Clearing the grey skies (Blog 8)

Siblings

So this particular blog has to start with how the weekend has slowly began to draw to a conclusion. My dad has seen a massive improvement from the impacts of chemo he has been experiencing. His outlook is far more positive and just 5 minutes ago he said “I’ve amazed myself today” as well as saying “I’m really pleased with how things have gone”.

The weekend had a lot of plans in store. On Saturday his daughter was visiting and Sunday we were taking a trip to see his sister in Albir.

My dad is coping admirably and his mind set is much improved. The temperature is 36c – 40c and even I’m struggling to get around in the pure heat. My dad is a very strong willed man and his inner fight has slowly started to reveal itself again.

Saturday was always going to be a long drawn out day. Heather, his daughter was due to visit from the UK with her husband. The visit as I’ve said previously was hopefully going to give my dad the boost he needed.

I sincerely do believe this was the case. I won’t discuss this in too much detail though the visit for the rest of us probably went exactly the way we imagined it would. Well actually no this is a lie. On the face of it, it couldn’t have gone any worse. As they say though every cloud has a silver lining. And whilst some of the events have caused undue pain, my dad bless his heart, seems to have taken this and flipped it into a major positive.

On Sunday morning, he wakes me up and tells me that he understands what’s going on and he loves me. My dad does not show this kind of emotion and I write this to encourage everyone that he is fighting. No longer just for us but finally for himself. He does not want to die. He wants to look to the future. I’m just relieved that he is actually talking about the future. His mind set has come on leaps and bounds.

Sunday was always the day that we were going to enjoy more, as his sister (My aunt Margaret) is currently away with a friend in Albir. We’ve promised to arrange a visit to allow them both to see each other. They share a strong bond and we believe both sides need each other.

The journey is approximately 128km each way. It’s a long journey to say the least, let alone in the heat and especially with how my dad has been. All of us are unaware if the journey is wise though my dads pure commitment to his sister is driving him to get up, be ready and hop in the car. I think he would have driven himself if it meant he got to see her.

We arrive just before 11am and Margaret is waiting outside her hotel. For a 73 year old lady, she almost sprinted to the car when we pulled up outside. The next part was lovely to witness though a true heartfelt moment. Their embrace said it all.

We leave them to get acquainted whilst we find somewhere to park. Margaret has chosen a lovely café to visit of which todays first blog picture is shown.

It’s fantastic to see everyone in such good spirits. After yesterday, tensions could have been ropey but somehow a grey mist over everything has been lifted.

My dad looks strong, he looks well, he is fighting and he is up and about and considering the next 6 months and beyond.

We leave Albir in the late afternoon. Whilst showing sign of tiredness, both of them are clearly glad for the time they’ve spent together. My aunty Margaret is an angel in my eyes. Her connection with my dad is special and for both of them the visit has been the best thing.

We arrive home after a torturous journey. Not because of my mums crazy driving (no really, the driving was of fairly good standard) but due to the blazing heat. The breeze was like having a hairdryer on full blast directly in your face for two hours. My dad seemed to not bat an eyelid. I just wanted to curl up and cry – this heat is just not right!

When we get home though we decide that taking a dip in the pool is all that we need to cool ourselves down. What amazes me though is that my dad says he too wants to join us.

Poolside Fun

Picture 2 as you will see is the four of us together in the pool. It’s when we get out and have a drink when my dad recites how the blog started. Well clearly he’s amazed himself. We are amazed and thankful for the change we have seen. Even now he is still chatting about everything and nothing in the background. For someone who couldn’t muster the energy to sit up in bed just 5 days ago, he’s now currently been up for 14.5hrs.

The journey ahead is not going to be easy. Chemo session two is due to start around the 10th July. Based on session 1, it could put us back to square one but only time will tell. As with this time though we will battle on together and see him through it.

I’ve seen my old dad again today. My mum has her husband back and Alan has his friend again. The bionic man who can face anything. He has been laughing, joking and putting us all through the misery of his favorite jokes including the two cows and Coco the Clown. Those in the know at this stage will simply roll their eyes.

Whilst I’ve tried throughout to remain positive, today has been easy. As much as my dad may need us right now, we need him too. My immediate family are united and together we will face what this has in store for us.

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The Side Effects…. How many??? (Blog 7)

Bovril & Lettuce - Don't ask!!!

So Chemo seems to have come and gone quickly and having had a restless night we all wake on Saturday (20th June) in the naïve hope that the Side Effects won’t show until week 2 and things can just be normal again.

The side effects we were warned about included: Flu like symptoms, Fever, Loss of appetite, Loss of hair, In-growing toe nails, Rough skin, Sensitive skin, Gum problems, Loss of taste sensation, Change of eating habits, Phlebitis, Allergies, Mucous, Constipation, Vomiting, Nausea, Anaemia…. At this rate you wouldn’t find it difficult to understand why some people may opt out of Chemotherapy. The rewards though could be the greatest gift to my family ever, especially my dad.

What they didn’t warn us about was the Groaning, Moaning, Worrying, Headaches, Hiccups, Excessive tiredness and eventually as you would expect “Arguments”.

Saturday is a difficult day. We have been instructed that my dad MUST drink 1.5ltrs of water per day. This in itself is no easy task. “It tastes horrid”, “I can’t swallow”, “It hurts”, “Why do I need it”, “It’s pointless, You’re punishing me”, “You keep going on” This disregards the fact that the appetite has all but vanished.

My dad finds himself without energy, without any form of get up and go, without any desire to eat, without any desire to drink. The only energy he can muster up is the ability to moan like a bugger. And trust me he can moan 24/7 though somehow doesn’t seem to know why he is doing. He lets out the biggest grunts, knows he’s doing it then when asked tells us he doesn’t know why it’s happening.

Despite being in bed all day and not being swayed to move, I am encouraged by the odd smile here and there.

Father’s Day – June 21st. I had hoped today that I could take my dad for a nice breakfast at the local Rastro. Just father and son. It would be nice to have done an adventure walk, even if it was just around the house for 2 minutes. In my head I am being logical – This could in theory by the last Fathers Day I ever get to spend with him. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being negative, just sometimes you do have to be realistic. Ideally I will be bankrupted every year trying to better the last Fathers Day gift. Then again just being here by his side is clearly enough.

I’ve written my dad a 3 page letter. Just personal memories and things I want to tell him before it’s too late – It’s not a good bye letter but it’s a chance to thank him for making me the man I am today. My dad has supported me through thick and thin. I just want him to know how I feel. We don’t have a lovey dovey relationship so saying I Love You doesn’t flow naturally. This is just how we are. I find myself thankful though that I have this opportunity. The day doesn’t at first seem to go well and having materialised from his bed only once, he is bed ridden for the rest of the day.

It gets to 22:45. I’m watching some rubbish on Telly with my dad in the other room – I wander to myself what the hell am I playing at? I go into my dads room and lay next to him. He reaches for my hand and grabs hold. We lay there for 20 minutes, gently chatting just about things that I won’t go into but this is possibly the most precious 20 minutes I will cherish forever. His hand in mine the entire time. In a random way whilst it hadn’t been my Fathers Day plan – it’s probably turned out the best day ever. The fact he is talking encourages me.

The next 3 days are all a blur. The good thing I guess is that fairy steps are being made each day.

The main side effect that no one wants though was always going to happen starts – the arguments. My mum is annoyed that my dad isn’t drinking. It’s a combination of annoyance, love, anger, hope and frustration all rolled in to one. Hearing your loved ones fight is never easy. Hearing them fight when one of them is dying is even harder.

My dad complains that it hurts to swallow though when we ask what he means he says there is no pain. He has started to eat some grapes. Fair enough this isn’t the meals he should be on, though at least it’s something. Somehow he can eat grapes but not drink fluid.

My mum god bless her doesn’t always know when to back off. Anyone that knows her will know what I mean – my mum will be reading this too. It’s not to make her feel bad. She is trying her best and loves my father dearly. She struggles though with the sheer frustration of my dad not drinking. Each of them bite at one another. He needs 1.5ltrs of fluid a day. If we are lucky he is getting a quarter of this.

Whatever system that has been happening just sadly is not working. My dad on the odd occasion is out of bed though sits with the same glass of water for almost two hours. My mum though is saying at every moment possible – possibly every 2 minutes – “you haven’t touched your water”, “you’re not drinking”, “you need to drink”.

It’s stressing me out hearing it let alone how frustrated my dad must feel. In his mind he wants none of it.

Having battled now for 3 days on and off enough is enough – I wake on the Thursday, hoping and praying that today will be a better day. Its not (well maybe it is). The back biting continues and whilst my dad is finally out of bed and in his chair, the continuous arguments can’t be good for anyone.

I finally snap and tell them that I’ve had enough of them both flying into one another. I keep them both quiet and if one interrupts they are told in no uncertainty to shut their mouth. Maybe I’m sounding harsh right now but I know my mum, and I know my dad and thankfully I feel I know what is good for them. Tough love time eh…and trust me – I would have been scared of me right now.

I reveal a number of home truths. My dad has started to act like a typical man with man-flu. Believe me when I say this. I do not under estimate what my dad is going through. What I have witnessed though is enough to prove to me he is taking the easy option now and just being a child. My mum is also just acting like a woman on a mission to bite someones head off – It’s bang out of order. As a family we can deal with this and each of us bring something special into the mix. We are all needed. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. I tell my dad about the time I suffered with OCD. I tell him that even now each day should be a struggle. OCD is my escape. Though I have this in control. The easy option would be to go and wash my hands for hours on end due to the current situation. I am not doing this. I am not taking the easy option – I have it under control and fight for my future. I make him realise that it’s due to him and mum together that I have this under control. The easy option cannot be taken. I will not allow him to take the easy option.

A good family discussion ends with a new attack plan. Whilst my mum will remain in control of medication and that side of things in terms of daily blood pressure readings etc… I will take control of the water intake.

I agree with my dad that he will be given a glass of water every two hours and has the duration of that time span to drink it. I encourage him to drink it within the first hour though he will not be moaned at once and the control is with him. However if he chooses to be selfish, it’s highly likely he’ll end up back in hospital. He is now in control.

What he doesn’t realise is that the glasses are the sufficient size that I will be always 1 if not 2 over the minimum requirement each day. Win win in my eyes. Plus the bloody temperature is mid 30s. How anyone can survive without water in this heat is beyond me.

For dinner he asks for some chicken and tomato soup. One request he made in hospital though for some bizarre reason was that he quite fancied a Lettuce and Bovril combination as he thought it sounded nice. My brother has also said via telephone the time has come – Disgusting as it sounds, the lettuce leaf spread with Bovril is prepared. He wolfs it down. Not sure if to be pleased or not but he liked it – weirdo. The rest of the night is calm and things are looking up.

Friday 26th comes and we finally seem to have broken the mind over matter battle. My dad is actively asking for food and the new water regime is working well. As I write this tonight we are at 1.5ltrs – I am ecstatic. He’s also had two good sized meals today – well good sized for a kid but he is going through a lot after all and the fact he is asking for food is the best sign all week.

The weekend ahead is full of delights for my dad – Heather is paying a visit tomorrow. For those not aware Heather is his daughter, my sister. This in itself technically has a story behind it but I may save that for Blog 8 lol. In fairness I could create a whole separate blog on this subject matter alone.

On Sunday we are hoping to take my dad to see his sister Margaret in Albir – She is on holiday though desperate to see him – We aren’t sure about the 60 minute journey yet though feel the positives from the visit outweigh the negatives of the journey length.

Here’s to a fun family filled weekend – I honestly think tomorrow seeing his daughter may be the best medicine needed to boost him. Let’s hope.

Chemotherapy Day 3 (Blog 6)

Sleepless

Friday 19th June – Day 3 of what now feels like for my dad intensive chemo to say the least. For someone that doesn’t do sickness and has never been ill, I can’t imagine how he must be feeling.

The day is long with the usual 8 bags ready and waiting.

One thing that we have been naive with up to this point is knowing exactly what my dad has – we know its Lung Cancer though what type it is and the exact name has escaped us. It’s also been difficult due to this being able to tell our loved ones what is happening.

We meet with one of the nurses who has become quite friendly with us. We ask her what the name of the cancer is and she tells us quickly in Spanish. Our faces must have shown her that we had no idea and so she immediately finds a computer so she can write it down. She tells us it is ‘Carcinoma Microscopic Broncopulmonar’. Just a name and doesn’t change anything but somehow feels good to know.

We then ask the question that perhaps shouldn’t be asked. What stage is it? We are told is Stage 4a. Again we are told just how serious it is and we finally ask the one question we dread to know the answer. What is the Prognosis? We are told 6-12 months. Tears roll down my mums face – it is only the two of us in the room with the nurse. My dad is not aware of this.

Nothing has changed in my mind – A prognosis is an average figure used to gauge an understanding of a patient’s life expectancy based on their current health, fitness levels etc… My dad is bionic and so there is no known reason in my mind why this 6-12 months won’t be much more. Many years more – though my logical mind holds me back slightly knowing that sadly – based on how things are the time scale could be scarily accurate and if anything overstating things.

We return to the room where my dad is receiving treatment, heads held high and pushing to one side the devastating news we just received.

Thankfully Chemo is almost complete for the day and no sooner have we returned to the room, the fluid transfer finishes, the machine beeps and its time to go home.

Tiredness has consumed my dad now and his energy levels, desire to eat, his desire to do anything have gone. He looks defeated. Whilst he has colour in his face you can see the pain and suffering as he realises the chemo is taking hold. He goes to bed. It’s a restless night as he grunts, moans and winces at every opportunity. Hiccups fill what was the silent nightly air and the three of us all feel powerless to help him.

Chemotherapy Day 1 & 2 (Blog 5)

Chemotherapy - Selection

Wednesday 17th June and off we go back to Lluis Alcanyis for my dad’s first chemo session. Not an expression I thought I would be using this year.

The nurses are lovely and although the language barrier still hangs over us, they do everything and more to support my dad and us in knowing what is due to happen for the day.

My dad is shown to a room where there are 7 seats for patients to occupy for the day. There are also numerous other seats for their loved ones to sit with them. It’s all very friendly, very welcoming.

My dad gets hooked up ready for the fluids that are going to pump into his system for the day. I think we are all shocked by the number of bags that are revealed. 8 in total. Each has a time stamp attributed to it. We are informed he will be in the hospital for approximately 6 hours.

My dad is in high spirits. He is nothing if not a nice guy and in a Spanglish kind of way starts to try and tell the nurses how lovely their smiley faces are. If you were a betting person you would put money on the fact he was flirting with them. But it’s just his way of paying a compliment to a person doing a sterling job at taking care of him. It also deflects any fear.

As he will be in all day, a pack up lunch is required. My dads choice of lunch is Plain cheap chocolate and yogurts. Not sure this will keep him going and even the nurses look at him in disbelief at his lunch suggestion. Though as they say; its better he eats something than nothing at all. I don’t think they had accounted for my dads version of this though.

We all take it in shifts to stay with my dad throughout the day – It just feels odd that patients family and friends can come and go as they please. We do at times all disappear together as my dad is keen for us not to put our lives on hold. He himself is bored so is desperate for us not to suffer too.

We leave the hospital and return home at around 4pm. My dad is feeling tired though this is much to do with boredom and heat as it is to do with the Chemo.

I am then conned somewhat by my dad. He starts to potter around as is desperate to do something so chooses to clean the stainless steel pot stand. After 2 minutes of light scrubbing he then asks me to take over. I can hardly say no; he is after meant to be taking it easy. He then laughs and tells me this is a life lesson. I roll my eyes and carry on regardless.

The rest of the night is fairly steady with minimal side effects and normality resuming.

 

Thursday 18th June – We arrive like eager beavers reporting in for duty. My dad has had to have his canular changed to the other arm due to a skin reaction and bruising. Not the best start but he seems fairly settled.

Once again the aim is to pump him full of 8 more lots of fluid. It feels like a lot of chemo. Is this a good thing as it will kick the Tumor where it hurts or is it bad that so much is required? What is ‘normal’ is a struggle to comprehend.

I have to leave my dad in the very capable hands of mum and Alan only today. David is returning to the UK as we have business to attend too. David would sooner not go though we take the journey to the airport together before I head back to the hospital. The trio of them are waiting outside as I return to the hospital as somehow the fluids have taken more quickly today. Seems the chemo bag ‘change overs’ were more timely.

Dad still looks well though it is clearly starting to take its toll. We get home and whilst he still has the desire to potter around, he can’t and reluctantly accepts that he must just rest.

Its heart breaking to see my bionic dad, slowly start to be pushed into submission.

And so it was confirmed (Blog 4)

Lung Biopsy

Tuesday 15th June – Just two weeks and 1 day have passed since my dad was admitted to hospital. Yet now we find ourselves on Floor 6 in the Oncology Ward awaiting results for a life changing diagnosis.

The Doctor is an incredible woman and speaks almost pitch perfect English and is just one of lifes true gems. She begins by just getting my dad to talk about why he thinks he is here today. My dad whilst accepting this approach finds it a little strange. As far as he is concerned he just wants to know what’s happening. She asks him if he wants to know as needs his consent before explaining he has a large Tumour. My mums tears start to form whilst she holds it back as best she can. He reaches for her hand and tells her not to worry. The doctor continues. She explains that my dad has a large tumour on his lung, it is also wrapped around the aorta and unfortunately appears to have gone in to the lymph system infiltrating the blood stream. She makes sure we realise it is unfortunately big.

The cancer is inoperable, malignant and big. We ask what the best way forward is and our only option is Chemotherapy. Even chemo will only help control the size and ferocity of the tumour. It will not cure my dad and will not take away the cancer.

My dad on the face of it takes it well. My mum and Alan are in shock and I simply just find myself not really knowing what to think. I had already convinced myself of the outcome so guess I feel like I’m one week further in than everyone else. Maybe not the best way to deal with it, but seems to be working for me.

We leave the hospital facing the short but long journey home.

The most impressive thing I guess is that the Chemotherapy is due to commence tomorrow. My dad will require 3 days of chemo every 3 weeks.

It’s all so quick, so sudden but I can’t thank the health service in Spain enough. The speed at which we have got to this stage is impressive to say the least.

Freedom, well kind of… (Blog 3)

Hospital Lluis Alcanyis

My Grandad died in hospital as he went in and never came out. I can only begin to imagine how my dad was feeling. A couple of tears rolled down his cheek as we drove away from the hospital. He was ecstatic and relieved to be on-route home to his castle. As were we all. He said it was silly to be crying. My dad is a gentle giant though this is a side he often hides. I’m secretly pleased to witness this moment.

We had been armed with a list do’s, don’ts etc… though none of us truthfully knew what to expect. We were all different people and we all had our own ways of dealing with things.

For the baby of my family, I have somehow built a great deal of strength and was pleased to be holding my head up high. Don’t get me wrong, I was screaming inside but that was for me to conceal at this moment in time. My role would be to do as my dad would. A role I would cherish in order to make my dad happy. House maintenance, pool painting and very bad joke telling.

My mum is a little more, how do I put this sensitively… emotional than I am. She wears her heart on her sleeve and this comes out in one of two ways, tears – lots of or anger – lots of. Either way though her heart is always without fail in the right place.

Alan is a calming influence and a long-time family friend. Whilst hurting too he would play the role of keeping things ticking over. He also has a better grasp of Spanish and so translator role would fall at his feet.  

David my partner was there as he too feels a strong connection with my dad. He is also the ‘real’ voice that I need. His own mum worked in a cancer ward and so her experiences passed on through him would in time provide a real comfort. Also he was there for me. He would never admit this, but I know he was.  

My dad – Mr Bionic just wants to go for a climb up the mountain and get back to normality. Unfortunately his body has other ideas and he ends up being held back – both by his body though rightly all wrongly by his wife of almost 40 years. They clearly love each other but boy they are polar opposite at times lol.

The wait for the results was on and we were told 10 working days. My dad was asking all the right questions as to what may be, what could be, what shouldn’t be though giving the answers was not always easy. None of us had been through this before, or at least not with someone that meant so much to us.

Having come out of hospital on Tuesday 8th we were shocked to receive a call from the hospital on the Friday after inviting us in for our results on Tuesday 15th. This felt way too quick though couldn’t have come soon enough. Conflicting answers started to absorb our every thought. The what ifs, the how come its’ so quick, the lack of knowledge, lack of power was difficult to take. This was one situation we had no control of and had to just ride along as best we could.