A letter

When Sis called, I was was keeping an eye on Dad while Mom went to Sheridan to renew her car tags. A few minutes later, I noticed that Dad was becoming quite restless. Shortly thereafter, Sis called, and I told her what was going on.

"If you're the only person there, watching Dad, and you see that he's starting to become restless in his sleep, keep a close eye on him. He's probably having breakthrough pain. Don't feel guilty about this—just go ahead and punch the button on his morphine dispenser to give him a bit of extra pain medication. Right now, rest is the best thing for him."

"So I should go ahead and give him one now?"

"Wouldn't hurt."

I cradled the cordless phone between shoulder and ear, and ever-so-quietly opened the velcro pouch that contained the dispenser for his pain medication. I pressed the "Dose" button, heard the two high beeps, and shortly thereafter Dad settled back down into a more peaceful sleep.

It's hard to do that. Doesn't seem like much, I know, but it's difficult to quash the little nervous flutterings that say that you're arbitrarily stepping in to make decisions for someone who is, technically, still capable of making them on his own. But I have to balance that with knowing that the sleep will do Dad good—considering that he starts round two of radiation therapy tomorrow morning—and that if administering one extra dose of medication will help him sleep, then it simply must be done.

That's a theme in my life, it seems—doing what "must be done."

After Mom got back this afternoon, she went through the mail. After reading through everything, she came to the back of the house and handed me a letter from one of Dad's doctors, saying that I should probably read it. In short:

"The angiogram did confirm the changes in the back of the eye that is suggestive of some metastatic problems to the eye. This is not the classic appearance we generally see, but your central vision known as the macula definitely showed indication of problems with the level of blood supply to the eye. Unfortunately, at the time, without any active leakage present, there is nothing we can do…"

Another probable metastasis. It's frustrating and angering and yet not one whit surprising. It explains why Dad has been having severe vision problems for the past half-year or so, and why the doctors were never able to find a cause that made sense. With our current knowledge, metastasis is an obvious possibility, but prior to Dad's cancer diagnosis, the possibility of his vision problems being caused by cancer seemed a rather ridiculously improbable one at best.

As for now, Dad sleeps, as he has slept for most of the day. He has probably been awake for less than three hours today; yesterday's visit to the hospital for a blood test just exhausted him. Mom has been trying to prepare me for how badly Dad will feel after his radiation treatment tomorrow. I've come to realize since arriving here that while intellectual preparation for a difficult situation (such as this) is a good thing, such preparation really can't quell the surge of emotional reaction that comes from seeing someone you care about in pain.

Sis asked me earlier today, "Was this what you expected?"

How to answer both yes and no? "To some degree, yeah, it is. Mom gave me a pretty thorough description of what to expect, and I think that helped a bit."

"He looks bad."

"He does."

"I sometimes wonder which is harder—living with this each day, like we have, and seeing him gradually decline each day, or what you're dealing with—seeing him at Christmas while he was fine and then coming out here and seeing all of these changes at once. We've at least had a bit of a chance to get used to it, and you really haven't."

"No, not really. I'm not sure there's a good way to deal with this at all."

"If there is, I haven't found it yet."


Hold in there. You're a strong person. My thoughts are with you every day. Send my best wishes to your family.