PLUS he has gained 7 pounds since he went on that feeding tube. I am quite clear on my hope. I am quite clear I am spreading a positive force of healing thoughts. I am quite clear as I share my admiration for my father’s unwavering determination. Yes, his confusion is heart breaking – however – he is tenacious and healing!
Caregivers giggle when he makes a face like a frog with a wide turned down mouth. Then he makes a face like a fish and puckers up. “Ga. Ga. Ga!” he says with his broken raspy voice. “Ka – ka – ka!” He says with a sly smile and wink. “Wow! Good ones Dad! You’re really improving! Keep up the good work!” I tell him with a gentle hug. “Your throat exercises are making a big difference Dad! I can tell. I just know it to be true. I catch a couple caregivers tilt their head with sudden understanding. They ask questions. So my father teaches them what he is doing to rebuild his throat muscles. The tumors that were at the top of his throat and airway are gone now. He speaks highly of both his oncologist as well as his Speech Pathologist who visits him on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Yes, it is another day in the life with surviving throat cancer. But the good news is, my father’s hard work, combined with hope and my private tears and prayer is paying off in baby steps. The Speech Pathologist gave him 3 sips of water yesterday and then 3 sips of apple juice. He did not cough. He did not choke. He swallowed – he drank them. It was magnificent.
And the best news of all is that my father’s alma mater, Michigan State, won the Rose Bowl. All we can do is the very best we can do. Half measures avail us nothing. It’s another blessed day in Tucson. It is the recovery that comes from hope. Tears are allowed with hope. Confusion is allowed with hope. Sleepless lonely nights in an empty house can still have hope and blessings in every corner.