Thursday, January 19, 2006

Family crisis

I have been kind of quiet lately because I've trying to deal with a family emergency. My 70-year-old father has to have his bladder removed.

He was first diagnosed with bladder cancer about 2 years ago. This form of cancer is very rare except in men who smoke. My dad smoked for about 40 years and quit about 12 years ago. When my dad was diagnosed, we learned some interesting statistics about cancer risks from smoking. When a person quits smoking their risk of heart disease and lung cancer decreases with each passing year. However, even if you quit smoking your risk of contracting bladder cancer remains high many years later. And this type of cancer is extremely rare in women or in nonsmoking men. So when he went to the doctor with his symptoms (blood in urine) the first question they asked him was "do you or did you smoke?" They also told him that this type of cancer is not hereditary so his children will not have to worry about inheriting the disease.

When they first discovered the cancer, they did a procedure (whose name I have forgotten) where they went in with a laser and zapped the tumors. The tumors were microscopic and easy to remove. Then he stayed overnight in the hospital and went home the next day. No chemo, no radiation, they don't treat this cancer with those treatments. Anyway, he has had to go in every three months and have this same procedure. It's not fun, but there are worse things. Of course, I'm not the one having to do this so I should keep my mouth shut.

My dad has always been a brooding kind of guy with a tendency toward depression. But he has a wonderful quirky sense of humor we loved as kids. My mom, when she was alive, was a very talkative and bubbly kind of person and she knew how to keep his spirits up. When my mom died in 1999 from a brain tumor, dad went into a deep depression and none of us (4 kids) knew what to do. Thank God he met a wonderful woman, Gay, who is so upbeat, funny, and we all adore her. Since his diagnosis it has been a struggle for Gay and all of us kids to keep dad from sinking into a deep depression. He won't talk to his doctor and completely denies it. Every three months when he has these procedures when they find and remove more tumors he says things like "I'm going to die so what's the use?" He eventually snaps out of it but it has been a seesaw around our family to go through this every three months.

A few days ago dad went in for this procedure again and the doctor found many more tumors (and larger ones as well) than she has seen in the past and has called it quits. She says that there are no more treatments she can try (they have tried everything). So she recommended to dad that he have his bladder removed.

Dad and Gay are devastated. All four of us have talked to dad and are trying to cheer him up. We are trying to tell him that this is for the best really. He won't have to have this awful procedure every 3 months and have to worry about the possibility that the tumors will grow through the bladder lining into the abdomen which would spread the cancer. Of course, it's easy for me to say this, it's not my body, but I hope if he thinks about it he'll come to see that wearing a bag is better than constant worries about cancer. I talked to him tonight and he sounds a bit more cheerful, or maybe faking cheerful. But that works for me.

Since he got the news Dad has been acting up which is understandable but very frustrating. And my brother is pissing me off too. Maybe I'll blog about that later since I have droned on long enough. Sorry.


CindyS said...

Oh Renee - I am so very sorry that you are dealing with this. I think the worst part about being a man sometimes is not being able to acknowledge that you need help.

Just before my Gram passed she finally admitted to her doctor that she was so very depressed and the doctor called my father into the room to find my Gram sobbing. I'm not sure whether my Gramma was afraid my dad would think she was weak because the doctor explained to my Dad that there was no reason for her to have to deal with her depression on her own.

She started medication in January and I saw her the week before she died. She was a wee bit embarassed but I had been on Paxil for years and I told her I would be on some form of med for the rest of my life because of my panic attacks. I told her that it was a blessing to have something to help when our body is rebelling. The last words I remember her saying that day was that she had 'found her smile' again. I will be forever grateful that she was seeing the sun in life again.

Men, however, are different species. I had said something to my husband about going to see a councellor about some of his worries. Bob's a great guy and he became all stiff and said 'I don't need therapy'. Yet, I have had it and Bob knows how much I think of it as a blessing.

I'm especially happy for you that your father found a woman that you all love. What a wonder set of kids he raised to support him in finding happiness again in his life.

I will pray and hope that your father can find his path. It really is a choice between death or life.

I'm going to try and e-amil you privately.


Megan Frampton said...


My sympathies on your situation--dealing with depression on top of something like this is very, very hard. It's great to hear your dad has another person besides family members to lean on. Good luck to all of you, I'll be hoping things improve.

Tara Marie said...

It's so hard to deal with our parents being ill. I'm so sorry you're all going through this. And it's is a family crisis that everyone needs to deal with and come to terms with. My dad has been dealing with a chronic illness partially brought on by smoking. It's a horrible insidious habit and we don't even realize how much so until we are forced to deal with the diseases it causes--soapbox, sorry.

I'll keep the whole family in my thoughts and prayers.

Avid Reader said...

In my family, I have to give my younger sister and brother props for keeping the spirits up when some of us are down as I have no clue myself sometimes as to what to say to other people. I can relate to you there. My prayers, thoughts and {{{{{hugs))))) go out to you and your family. Stay strong. Think positive.

Kristie (J) said...

Renee: I'm so sorry for what you, your dad and the rest of your family are going through. And I know what you mean about the depression. Ron has battled it for years too and has said almost the same thing as your dad. It's a double battle they have to face that's for sure. Anytime you need to vent or to "talk" you know where to reach me. One of the things that's been most difficult for me is not knowing anyone who is going through this kind of thing so know that I'm here to listen and offer whatever help and support I can.

sybil said...

I wish I could say something that would make it all better. I am sorry and hope everything goes well.

Regardless we are here to listen.

ReneeW said...

Thank you all for your offers of support and sympathies. I feel a bit guilty about unburdening myself on my blog but it has made me see things more clearly in my mind and it helps to get if off my chest. I went to church today and talked the ears off my close friends. I need to let go of things I can't change in my dad but still be there when he needs me. Thanks for listening !

Rosario said...

Renée, I'm so sorry to hear about your dad, and I hope everything goes well for him. And please don't worry about not being all positive, all the time on your blog. This is exactly what a blog is for, for you to write about what's on your mind. We are hear to listen whenever you want to share.

Wow, I haven't touched my blog in over 6 years and I'm still logged in!  Good thing because I have no idea what my password is.  In ...