Throughout this whole ordeal with Pop, we haven't lost sight of reality. The cancer is Stage 4, and I know that a 77-year old man has to muster a lot of strength to hang in there and fight. But we know what the possibilities and probabilities are.
At one point, one of the hospital staff at the local hospital introduced the idea of hospice care. Pop interprets hospice as where you go to die. He asked me, very clearly, to get him back into the care of the V.A. doctor, as he wasn't ready to give up the fight.
I remember how much that encounter upset him, and how I nearly had to take a blood oath to assure him that I was behind his decision to fight, all the way. But one thing I've learned about cancer is that it doesn't care about you, or your will to live. It's a very versatile enemy, and defeating it is a formidable task. Every time you knock one of its attacks down, it finds a way to regroup and come at you again.
While we've maintained a positive attitude with him, we've not lost sight of the real consequences. We've made it a point to let him experience as many of his favorite things at least one more time (had to drive 30 miles for a Nathan's Hot Dog!) without actually accepting that each time could very well be the last. You can't live like that. His comfort has been paramount. We've learned to make his favorite meals "just so" (slightly picky, you know?) and I made a big hit with him introducing him to Discovery Military Channel. It's about making every minute count, you know? Through the beauty of technology, I've been able to record all his sporting events, which we've watched at all times of the day and night. Life hasn't been awful.
We got less-than-desirable news yesterday from Pop's lead Oncologist. The lesion on his liver stopped shrinking, and in fact, the latest CAT scan showed it may have increased in size. On top of that, it appears that the original cancer of the right lung has made a comeback to hurt him again. The Doctor has been very involved and caring, with an incredibly comforting bedside manner. As he spoke to me on the phone, I had to take a minute because my throat tightened to the point where I absolutely couldn't speak. He waited.
He asked me to find a way to get him to the hospital to treat his current pain. The drive is about 120 miles to NY, since we hadn't completed the transfer to our local V.A. Medical Center. This Doctor has brought him so far, been so concerned and caring, that I told him if Pop could tolerate the long ride, I would indeed have him there. The Doctor also asked if we wanted him to inform Pop of the latest developments.
Part of me wanted to take that responsibility. I felt for a minute that news like that should come from family. But I chickened out. His daughter did as well. This Doctor has become like family to us, and we both felt that the issue would be better addressed by someone better prepared to answer the inevitable questions with the equally inevitable answers. My heart broke, as did hers, but we decided to leave that task to the Doctor.
We made the drive last night, and by 3 AM he was in a bed, resting comfortably. I returned to Pop's former residence to spend the night. I haven't been able to get myself up to going back just yet. I know it isn't going to be a good day. I'll get myself together, suck it up, and remember who's feelings are really at stake here. But in the meantime, I'm picturing poor Pop, this former US Marine, who survived combat at Inchon in Korea, now reduced to 107 pounds. Will this news reduce his desire to fight this enemy any more? I know him 30-some-odd years, and if there was ever a guy who personified "tough", this is the guy.
I, on the other hand, am not feeling so "manly" at the moment. I'm half-regretting my decision not to break the bad news. Now I feel, the least I can do, is to get up there and be ready for the fallout.
It's just a lousy break. I'm sad.