December 2012 will be remembered as a month full of love, laughter, tears, strength, confusion, and my dad. On December 3rd my dad traveled from Austin to Houston in an ambulance which would also be remembered as one of the worst days of my dad’s life. Upon arrival at MDAnderson it was realized that orders had not been sent from Austin to Houston and therefore my dad would not have his pain meds when he needed them. After a long wait and lots of excruciating pain, dad was admitted in the hospital and given pain meds.
When I first got to MDAnderson I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with which parking garage to park in, which door to go in, which elevator to take. In the midst of my mini panic attack I saw a group of four boys dressed up in tuxedos, no hair, huge smiles and they were taking pictures with what I assumed to be each their moms. I remember thinking that I had been telling everyone my dad was too young for this and here right in front of me are these 4 teens with what I am assuming is some form of cancer. This would be one of many little signs from God reminding me of how blessed I truly am. I was blessed to have an amazing father for 27 years who is a fighter with nothing but positive thoughts and a great outlook on life.
as I wandered through the lobby of the hospital that is as large as a small town, I saw her, my angel. My angel, Corrie had come down to find me and guide me down the rights halls, to the right elevators, to the right floor, and to the right room.
Once again I entered my dad’s hospital room wanting to cry and hug him but his smile and positive outlook didn’t allow me to. I sat down in what would quickly be known by Corrie, dad, and Traylor (my brother) as my bed at MDAnderson. I started asking questions, none of which could be answered at this time. We were now waiting to have another biopsy done but this time at MDAnderson and more than just a scraping.
The next morning is when I would meet Dr. Dallas. Dr. Dallas not only shares the same name as my child but also my same belief in having compassion for others. Dr. Dallas would stay in my dads room answering as many questions as we could think of and with as much care and honesty as possible. I remember us asking if in fact the cancer is cholangiocarcinoma or pancreatic because we had been given some mixed answers. He told us that as of right then it was cholangiocarcinoma and until we got their own biopsy results back we wouldn’t know much more. He explained why cholangiocarcinoma was a much better diagnoses than pancreatic cancer and how the whipple surgery would be very successful. Dr. Dallas was part of the Surgical Oncology team so when it became clear that what my dad actually had was in fact pancreatic cancer and could not be removed at that time, Dr. Dallas was no longer part of our team of doctors. The doctor who would call me back at 10:00 at night after doing his rounds all day to answer my questions while I was back home in San Antonio. This is the doctor who told me exactly what he would do if this were his dad and treated my dad with so much respect and kindness Was no longer on our doctor team.
That drive home was the longest drive ever. Right when I started to cry Kaye (my step sister) called. This would actually be the 3rd time over the next 6 months that Kaye would call or text at the EXACT moment I needed her to. Thank you God!
Over the next four weeks I would spend majority of my days at MDAnderson while doctors tried to find a combination of pain meds that could control my dads pain so he could go home and not have to be hooked up to IVs. The drive to Houston became shorter and shorter and my car knew exactly where to exit to go to Bucee’s so I could get chocolate covered almonds for dad.
Dads pain was so bad that either my brother or myself would need to stay in his room to remind him to press his pain pump full of Dilaudid every 10 minutes because we weren’t legally allowed to press it ourselves;) These nights with dad became some of the most memorable times of my life. There were nights when I wouldn’t sleep at all and didn’t even feel tired. Then Traylor would walk in and I would immediately feel relieved and fall asleep. We would stay up watching Duck Dynasty or making up silly little jingles and writing down dads ideas for new inventions. My favorite invention would be the bathroom device that one could rest their head on when they fall asleep on the toilet. It would also play sounds of water flowing so you could pee quicker if you have a shy bladder. Some nights we were the loud room that couldn’t stop giggling. I don’t care how much methadone, Dilaudid, gabapentin or any other meds you can be on, laughter is by far the best.
December was hard because I was away from my husband, daughter, and amazing students but how many 27 year old mothers and wives get to spend days and days with their dad.
Christmas was just around the corner. Christmas is my dads favorite holiday. He has a beautiful handmade Santa suit that he wears every year with pride and joy as he delivers Christmas gifts around areas of south Austin to needy families. We had started making delivering gifts part of our Christmas Eve tradition because of the great joy we all got from giving to those less fortunate.
We all knew Christmas would be different this year but we weren’t sure how. Because dad was still at MDAnderson in lots of pain we began planning Christmas Eve in the Park area of the hospital. The Park is a huge indoor atrium type area full of beautiful green plants. As long as we were all together Christmas Eve it didn’t matter where we were. Christmas was 3 days away when dad was released and able to go home. I knew he would be home for Christmas.
Christmas Eve was wonderful, for the first time in years Traylor joined us and even did dads Santa gig in Austin. Steve did the Santa gig Christmas Eve in New Braunfels and dad got to sit back and see it through our eyes. We had a wonderful Christmas. December quickly ended and January was here.