so I’ll just jump in here with both feet. I’ve blogged a few times since early October but didn’t mention anything about our family circumstances. Here goes.
In late September, we were starting school, finishing harvest, and getting ready for our October trip to NYC to visit my parents, and then our trip to DC with my father. Then my mother phoned from their house in the West Indies to say my father was behaving oddly, and even before the GP down there said anything (because of experience with my father- and brother-in-law), it sounded rather like a mini-stroke.
My parents headed for NYC and doctors and tests, I emailed my sister in Kenya to tell her the news and she jumped on a plane. We jumped on our regularly scheduled plane in early October, but instead of the usual grandparents’ visit, we arrived in time for my father’s exploratory brain surgery. We decided to continue on to Washington with the kids so at least we’d be on East Coast near my parents and to provide some distraction for the kids, and it was in a hotel room there that we got news of the prognosis, brain cancer (glioblastomoa multiforme, grade 4, which is pretty much the worst case scenario). The best the doctors could offer was 12-18 months with radiation and oral chemotherapy following the operation to remove what they could of the tumor.
Tom and the kids and I returned home in late October, the kids went trick or treating, and I ran around running errands and wriggling out of commitments and appointments so that I could return to NYC for six weeks, taking over for my sister as my father started daily radiation treatments and a pill regimen he loathed. Realizing that if my parents and I were left on our own in the apartment for Christmas and New Year’s, the holidays would be a pretty grim affair for them, I had an easy time convincing Tom to come to NYC with the kids on a cheer-up mission.
In early December, based on some of our observations, the radiation oncologist scheduled an MRI to assess the results so far, only to learn that the tumor was growing “as if it were dosed with Miracle Gro”. The radiation and chemo weren’t having much of an effect, and my father’s personality was already so changed from early October, before the operation. Brain cancer seems to me to have more in common with Alzheimer’s and even autism than any of the other cancers I’ve encountered. The truly bad news was a revised prognosis of six months or less, so needless to say our holidays were bittersweet.
After our determined effort to have a New Year’s celebration and the arrival of my sister and her daughter from Kenya, we headed back home, thinking that my father would have at least a few more months and we’d make another trip to New York. But the day we left and the day after, my father had two bad falls, was unable to get up, and ended up in the hospital for some physical therapy. He was doing well, well, as well as could be expected under the circumstances, and after about a week was expected to come home, when he died suddenly. I think we’ve all been stunned more or less ever since, a second helping of stunned since the initial diagnosis in October. I had just been unpacking and doing laundry in more or less of a daze after being away from home for six weeks when I started repacking for a three-week trip, from which I returned earlier this month, helping my mother and sister to tidy the apartment and sort through boxes and stacks of papers and such at the office. The dizzying pace of events since late September and months away from home have been discombobulating. I’m still meeting people at the grocery store who remember seeing me last in November, just before leaving to see to the radiation, who kindly ask how my father is doing. It’s heartbreaking to tell them the latest.
To boot we’re dealing with a couple of extra difficulties in the extended family, including the unexpected death of my father’s close friend (who was also my brother-in-law’s father) and yet more cancer, which makes me hope that for all of us the rest of the year will be decidedly boring and undramatic.
In the meantime, there are lots of distractions at home to keep us busy: the Olympics, especially the curling and hockey; 4H public speaking (the kids all did very well, with Laura and Daniel getting first place at the intermediate and junior levels of their club, and Davy getting second place in junior; the older two go to Districts tomorrow); the music festival, with the kids’ entries and me as promotions co-ordinator; the annual organic certification application which has to be in by the end of March; seeds to start; and making sure all the tax paperwork is in before I take off in early April. Oh, and maybe some blogging, too.