If Only it was the Onions

I tried to blame it on the onions.

Really, why do those blasted things have to make me cry?

In truth, though, I’ve been crying for weeks.  Four and a half weeks, to be exact.

Note: if you only come to my blog for the gluten-free stuff, you don’t need to read this post.  This is for those who care about me personally, as well as for me to share a burden I currently have.

At the beginning of February, we found out my dad has stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which had metastasized to his liver and possibly lungs.  By the end of that week, we knew it was definitely in his lungs and also his thyroid.  The next week, the oncologist told him that he’d probably only had the cancer for a month, maybe two.  Within a month he should be in a lot of pain and within 6 months he would be gone.

Two days later, he was in pain.  And mine had gotten that much worse.

You see, the last decade, my dad has always been there to take care of me when things went wrong.  He fixed my car, he installed things and fixed things in my house, he helped me through the ending of a very bad marriage and the subsequent years of single mom-hood and the beginnings of a new marriage.  He became my rock and my backbone.

The day he first saw the oncologist, he told me to make him a list of all the projects I needed help with so that he could do them while he was still capable.  I never set pen to paper, though, before he was on heavy pain meds.

The following week, the new scans came in.  The cancer was now in his bones and soft tissues.  The oncologist had never seen such an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer before.

I wanted to be strong for my dad.  I needed to be strong.  But every time I got a phone call, and every night before bed, I’d curl up in my husband’s lap and cry.

This past weekend, the whole family got together.  My brother had flown in and his wife and children had driven out a week previously.  We wanted to get a big family picture taken.  My father, however, had a high fever all day.  It got worse as we were setting up to take pictures, and we had to take him to the emergency room.

But it was also a party day.  We were celebrating 9 March and April family birthdays.  I had made 72 cupcakes the day before (gluten-free and dairy-free).  There were to be 25 of us there (including the good-as-but-not-blood) cousins.  So instead of being able to help Mom take Dad to the hospital, I got left in charge of the party.  I wanted to be with him, but I was supposed to put on a happy face and play?

I stood outside as my brothers helped my father shuffle, very slowly, to the car.  He was in so much pain and his temperature got up to 104.4.  My sister-in-law came out to check on me.  I couldn’t hold back the tears.  But when she started crying in earnest, it helped strengthen me.  You see, I get this time, this chance to prepare myself and say goodbye.  She didn’t with her father – his death was completely unexpected and happened a thousand miles away.

Though Dad spent Saturday through Monday in the hospital, I did not get to see him then, or since.  With 3 kids, 1 in public school (and 2 homeschooling), teaching college (the week before spring break), and having had an ice storm up here, I haven’t had a chance yet.  I am grateful, though, that I have spring break to go and help my mother and be with my father.

Last weekend was kind of a dry run for us.  With a fever that high and his liver beginning to shut down (he is so yellow now), we were worried that it was the end.  None of us want him to suffer, but knowing the end result is soon is also hard.  The original prognosis of 6 months is no longer realistic.

Today, Dad begins chemo in earnest.  He has been doing a double-blind trial medicine so far (so we don’t know if he’s getting meds or placebo).  He knows it won’t change the outcome and possibly not even positively effect the time frame.  He’s doing it for us, he says, so that his children and grandchildren have a chance of fighting it.

My father is one of the most generous men I know.  He may be grumbly sometimes, but he gives so much.

I know he wants me to sing at his funeral, and, for him, I’d like to be able to.  I feel like I should be able to.  I’m the girl who kept Mom strong through those years that Grandma lived with us, then in the nursing home.  I’m the one who sang for four hours, holding one of Grandma’s hands and one of Mom’s, and sang Grandma to Jesus.  Yet, on my birthday, just a few days after finding out about the cancer, I could barely sing for my dad even though I still thought there was a chance he’d be around for another 6 months.

But I’m feeling stronger now.  I no longer cry every time I get in the shower, when it’s so easy to let go.  I no longer cry every time I get off the phone with my mother.

Maybe now I can get back to adding in those “extras” in life, like cooking, putting “something” into my lectures, or blogging about tasty foods.  Maybe now I can enjoy my food again, and feel like I’m allowed to have enjoyment.  I know my father would want nothing less for me than joy.

DadCollageI would like to leave you with the words of my father’s favorite hymn, which I think he has been working hard to exemplify in his life and that he would like me to sing when the time comes.  Perhaps, I will be strong enough.  And, hopefully, I can be this person, too.

Because I have been given much, I too must give;
Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live
I shall divide my gifts from thee With ev’ry brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.

Because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care,
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread, My roof’s safe shelter overhead
That he too may be comforted.

Because I have been blessed by thy great love, dear Lord,
I’ll share thy love again, according to thy word.
I shall give love to those in need; I’ll show that love by word and deed:
Thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.

Text by Grace Noll Crowell

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7 Responses to If Only it was the Onions

  1. Chris Spreitzer says:

    Cassandra, this has been a hard week for so many of my on-line friends. My heart goes out to you – and to your Dad. I know it’s not much help… but my Laura has chronic pancreatitis and has been through some of that sort of pain. It isn’t easy. Its not easy to watch a loved one go through all this either. I lost both of my parents very suddenly – I didn’t have the dubious luxury of telling them ‘good bye’. Right now, though, make the most of every minute. Spend time with your kids, spend time with your husband, your family, your Dad. Your Dad sounds like he is a lot like mine was… always ready to come and do projects… fix this and fix that. It was wonderful. I remember him setting up the weather station with Eileen and Anna when we were homeschooling… he installed the rain gauge and the anometer… always with a fake gruffness and looking for an opportunity to provoke a giggle from ‘oofus’ and ‘goofus’… You are strong. You will get through this.

  2. Jen says:

    Goodness. I am so sorry to read and think about this. Your father sounds like mine, too. I will pray for you all.

  3. Erin says:

    It’s ok to cry and it’s definitely ok to NOT post about gluten stuff all the time. It’s your blog and your time to be sad if you want. Hang in there and know your readers are thinking of you and your father during this difficult time.

  4. Laurel says:

    Cassandra, thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. My heart is so full for your family. I have kept you all on my heart for the last few weeks. I hope you will take time to enjoy what time you have left. I regret not being able to do that with my dad. Your dad is awesome. I love you.

  5. cheryl says:

    Thank you for sharing this Cassandra. We continue to pray for you and your family.

  6. julie says:

    You and your family are in my prayers God is enough and will never leave you for even a moment.

  7. Cindy says:

    Hello Cassandra. Thank you for this blog; it’s extremely helpful.
    But what I want to say to you is that after reading your post about your Dad; I knew I had to let you know that you are not alone.
    Cassandra; this is none of my business; but I feel compelled to ask….has anyone in your family looked into getting your Dad to one of the “Cancer Treatment Centers of America” hospitals? They specialize in treating even aggressive; late-stage cancers using not only the usual chemo. and radiation; but also nutrition and supplements and other natural things to help rid the body of cancer and to make it healthy once again. It’s worth looking into.
    Cassandra; you mention in your blog about singing in the church choir; but I don’t know what religion you are. But I want you to have the opportunity to know….and for your Dad and family to know….that Jesus said about His Self, “I am THE way; THE Truth and THE Life; NO man comes to God but through Me” (Emphasis mine.) Jesus came to save us; and He said that “Unless (we) are born-again; we will by NO means enter the kingdom of heaven. God loves us unconditionally; but we can only come to Him One way; through His only begotten Son Jesus Christ; repenting for being sinners; and asking Jesus to come into our hearts to be our own personal Savior AND Lord of our entire lives. I don’t know if you or your family knows Jesus personally and intimately Cassandra; but Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock……”; He is ALWAYS waiting for us to turn to Him; NOT with ‘religion’, which is man’s way of approaching God; but His way; of us turning our hearts and souls and spirits and lives over to Him; knowing that we have eternal life ONLY through and because of Him; what He did for us on the cross; paying the COMPLETE debt for all our sins.
    Jesus loves each of you so very much. He was beaten beyond recognition; spat upon; rejected; and pierced in His side; hung on a cross with nails driven through His wrists and feet; He was beaten over His head after the ‘crown’ of nails was pressed into His skull; He was mocked; taunted; pushed and shoved, and He could have at any moment called upon a legion of angels to come to His aid….but if He did that; then there would be no way for us to heaven. No; He took every single blow upon His sinless self; paying the price for our sins; so that our way to heaven could be made possible through Him; for all He did for us.
    Please turn to Him; tell your Dad about Him; tell your family and everyone you know.
    I used to be a really messed up person. A ‘floozy’; a drunk; I spoke filthy; I acted filthy; I was reaching the bottom of the barrel. (Although I DID have ‘religion’; Catholicism.) It profited me NOTHING; because it was all false religious acts; there was no repentance; no inner change in me; just vain dead religiousness. Until one day someone told me all the things I wrote to you about Jesus. I wept. I wept on and off for at least three days; feeling the utter anguish of my filthy dirty heart; repenting for being a sinner; and I asked Jesus to come into my heart; to save me; to cleanse me of all unrighteousness as He says we can do in His Word, to be my own personal Savior and Lord. And within a week; my desire for alchohol went TOTALLY away; my desire to smoke went totally away; my filthy mouth stopped pouring out filth and started speaking good and wholesome things; my anger dried up and my heart was filled with joy unspeakable; my marriage was made better; every single area of my life was touched by the grace of God. Is life a bed of roses? No. Life in the here-and-now will ALWAYS be hard; but when you have God’s grace; you get through everything SO much better.
    There’s a saying that I really love that I will leave you with. I have to paraphrase it because I don’t remember it exactly; but I can give you the idea of it.– “For those who are not saved and on their way to hell; the pleasant times of this life are the only taste of heaven they will ever experience; but for those who are born-again; the hard times of this present life are the only taste of hell they will ever experience.”
    I pray for you Cassandra; for your children; your husband; your Dad; your entire family; that The Lord will grant each of you the very special gift of repentance and Salvation through Him. Nothing else will matter; no good times; no hardship; unless our eternity is spent in heaven. Everything in this fleeting present life will be for naught unless we are right with the only One True living God; through His Son Jesus.
    Take care Cassandra. C.M.

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