March 10, 2011

spring break - day 5

It's becoming increasingly more toilsome to find the right words to relate the stories of my brother and dad.  I'm trying to relate the beauty of their lives, their bravery and the immense pain that I see through the lens of my experience.  I REFUSE to reduce this endeavour to just a collection of medical facts about their diseases....

my brother
At the end of the day, my dad, my mother and myself are around the bed in which my brother resides.  A gentle breeze wafts through the room and the setting sun casts long shadows.  Pain lies heavily in the air like a thick dew.  Tears flow freely down everyone's face but my own.  They just won't come.  I know it's not because of some stupid concept of masculine bravado.  It's almost that by breaking down, I'm publicly admitting to my parents and brother that the end may be near.   My dad's heart is breaking for his son but I suspect the grief and fear of his own cancer is mixed in there, too.  My parents exit the rom and it's just my bro and me.  Intense awkwardness sets in due to the impotence for me to do anything to alleviate his suffering.  I offer him a pain pill, probably as much to help myself as anything.  For my own pain, I take a long, long draught of wine.  A pregnant pause of silence is followed by words and then the tears come in rivers.  Soul wrenching pain mixed with intense devotion and love.  Hopelessness and utter despair mixed with still holding to that chance, no matter how small.  An exercise in contradictions.  I will not relate those words here.  Suffice to say, I say things I desperately need to say.  I leave him with the words, "I am going to go to bed and wake up tomorrow morning with the belief that chemo will gain you a toehold.  I have to."

my dad
It's an all day event at MD Anderson with just my dad and myself.  My mom is once again torn between her son and husband.  My brother is in no condition to spend it at MDACC and neither is he fit to be left alone.  We decide to have her care for him at her home.  I'm better equipped to handle the medical stuff and she's better equipped to handle the caring and tenderness my bro requires.  We all have our critical roles to play.  From before 8 in the morning to nearly 5 in the afternoon, we are presented with a nonstop flow of information and the emotions of my dad as he begins to finally digest and truly hear the words.  Things like
high risk....we cannot wait on treatment anymore.....10-15% mortality from stell cell transplant alone....prognosis?  let's wait to see how responds to chemo.....potential life threatening infections during chemo.....go to the emergency room if.....when would you like to start chemo?
That last hits my dad like the weight of a mountain.  Speechless, he does not have an answer.  Finally the words tremble from his lips, "I'm scared."  The doctor gives him the emotional space to work up the courage.  I gently suggest starting chemo tomorrow on the same day as my brother in a sign of solidarity.  My dad recoils at that notion.  He puts his son first above himself.  He's even commented before, "I have cancer.  Now yours can get better," implying he will lay down his life to absorb his son's cancer.  But it doesn't work that way.  He cannot emotionally reconcile him having chemo the same day as his son.  So he will start the day after his son.

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