Oct 28, 2006
My father was dealing for months, maybe years with an enlarged prostate. The man never said anything to us about it. His urologist slipped up a couple times, and inadvertently indicated that the problem had been ongoing. He kept prescribing the drugs to help mask the symptoms, most notable was his inability to pee. And so it went for who knows how long until it could no longer be ignored.
Almost daily was my phone blowing up over my Mother telling me all the new news with my Dad's health. Bladder cancer, Prostate cancer, prostate needs to come out, maybe we can save his bladder, etc. I lived several hundred miles away from them, and I like to be kept in the loop.
When it became clear that there were only a handful of doctors in the world who could help him then we had to extract answers from this proud man. Do you even want to try and treat it? How long to live without treatment? No longer than 9 months. What possibility for good quality of life without treatment? Depends on your definition of good. What possibility of survival from the surgery? About 6% survivability with about 20% survivors achieving remission. Can you live with these odds? Like pulling teeth. In the end, we decided thay Mayo Clinics in Rochester, MN was the way we were gonna go.
My second daughter Pandora had just been born. My Father was there. I have a single photograph to commemorate the occasion. On their way to MN, they stopped in to see us and we ate a tense dinner. I was aware that I may never see him alive again. My baby was with us, and I declined another picture with the two of them because another picture would surely mean that I didn't completely expect that he was gonna make it. If he lived, then there would be many more pictures of him with both of my children. And if he didn't, then the one picture I have of him and Pandora will be that much more special. I stopped as we were going back to our cars, and recorded in my brain what may very well have been the last I see of my Father on this Earth.
They went to Mayo and had the surgery. Removed his prostate and his bladder. Then they made what the called a neo-bladder out of a piece of his colon or lower intestine, whichever it was. After 2 weeks, his recovery looked promising. My sister had been there supporting my Mother, and she decided to go home. I jumped on a plane to take my "shift" of being there to support my parents, and I was very excited that Dad was doing good, relieved that I would see him again, and hopeful for his full recovery.
When I arrived, he was in good spirits. We spoke very little, but there was a surreal feeling about him that all of my transgressions toward him had been forgiven. On the day after my arrival, he told me that he loved me and that he was very proud of me. In the early morning of the next day my Mom phoned me at the hotel and sobbed, "Your Daddy is trying to die on us!" And it was the intensive care waiting room for the next 2 weeks.
The doctor was apprehensive to comment on quality of life at that point. My Father had suffered multiple organ failure and had 4 separate machines keeping him alive. We waited in that ICU for 2 weeks with no new news, just that the doctors were not going to commit to any comment at the time. I left at the end of my 2 week "shift" knowing full well that I may never see him alive again.
I arrived home and went straight back to work. The evening of my first day back, I got the call. Your Father has 0% possibility for any meaningful quality of life. Your Sisters and I have talked. We want to pull the plug because your Father does not want to live like this, but we will not do it without yours or your brother's approval. I heard "Yes" come out of my mouth but I do not have any recollection of me saying it on my own. I only asked that they wait for me to get there. And I jumped back on a plane the next morning.
I only cried once. When I got back to the hospital. In the ICU. When I didn't see my Mother or my Sisters, and I thought that I'd already missed him and he was gone. That was why my Uncle Bill was walking toward me with his arms out to give me a hug. I cried on his shoulders until I no longer felt like a man, but a sad, helpless baby. When I got myself together I realized my Mom and Sister was with my Father. They had taken him off of the dope that kept him comatose. He was awake but not lucid, and they would un-intubate when he had his wits about him.
We sat in that room smiling and laughing, and listening to his favorite music all night long. Watched him sleep. Listened to his sounds, Smelled his smells. He died the next afternoon. It was Me, My Mother, My Sister, and Uncle Bill. I held his hand until it went cold, and without a tear in my eye walked away to drive my Mother back home. Quite certain that I would never see him alive again. I miss him terribly.