On Monday, I sat with my parents at the oncologist’s office, waiting to learn Dad’s most recent PSA results, plus those of bone and CT scans. As we chatted, Dad mentioned that if you asked him that day how much longer he would live, he’d have to say another twenty-five years.
Twenty-five years, my father smiled, then continued rambling. Dad loves to talk, but those words struck me, staring at the fluff growing out along the back and sides of his head, although his mustache will be a while in filling out. He’s still skinny, but food tastes good, even his beloved ice cream, which since February had been off the menu. Other than his wobbly balance, and the probability of losing two big toenails, a post-chemo life has returned in full.
When the doc stepped into the room, Dad’s two-inch thick folder under that man’s arm, I wondered if Dad’s feelings towards his longevity would be borne out by the results waiting in that manila folder. First off we learned the CT scan was clear, whew! But the bone scan showed some worsening, although not to any internal organs, another hurdle cleared. The PSA however, had jumped from sixteen to thirty-six. Which isn’t all that bad, but it’s not the way a PSA after nine rounds of Taxotere should be behaving.
Which meant that next week we are all heading to Sacramento, to the UC Davis Medical Center, probably for radium treatments. Although before the doc had joined us, Dad noted that in the ten months since he’d been to UCSF, who knew what sorts of advances had been made?
And from a man who feels he still has another quarter of a century to live, I can’t argue with him.
The visit wasn’t a long one; after the results were made known, the chit-chat centered on that impending trip to Sacramento. As we left the office, Dad inquired about his Lupron shot, which they could administer that day. We all trooped to the waiting area, where Dad gripped his prescription for more pain meds. He had started that day feeling rough, but by ten a.m. was feeling well enough to consider another couple of decades. But I noted his age at the top of the paper; 70. And as he groused about a few aches and pains, I reminded him of that number; it’s not only cancer in the equation. None of us are getting younger, to which he smiled. “Yeah, I’ll be taking a sitz bath, then look over in the mirror and wonder who that old fart is staring back at me.” We chuckled, then he was called for the shot. Mom and I discussed Thanksgiving dinner; she would like to have it at their place this year, easier for Dad to relax in his easy chair. When he emerged, I mentioned that plan, and he agreed, but not for his comfort. He prefers his own stuffing to those made by my siblings.
As we left, Dad walked slowly, maybe due to the slight ache from the shot, probably from weariness, age, and yes, cancer. But his voice was sprightly, maybe he was thinking about making his own turkey, of which he can be rather possessive, or that the results were in, or that even if the PSA had jumped twenty points, he was feeling another twenty-five years were possible. I was considering how wonderful it was that chemo was over, for that also rang in his tone. Food tastes good again. His legs are stronger, even his hair, or as he laughed, the little he used to have, was growing back. His poor balance might take another nine months to clear, nerves the doc said, that had been rattled by Taxotere. Two lost toenails were also small potatoes; Dad has bigger fish to fry, or a turkey to roast. I don’t know how long he’ll have, nothing in this life is certain, other than death and taxes. But throughout Dad’s cancer journey, I have been reminded that life isn’t the long view. It’s right now, and on Monday, it was right then; right then, Dad had places to be, Mom did too. They had arrived in separate vehicles, and all three of us said our goodbyes, until next week, when they will travel together to Sac, where I will meet them.
And in the meantime, there are quilts to finish, like the one for a special little girl. Life is constantly evolving, rolling from one second to the next. Another doctor’s appointment down, which leads to another binding to attach. That will be my plan today, after having pinned that little quilt to within an inch of its sandwich life. The quilting went well, I must say, and I was hardly stabbed in the process.
And thinking about it, who knows? Dad could live another couple of decades, by which time the little girl for whom this is being made could be a mum herself. Such are the mysteries of this life, which is why any of us are here in the first place.