My dad had surgery on Thursday morning and it was terrifying.
As soon as the bell rang on Wednesday afternoon, I jumped in my car and sped off to get my son. We headed straight to my dad’s house. The trip from the babysitter’s took about three hours, which could have been a nightmare had my precious little angel not decided to sleep for nearly two hours of it. The rest of the time he talked to himself and made the occasional grunt. Moments after we walked in the door I had to plunk him in a high chair, feed him, bathe him and put him to bed. The change in routine left him unhappy and bawling for a good twenty five minutes after I put him in bed. Which in turn rattled my already stretched nerves. The night passed quickly though.
The next morning we were all up early in anticipation (ok, my son was just up early because of the time change). We got to the hospital at 8:30. My dad had to check in and I went to sit with him while he answered questions. I could tell he was nervous. He didn’t say much, which is a rarity. When he did talk he was trying to tell his usual smart ass jokes, but they didn’t quite have their usual edge. Minutes later they took him back to prep him for surgery. My step-mom, two aunts, my son and I all sat waiting.
After about 20 minutes my step-mom went to look for him. I’m not really sure she was supposed to, but I also don’t think she cared. She came back, tears filling her eyes. I hadn’t seen her that upset in quite some time and I didn’t know how to take it. She told me to go back. I hugged my son a bit tighter and then handed him off to my aunt.
When I sat down next to my dad, I noticed just how shaken he was. He took my hand. He couldn’t quite look me in the eye as he whispered, “they have to take the whole kidney.” I was not prepared for this. It honestly never dawned on me that he’d lose his kidney. I thought the doc would go in, snip out the tumor and my dad would be sore and bitching within the hour. Apparently my dad didn’t realize losing a kidney was an option either.
The tumor, it turned out, was bigger than he’d led us to believe. I’m not sure if the doc couldn’t see it all, if my dad wasn’t listening clearly or if my dad tried to spare us some of the details in order to keep us from worrying too much. I have a suspicious it was the latter. Not that it mattered. The tumor was not the orange sized mass I expected, but nearly twice as big as my son’s head. Or at least that’s what the doctor told us when the operation was finished. I suddenly understood why my step-mom’s face was so tear-stained. As much as we’d all been hoping this was nothing, suddenly the word tumor seemed even more nefarious.
No one could get a clear idea of just how long the surgery would be. My step-mom said at least an hour. An hour passed. We listened to our stomachs grumble a bit. None of us had been in the mood for breakfast. We watched my son roll about on the many blankets we’d covered the waiting room floor with. We stared in horror as some talk show teaser tauted an eight year old girl who weighed over 300 lbs. Another hour passed.
When the clock swept down past noon, I started getting jittery. I think we were all on edge. We tried keeping the conversation light, but every time the doors leading to the OR opened, all of our heads swiveled. Finally a nurse came out and told us things were fine but that the surgery was taking longer than expected. We were able to breathe a little easier. I noticed my step-mom was looking very pale (she has all sorts of health problems including diabetes and hadn’t eaten that day at all). I once again handed my son to my aunt and headed to the cafeteria. It was hard to find something to eat as nothing looked at all appealing. My stomach was still doing flip flops, but I knew not eating wasn’t really helping. In the end some chicken salad and a diet Coke topped my list as I grabbed a turkey sandwich, some chips and a Pepsi for my step-mom.
By hour three the food had been eaten and we were the only ones left in the waiting area. It was unnerving. We spent less time talking and more time just looking at our hands or when he did something particularly cute, my son. Once again he was an angel. He didn’t cry or fuss. He just calmly passed from hand to hand or rolled on the floor with delight. It was odd to look down and see him completely happy. He had no idea I was biting back tears with almost every breathe. If it wasn’t for him, I’m not sure how I would have held up.
My doctor finally came out of the OR to talk to us. The surgery went well. He got everything he could see and although my dad would have a slow healing process, he felt very positive about everything. However, it was at that moment he said the word we’d all been dreading: CANCER.
In that second I had the wind knocked out of me. My head was underwater and everything was happening in slow motion. CANCER. My step-mom let out a small gasp and asked if he was sure. One look at the tumor left him no doubts. We wouldn’t know exactly what type and how serious it was until the biopsy report came back, which the doctor told us probably wouldn’t be until sometime this week.
We collected our things so we could head to my dad’s room. I ducked outside to call my husband. I stopped even trying to fight back the tears as I told him the news. Being the sweet man he is, he wanted to jump in his car and head straight to the hospital. I told him to stay put. I was planning to stay another night, but all his driving up to my dad’s would do was make both of us exhausted. I needed him well-rested so he could take care of our son when I got home the next evening.
I was only planning to spend one night at my dad’s. I brought an extra outfit for my son and a little extra food, but nothing extra for myself. I’d left lesson plans at school just in case I couldn’t get back for some reason, but I had no intention of actually using them. I was so sure that despite all my worry and upset that my dad would be fine. I had not planned for such a potentially devastating result. I believed that my strong daddy would pull through and this would be no more serious than the aches and pains he gets after fighting a fire. For the first time I realized I might actually lose my father. I started crying all over again.