I often use writing as a way to vent and gather my thoughts, a form of therapy. Today I need just that. On Monday the 12th of June my dad was admitted into the University of Utah hospital because of headaches and loss of muscle function in his left hand. Him and my mom sat in the emergency room for several hours waiting for results of the cat scan. We checked in with her every half hour or so waiting for results. I got home from the gym and was about to eat dinner my mom sent out a group text. The first word I saw was tumor and instantly started to bawl.
Surely that was an auto correct mistake because theres no way. I wiped my eyes several times trying to clear them just enough to finish reading. “Tumor on his brain, Dr’s are doing an MRI before deciding what to do next.” I nearly fell to the floor. I lost it. The kind of cry that makes weird noises come from your body and getting air is nearly impossible. This kind of stuff doesn’t happen in real life. Only in the movies right? I mean I’m not dense, I know people get sick all the time. But not my dad. The strongest man I know. Literally could fight a grizzly bear.
I sent a text to Justin and continued to sob. Within minutes he responded with a simple “pack your bags”. My head was swirling so much that I couldn’t even think. I walked around the kitchen in circles trying to process. I tried to tell him that we couldn’t leave yet, that I couldn’t take time off work and I didn’t even know what my mom needed yet. He just responded again “pack your bags”. I continued to pace, unable to process. I knelt in my living room and prayed for my dad and his body. I prayed for my mom and the Dr’s at the hospital. And lastly I prayed for help to get up, drive safely to Evanston and stay strong for my brothers still at home. I stood up, and went into action. I called my office manager and sobbed for a couple seconds before being able to explain that I needed time off. I then called my mom and told her we would be driving to Evanston that night and taking care of the little boys and the house so she could focus on dad. At first she fought back and tried to convince me to stay home and not change my plans. After several attempts at convincing I finally just had to tell her to let me help and not fight it. She’s where I get my independence. Justin walked in the door several minutes later and I hadn’t packed anything but some dog food. He didn’t say much to me, other than asked what I needed done. I was torn between asking for a hug and starting the water works again, or just getting busy and getting out of the house asap. I chose the latter. I grabbed my bag and started throwing clothes in it. Mostly sweats and underwear. I think we were packed in under 10 minutes. Before leaving I mentioned to Justin that we needed to leave my mom my car, and drive the truck home. She had mentioned that the brakes were so bad that she may have to leave the hospital to get them fixed before driving anywhere else. And that wasn’t happening. Without even skipping a beat he started hauling tools to the trunk. He wasn’t going to take the truck and pay someone to do a job he could do himself even tho I tried to convince him that it would be easier. Thats the kind of man I married. He will literally take off his shirt for someone that needs it and I will always admire that about him. After getting in the car he got on the phone and started to hunt down the exact brake pads we needed and we headed for the hospital. It was a long drive, only 45 minutes or so but it seemed like triple that. Eventually we parked and walked into the emergency room doors.
I hate hospitals. I hate the vibe in hospitals. I hate the germs in hospitals knowing that people only come there because they’re sick. But walking into those doors I had compassion for every person I saw. I ached for every lady in a wheelchair, or a young mom walking around pulling a suit case. My outlook had changed from “please wash your hands before touching anything including me” to “I’m so sorry for your trial.” Because I was now one of those people. Somewhere in this hospital my dad was laying in a bed just as scared as the rest of us for the news to come. We were directed to his room and knocked on the door. Seconds later my mom peeked around the curtain to usher us in. Her eyes were swollen and bloodshot. She looked tired and worried. I rounded the curtain to see my dad there. He looked just as tired and emotional as my mom. He was connected to several wires and still had dots on his forehead from the MRI. I fought tears, I swallowed the lump in my throat and smiled the best smile I could. I’m the oldest of 6 children and my job now was to stay strong and help. We had awkward small talk for a few minutes. Basically asked questions about what more the Doctors had said. My mom had been on the phone talking to family all evening and still needed to call her parents. As my mom picked up her cellphone her chin started to quiver. Tears started to fall down my dads cheeks and she leaned over to wipe them. My heart broke. There’s something so heartbreaking about seeing your dad struggle like that. It’s heart wrenching to watch someone so strong silently cry. Justin and I stood up and walked into the hallway to give them privacy. I tried to hold in the tears, I tried so hard. But i couldn’t. As soon as the door shut behind me the tears fell again, but at least the people around me weren’t surprised. They didn’t stare, they looked at me with compassion. We gave them 10 minutes or so and went back in. Not too long later a nurse came in to move him to an actual room on the Neurology floor. We walked behind his bed as he was pushed down the hallway. Every person you see looks at you like “I’m Sorry.” Or at least it felt that way. In the elevator the nurse tried to lighten the mood a little, and I gave him a courtesy giggle but really wished he would just stay quiet. We had been in the hospital for an hour or more now and needed to leave in order to get parts for the truck before everyone was closed. We got him situated in his new room and started to pack up to leave. I hugged my mom and told her I loved her. Started towards my dad who stood up from his chair and pulled me in. He held me like he had never held me before. If I didn’t know any better I would’ve thought he was saying his good byes. He sobbed while pulling my body closer to his with every breath. My head was buried in his chest so far that I couldn’t breathe. His body convulsed as he tried to get air between sobs. He ran his hand over my hair several times and kissed my cheeks. I’ve seen my dad cry only a couple times. Mostly at funerals or church meetings. But this was different. This was a heart wrenching sob. As we both struggled for air, he whispered for me to be tough, something he’s always said during hard times. We took a few deep breaths together and I pulled away. He then walked up to my husband and embraced him, thanked him for taking care of me and told him that he loved him. It was all I could do not to hit the floor. I sobbed in the elevator, and all the way down the long hall. I would get control and dry my eyes, and then start all over again. We rounded the last corner before getting to the doors, and there stood my aunt. Also a nurse in this hospital and she held me. For three minutes or more. She repeatedly told me she was sorry and she loved me. Over and over. I soaked her shoulder and probably turned it black. She asked how he was and how my mom was holding up and then we left. Justin and I were in the car for an hour and a half and I cried the whole way home. The longer we drove without hearing MRI results the faster the tears came. We neared Evanston and the text finally came through. They were scheduling surgery for first thing in the morning and removing the tumor. I felt a rush of relief through my whole body. The fact that they could take it out was a good sign. I wasn’t crying anymore, mostly because my eyes were stinging and bloodshot, and I was exhausted. We pulled into the house, unloaded the truck and went straight to bed. I laid there for an hour or more. How could my mind rest at a time like this? Theres two little boys in the next room that don’t even know their dad has a tumor yet, and I get to be the one to tell them. My two older brothers knew, but hadn’t said anything to the younger two yet. Eventually I slept. It was short-lived but it was something. Around 7 I quit trying and decided to get up. As I walked into the living room I was greeted by Ryan. The older of the two youngest boys. I just said good morning and asked how he slept. Still trying to figure out what I would say when he asked, and also prayed that I wouldn’t shed any tears when it came time to tell him. They didn’t need to see me worried and scared. Luckily nothing was said until Lane woke up. He is 8 and the youngest. We had breakfast and got them showered and ready for the day. Lane asked about dad at one point and I wasn’t ready to dive in. So I said that his brain was having some issues and the doctors were trying to figure out what was wrong. I showered and got ready for the day and pulled my thoughts together. They were outside playing for a while so I took the time to answer several phone calls and text messages. Word travels fast in a small town and everyone wanted to know how and what to do to help. It was overwhelming but i was so grateful to have so many people as concerned as I was. I was missing calls all day while I would be on the other line updating someone else. I finally was under control and called the little boys inside. I sat them down in the living room and explained the situation. I let them know that dad had something growing on his brain and the Doctors needed to do surgery to take it out. I reassured them that dad was at the best hospital and had the best doctors. I also let them know that dad would okay and we just needed to pray. I told them not only to pray for mom and dad, but also for all the doctors and nurses that would be helping. Ryan was immediately concerned that the surgery would cause dad to forget all of us. I could feel the tears starting to come. This poor boy just didn’t want his dad to forget him. I swallowed, closed my eyes for a second and reassured him that dad would not forget, but that he just needed to get the tumor out and everything would be fine. They seemed to understand but my heart ached having to break news like this to them. They wanted confirmation several times that he was with good doctors and he was going to be okay. After answering all questions we sat there in silence for a minute or two and then they went their separate ways. I continued to answer the phone, reply to all the texts and start on lunch. Meanwhile Justin was outside changing the brake pads on the truck in the freezing cold. It took him several hours but he worked so hard and never complained. At 10 AM the text came through saying dad was being prepped for surgery and then it was go time. I said one last quick prayer for everyone involved and prayed that our Heavenly Father would send angels to fill that that operating room. The hard part was watching the clock knowing that the surgery would be 4 hours or more. I tried to stay busy washing dishes and folding clothes but those tasks almost made it worse. My mind wasn’t engaged and it started to run wild. I decided to turn on some piano music to help distract. And the phone rang. The tumor was out and the surgery was successful. Such good news! I started texting several family members and going through the list of concerned people to update them. I figured the more people I was able to update, the less time my mom would have to spend doing it and they could rest.
It was after lunch at this point and the kids were hungry and wanted to get out so we settled with McDonalds. We ordered and sat down and my phone rang again. It was Tycee, and immediately after answering I knew something was wrong. She was trying to get the words out but couldn’t. She tried several times, took a deep breath and was finally able to mutter “it is malignant.” At this point I had 5 pairs of eyes on me trying to read my reaction. I covered my mouth, finished the conversation and hung up. I didn’t have any time to prep this time. Two or three seconds at most. I quickly thought, “please Heavenly Father help me.” I obviously couldn’t use the word malignant because they wouldn’t know what that meant. I also couldn’t say nothing because they knew something was wrong. They could see it. So I looked up and said, ” that was Tycee, and the tumor is cancerous.” Poor little Ryan lost all the color in his face, Brett pushed his food away and Clay stopped chewing. Immediately Ryan spoke up with so much concern in his voice and asked “But doesn’t cancer kill people?” I think at that point my husband knew I was getting to the end of my rope for holding in the tears. So he calmly explained that sometimes it does but that dad is strong and he will be just fine. He then changed the subject and I was never more grateful for a conversation about happy meal toys.
The drive back to the house was long. It was just me and Clay in his car. He was busy talking to me about his day at work and all the stuff he accomplished. I had to work so hard to be engaged. To smile when appropriate, and laugh when I was supposed to. I knew it was his way of trying to cope but the only thing I could concentrate on was cancer. It was only Tuesday and I was SURE that this week couldn’t get any worse. I think he could see the hurt on my face because the conversation eventually just simmered. I walked into the house and went straight back to my parents bedroom where we had been sleeping. I sat on the floor next to the bed and sobbed. I didn’t understand. This was happening to one of the MOST faithful men. One that worked so hard for his family that he just had a knee replacement a month ago. And the second knee replacement was already scheduled. I stayed back there for probably three hours or more. Right about the time I thought I could go back out I lost it again. When I finally did go back out, Justin had them completely engulfed in the MarioCart Wii games he had packed for them. And I almost cried again simply because I was so grateful to have found such a good man.
We went about the night as normal. Made dinner, showered and got ready for bed. And I was ready to crash. Its exhausting to feel every emotion imaginable within a 24 hour period. My body was tired, my eyes hurt and my heart ached. Luckily I slept pretty decent. I was woken up at 8:30 by my phone ringing and I was so grateful to feel just a little rejuvenated. I talked to several people wanting more updates and got ready for the day. We had made plans to go to the hospital and I was anxious to get there. But first there was laundry that needed to be done, kids to feed and some cleaning to finish. Eventually we packed and left. My poor husband, I don’t think I had said much to him all day. But when I did I was snappy. I could feel my emotions so close to the surface and I knew it wouldn’t take much for the break down to be coaxed out. After getting in the car he asked if I wanted to talk. And my eyes began to flood, I muttered no and let the tears flow. I didn’t cry or make any noise but the tears just fell and I let them. I didn’t hold it in any longer. It felt so good to be in a space where I didn’t have to try and protect someone. I could hurt and let my mind cope. I stayed quiet most of the way as Justin held my hand and reassured me that he was here. How grateful I was for that.
Just before arriving at the hospital dad had been moved from the ICU to a normal room on the neurology floor. Pulling into that parking lot gave me anxiety. I felt dizzy, sick, nervous, scared, you name it. But I couldn’t march down that hall fast enough. I knocked, waited and turned the corner to see his face. He smiled back at me and he looked so good. He literally looked better than I could’ve imagined. You would’ve never known he just had brain surgery. There were several other family members there but I paid little attention to them, walked up and grabbed his hand. It was wonderful to feel him squeeze back. He asked how I was and how the other kids were holding up. I couldn’t help but be in awe at how wonderful he looked. I knew right then that our Heavenly Father had helped him immensely. Only 24 hours after brain surgery he was moved out of the ICU. He was walking, eating and carrying on his normal conversation. He had lost a little more function in his left hand which was to be expected after surgery. He will need several weeks of physical therapy to regain movement but he had made so much progress.
As far as the cancer goes the Dr’s haven’t said much. They want him to relax and recover first before they will give full details on the next steps to be taken. I wish we could know now so my mind can stop wandering. But after all the miracles I have seen this week I am sure there’s nothing coming that him and his team of angels can’t fight.
On a different but related note my dads sister is currently on the same floor. She has been having seizures and the only way for the Doctors to figure out whats causing them is to monitor her. She is hooked up to several cords and wires as they document every seizure. Her room is directly across from my dad and its been a blessing in disguise to have everyone so close.
Hold your loves ones tonight. Don’t let them go to sleep without knowing how much you love them. Nothing is more important than family.