Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May is Skin Cancer and Brain Tumor Awareness Month {Post Part II}

As mentioned last week (and shown with the links to the right) I am sharing "my story" to bring awareness to Skin Cancer and Brain Tumors this month to correspond with The Skin Cancer Foundation and The National Brain Tumor Society.

Learn the FACTS about skin cancer, like "One or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than double a person's chances of developing melanoma later in life" and "Indoor ultraviolet (UV) tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors" and "The survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early, before the tumor has penetrated the skin, is about 99 percent. The survival rate falls to 15 percent for those with advanced disease."

Part II
{ Go to Part I }

As February approached the 6-9 month window the doctor projected had come and gone.  My father was still alive, but he was nothing like he used to be.  He tried to maintain his joyful personality, but he became weaker each day.  A black eye patch hid the cavity that once held his bright blue eye.  The grandsons called him papa-the-pirate; lovingly of course.  Between the cancer treatments and the medications, my brother-in-law's once slender figure became bulky, and his lean face swollen.  He seldom  talked, in part from the inability to recollect the words to express what he desired to say.  Most of the things we all take for granted he now needed assistance in doing.  Fortunately his family is amazing, or I do not know how my sister could have taken care of him as well as 3 boys under the age of 6.

It was the Thursday before my junior year spring break.  I had wanted to take the cheap and easy trip to Florida, but never made any plans.  I was about to go into work when my mom called.  She said my father was in the hospital and I should come home tonight.  I spent every day of that spring break by my father's side in that hospital.  I remember thinking, "surely this isn't it."  The melanoma seemed to be everywhere.  Tumors in his lungs, liver, intestines, kidneys.  The week went by and negotiations on selling his company were finalized.  I kept telling myself he was going home any day now.  Sunday came, and my family told me to go back to Athens for school, and so I did.

I was sitting at the computer in the CAD studio of the interior design building at UGA the next morning.  My cell phone was on silent, but I saw the screen light up around 10am.  It was the middle of class, so I didn't take the call - I knew we were about to have a short break anyway.  We did and I walked out to the metal staircase at the side of the building leading down to the gravel parking lot.  I went down a few steps and took a seat with the phone in my hand, and redialed the father's cell phone number.  My mother picked up.  He was gone.  It happened around 3am.  He had waited until she finally went home to sleep in a bed instead of the hospital sleeper chair...and he waited until the Ides of March (he was really into history, so we think it was intentional).  He was only 55.  Tears poured down my cheeks as she told me she was on her way with Lori to come get me and not to drive home myself.

We buried my father on St. Patrick's day; no, we didn't wear green.  My mother even commented that if someone even dared to pinch her she would rip their head off...valid reaction.  My anger, bitterness and resentment towards God and the whole world continued to grow.  I was running as far away from where comfort truly could be found.  Then something stopped me...not a 180 to get me going back in the right direction, but something that at least made me stop in my tracks.

Once or twice a month I would drive back from Athens to go to church with the family.  Yes, I know I said I didn't care about pleasing God, but I'm a southern "Christian" and even if you are hung-over you get yourself to church on a semi-regular basis.  After dad died I began going more often so my mom was not alone.  It was either April or May 2004 and our pastor began a new series, "Where's God? There's God."  Shortly into the sermon, Lanny Danaho interrupted in a clearly staged manner.  He shared the moments proceeding and following his diagnosis of cancer.  As my mother and I sat, hanging on every word, we could not ignore the timing.  Weeks after my father died and while my brother-in-law continued to lose his battle to a brain tumor.  A few weeks later the series ended with a woman named Brenda sharing her story through a taped interview.  If it wasn't clear that God was speaking to my family before, it was certainly going to be ever present now.  Brenda shared about being at a Braves game with her daughter that she describes as her only child and her best friend.  Her daughter wasn't feeling well, and within 24 hours Brenda's life would forever change.  Her daughter had a brain tumor.  As I sat in this huge auditorium full of people tears cascaded down my cheeks.  I despised crying in front of people, but after months of holding on to my grief and anger nothing could prevent the tears.

In most people's stories this is the point where everything picks up and the sun begins to shine and roses bloom or whatever.  It certainly began the process of healing, but the road was long, winding, and full not of bumps but of deep dark pits. 

Summer break came and went, and I returned to classes for fall semester.  It was the first Thursday of class when my cell phone lit up in class again.  Just five months after my father, Don passed away as well.  As I went to tell my professor, I chuckled.  Yes, chuckled.  This all just still did not seem real.  I'm not entirely sure if my professor believed me when I said, "so...I'm going to go now.  My brother-in-law, ah, just, ah, died.  So, um, yea, I'm just going to go home now."  I was in complete shock.  It's not that we were not expecting this, but I suppose there is a part of you that is in denial and holds on to the hope that a miracle will occur.  I assume this is how most people in similar circumstances feel.  Day after day, prayer after prayer you wait for that miracle.  You wait for spontaneous healing, so you and the whole family can go share what God has done to the world.  An then, when the end comes, you are left without that hope fulfilled.

It all simply returns to the age old question "why do bad things happen?"  Despite ones religion, or lack thereof, it remains a question with endless proposed answers and not one that provides any hope when in the midst of pain.  I certainly will not attempt to resolve that here.  Of course there are the ideologies and theologies that I subscribe to and I suppose cling to for absolution, but I truly believe that everyone has their own way to discover those.  You can be helped along the way, but no one is simply going to tell you one phrase that will wrap everything up with a pretty pink bow.  Healing and recovery take time, and I am certain true reconstruction and hope can only be found through our Creator.

{ Next Time - Part III: Reconstruction }

{ Resources: Where's God? There's God }

No comments:

Post a Comment