When my father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, he said that he would only go through treatment because he wanted just two more years. He was also quite afraid of dying all of a sudden, where before he hadn’t shown any fear of dying, only fear of suffering or wasting away. He really wants to be able to golf right down to the end.
In his journey to get an additional year or two, he has had to suffer discomforts that include: swollen mouth, sores from the treatment, dizziness, alzheimer’s-like behavior, panic attacks, exhaustion, confusion, forgetfulness. He was often unable to swallow, though swallow he must, according to the doctor. But the most striking concern he had was his fear–fear of being alone.
When I was able to visit I would just sit with him. He just needed to know someone was there. When I couldn’t visit and he had to be left alone, he would pace, and get nervous, sometimes panicking to the point of not breathing. No one would want to be left alone under those circumstances.
Five months he has suffered the chemo and radiation therapy. Five months for an extra year. And the extra year isn’t even really guaranteed. He is still smoking though less than he used to. And he’ll start drinking again when he gets home. Both of those habits are what caused the cancer in the first place.
But when I asked him recently how he felt now that the treatments were over he said, “anything is worth doing to be able to extend your life.” Though he still suffers some residual problems from radiation therapy and discomforts that won’t go away quickly, he is glad to be where he is and able to at least mosey down to the golf course.
Sitting on the porch and watching Spring bring the warmer weather and his dog run around and bark at things is a joy he will get to continue having for at least a while longer.
Susan McLain has over 15 years experience in technical and marketing writing