Saturday, October 9, 2010

Christmas in October

I planned my Saturday through Monday visit to Mom and Dad on the farm based on their decision that Daddy would not have surgery to remove a cancerous spot on his lung. I knew I would miss the final scheduled meeting with a surgeon, but I supported their decision and just wanted to spend time with them to add presence to that support. I was surprised when, after I had made those plans, I learned that in the meeting with the surgeon, the decision was made to go ahead and have surgery. It was scheduled for the Monday I planned to visit. So I made arrangements at work to stay in Texas at least through Wednesday. Before I left work, the surgery had been rescheduled for Tuesday, but that still fit with my plans.

I still cannot even organize my thoughts and words about how blessed this past week has been.
Among the highlights:
-- Going with my parents to their church (the church I went to as I was growing up and that I still consider home) on Sunday and feeling the outpouring of love and care for my Dad and Mom.
-- Washing dishes. (You'd have to ask my Daddy the significance of that.)
-- Spending Monday visiting with my parents, his surviving sister, the widower of his oldest sister and his niece (my cousin), and then more of my family as they arrived. That's when I realized it seemed like Christmas in October.
-- The surreal experience of telephone calls on Monday from the surgeon's office and then the surgeon that informed Daddy that his surgery had been postponed a few hours, but that a less-invasive procedure was possible. Talk about good news/confusing news. The less-invasive procedure to accomplish the original goal was certainly desirable, but why hadn't they planned this earlier? Somehow, I decided in those moments, apparently following the lead of my parents, to just to continue to have faith in Mom and Dad, the medical experts -- and, ultimately, God, who I became more and more certain had to be in control of all this.
-- Even Tuesday at the hospital was amazingly upbeat. I don't know about anyone else, but I was terrified, and even though I tried not to dwell on it in my speech or thoughts, I was prepared to say good-bye to my Daddy. After all, he is 84, has trouble breathing and is slow to get around. I've seen medical situations, that were supposed to help a situation, go awry, and the person is never the same. And it seemed like with an older person such as my dad, even "routine" surgical procedures could carry greater risks of complications that might include infections, pneumonia, breathing difficulties, heart strain, blood clots .... In the weeks since the cancerous spot was found, Daddy had shown renewed zest for life, which made it even harder to let him go into what seemed to be risky surgery. But I also I knew that I and many other people were praying and had faith in God in this and all matters. And the thoughts also occurred to me of so many people who don't find out they have cancer until it's too late to do much about it. Based on the tests and medical analysis, all Daddy needed was surgery to remove the spot and some surrounding lung. And based on all the tests and the medical analysis, Daddy was a good candidate for the procedure.

The whole family -- Mom and the six kids -- were at the hospital when they took Daddy in about 12:15 p.m., and we were all there when the reports of a successful surgery began coming: 3:30 -- surgery done, closing him up; 4 p.m. -- Doctor says he's wide awake but probably won't remember anything, and when he's off the respirator, we'll be able to see him. By 5:30, the first two were able to go in. By 6, I got to see my Daddy, and shortly thereafter, all of the kids had visited.

And I was truly amazed. He was as strong and alert and had as much color as when he went in -- and all of those were very good when he went in. I really don't think I thought that was possible. Yes, there' is pain. Yes, there is risk. But there is a great spirit and will that inspire and delight and make me proud.

As I wrote to a colleague who inquired about my Dad (a colleague whose Mom recently died of complications from inoperable lung cancer, if I recall correctly), I cannot believe how well he did. To me, it is a miracle. He seemed as strong and alert and had as much color after surgery as he did when he went in. They ended up doing it laparoscopically but were able to get the same amount of lung and nodes as they would have with the seven-inch incision. The doctors and nurses all seemed amazed at how well he did and was continuing to do in recovery, with his deep breathing, coughing or whatever they tried to get him to do. By the second day, he was starting to feel more discomfort, as they reduced the amount of morphine he could take for pain, but he seemed to be adjusting to that OK, too. All of the family -- including Mom and Dad -- know that we are very, very fortunate. I do give the praise to God. I know many, many people were praying. And I know that sometimes even when that many people are praying, things don't turn out the way we want them to. But I truly think we did everything we could to be prepared for the best OR the worst -- and we're just so grateful the result was the best.

In many ways, this week has been better than Christmas, at least better than Christmas as it often gets observed. This week's (and the past few weeks') experiences have been about faith and family and relearning to focus on what's important. One of the things I want to take away from this week's experiences is that every day of life contains many gifts, including the life and love of our family members, friends and even people we don't know. And the greatest gift of all: A loving God, Savior and Spirit Who is with us through it all, if we will just call upon Him and receive His love.

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