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Subject:  Untitled Date:  3/2/2005  2:20 PM
Author:  inparadise Number:  222256 of 876405

Even when you see it coming, the death of a parent must always be a shock. I can't say so for sure, since in reality I haven't experienced that yet, but today I learned the time frame in which it supposedly will happen. The death of my dad has been penciled in for sometime in the next 18 months.

Dad has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, a result of Barrett's Esophagus from years of the ravages of GERD. From what he's been told, it is the second most aggressive form of cancer, IMO most likely in part because early detection is rare. He met with the surgeon yesterday, and though it is probably operable, it is not a pleasant alternative. Your stomach is essentially removed to make a tube to replace the cancerous area in the esophaus, leaving you with no stomach. After a while, you can eat very small portions of food, though I have no idea where that would be digested. It is a massively invasive surgury lasting 7-8 hours, and I would question whether he, at 80, would even survive such a proceedure. It's a moot point, as he has decided not to have it. He wasn't impressed with the 40% 5 year survival rate, which after some research on-line sounds rather optomistic.

Having seen my brother go through Chemo for Burkitt's Lymphoma, (what is it with my family and rarer, very aggressive cancers?), he is not excited at taking that on either. He has felt for quite a while now that he has been on borrowed time given the life spans of generations of InParadise men. They want him to do more tests, a CAT and PET scan, as well as a stress test to see if his heart, which was compromised from the hemmoraging that alerted him to his condition, is capable of surgery or treatment. At this point he has allowed the tests to be scheduled, but will probably cancel. It is his belief that the news will only get worse with the test results, not better. He has not asked how quickly his condition will deteriorate in the face of declining treatment, but it is hard to believe reality could be worse than his immagination. He did not paint a pretty picture of what his expectations were. Still, I wish he would ask. I sure will be doing so.

Bad news not withstanding, all in all there is just so much to be greatful for. We knew that with the advancing age of our parents that their health was sure to fail. Before it did so, we wanted to move closer and spend as much time as we could with them so the boys could really get to know their grandparents. Leaving the islands to come back to the area a year ago was a wonderful move. We are still a good 5+ hours away by car, but long weekends have been feasible.

We are also getting a chance to say our goodbyes. Dad and I have not always gotten along in the past, though our relationship improved greatly once I moved out of the house. They raised me to be independent but resisted my expressing my independence in ways they did not approve. Fortunately, they are the type of parents that respect their grown children as adults rather than continue to treat them as children, and I know that I have made them happy with our presence and with our success. Ironically, they have come to see my ability to get into someones face and stand my ground as a positive trait, one Dad referenced in their decision to surrender control of finances to me when they were no longer capable or present.

I have been blessed with having my parents in my life for 41 years. It isn't enough, as I am sure no defined amount of time would be enough, but I know some of you lost a parent at much much younger ages. I don't know how one manages that. I am grateful for the time we've had, and the time we still have.

I am grateful for the fact that Mom and Dad live with my sister, a nurse who can understand and manage their physical well being. It is good to have an insiders point of view to the very confusing medical world.

Mostly, I am happy that Dad has lived a very full life. He retired "early" at 58 with enough gumption to travel full time in their RV, touring in minute detail many parts of the world. He tells me of some of his collegues who were forced into retirement at 75, only to die months later. From the little he's told us, he did not have a pretty start to life, and the benefits he's experienced are a result of his hard work and determination. No one is perfect, but warts and all, I am proud to be his daughter.

also grateful to have all of you as a sounding board

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