This last week has been really stressful for everyone I love. When we heard the word cancer after my dad’s surgery, we all lost it. We had to get it back together pretty quickly though, because he was being escorted up to his room. Finally, after hours of waiting, we got to see him. He looked surprisingly good for a man just coming out of a three hour surgery to remove his kidney and a tumor the size of a football. I’m not sure he actually remembers us being there. They put him on a morphine button with no limit and he pushed away. He drifted in and out as my step-mom and I kept a vigil by his side. He had a roommate so we were in pretty cramped quarters. Luckily his roommie seemed friendly enough. We did have to hear all about his intestinal difficulties, but that was only because the doctor came in to talk to him.
We left late that evening exhausted, knowing we should eat, but neither of us really wanting to.
The next morning we headed back to the hospital. The doctor was supposed to talk to my dad about his condition that morning, but apparently he is a slow surgeon, because by the time we arrived my dad still hadn’t seen him. My dad kept asking us what the doctor had to say. We couldn’t bring ourselves to tell him. We didn’t have any answers other than the dreaded C word, and figured it was best to wait until the doctor could give him the whole story. Why worry him with our tiny bit of information, especially if we were wrong?
Waiting for the doctor was excruciating. My poor son quickly got bored of being held. I took him to the waiting room and he had a blast crawling all over the no doubt filthy floor. At that point I didn’t care though. Four children who had been visiting their sick great grandmother desended upon us. The oldest couldn’t have been more than 8 and the youngest were both 2. They were transfixed by my son. I could tell just how bored they were when they started fighting over his stuffed dog. Sure, it talks, but I had trouble believing a puppy repeating “yellow foot” and other colored parts of his body was really that fascinating to them all. I couldn’t believe their parents brought them to the hospital and let them wander unsupervised into the waiting room with nothing to do. I had to practically fight them to get the toy back when I realized their tight circle around my son and petting of his head was really upsetting him. He’s usually a people person but they just got way too close.
We went back in the room and waited some more. My dad was still on the morphine drip so he would talk to us for a few minutes, then fall asleep. He would try rejoining the conversation he’d dozed during, which I have to admit lightened the mood a little. He also started right off complaining about the “bastard” of a roommate he had. The complaining was a good sign. Apparently the guy spent the entire night telling the nurse he was fine, and then calling her back in 10 minutes later with a complaint. To add insult to injury, he tried to convert my dad at 4:30 am. When his wife and family members gathered in the room at 5 am to see him, my dad just about lost his mind. Had he not been strapped to his bed by lots of tubing and a catheter, I think he might have throttled the man. As it was, he told the nurses if the guy came back from surgery, they’d better find one of them a new room. Luckily the guy got transferred.
It was getting dark and I had to leave in order to get my son home for bed. The doctor still hadn’t been in to talk to any of us. My step-mom looked tired. I knew she needed a break. My uncle took over for us and we headed back to her house. I hated leaving, not knowing what was going on, but I also knew the hospital wasn’t the best place for my son. We drove home. My sweet boy fell asleep in the back seat, leaving me time to cry quietly. I tried my best not to cry in front of him. He doesn’t understand when I do and joins up in sympathy. Or because it’s fun to make noises.
On Saturday I called my dad to make sure he was ok. More complaining about pain and nurses, but aside from that he was fine. I needed to get out and try to destress a little, so I met up with my best friend for lunch and horribly bad for us giant cookies and chai. She listened as my sob story unfolded, and somehow managed to make me feel better and actually laugh a few times.
My phone rang. Usually I’d ignore it, but with all the drama, I grabbed it. My husband was on the other end. He said, “Guess what the word of the day is?” I had no idea what he was talking about. Before I could even attempt an answer, he said, “benign.”
My words caught in my throat. In the middle of the lunch rush at our favorite coffee shop, I just started crying. I couldn’t believe it. I mumbled goodbye, hung up and immediately dialed my dad. The words wouldn’t come. I couldn’t ask him if it was true. I was afraid my husband had misunderstood. I asked my father how he was. He spent a good five minutes rambling on about his day. He told me he got to use the actual bathroom, that he walked down the hall, that eating made him dizzy, that his annoying roommate was gone. He told me about the nurses and who’d been in to see him. I sat silently, worrying my husband had been mistaken. Finally he said, “oh, and I don’t have cancer.” I was so happy to hear it, I instantly forgave him for his smart ass delivery of the news. After all, he was back to his old self. My healthy father with two kidneys would have given me the news that way. My sick, worried father of two days ago would not have been so jovial.
Although the delivery annoyed me to no end, all that mattered was the message. It’s benign. He still has a long road to recovery, but who cares? Recovery takes time and now I know we have it. I want to cry just sitting here thinking about it. But this time they are the good tears. Benign might just be my newest favorite word.