Thursday, 8 September 2016

Cancer and Quiche

I don’t often talk about my dad on the blog because if I am truly honest we have never had the greatest relationship; the fact is that my dad and I are just two very different people.
Before mum passed away the above relationship was more strained than it would be now. We wouldn’t really do more than say hello and utter small talk at the dinner table.

None of us expected to lose mum because she was, undoubtedly, the rock that kept us all together and her loss hit us all terribly and, as expected, after over 50 years of marriage none more so than my dad.
Yet, within her passing a lot of things changed.

I, within 4 months, ended up being homeless and having a nervous breakdown following a variety of other life shattering experiences.
I had tried several times to talk to dad about it but not only did the aforementioned relationship make it difficult the added problem of him being of a generation that really didn’t understand mental health.

However, at the biggest breaking point he could see that I was struggling and that I was in pain. Unsure on what he could do and despite his lack of understanding he came to visit me a couple of times a week in hospital and we just talked. (Apart from my aunt and cousin something no one in my immediate family did)
Through this he offered an olive branch and invited me to live with him and get back on my feet and in his words “it is something your mum would have done”; something I am truly grateful that he did.

Admittedly it was difficult to start. We were both never going to become best of friends and we would always bump heads but we were making it work and forming a better relationship because of it.
Yet, in that time it started to become clear to me that whilst he was in principle “looking after me” that he also needed a level of care. He was becoming confused more easily, repeating the same conversations continuously and showing levels of aggression that was unlike him. The man that I struggled to have a relationship with was clearly struggling himself and from what we could see it looked like he was suffering with onset dementia.

One main attribute for him was his lack of memory. He might, for example, go to the shops and then drive back because he forgot what he was doing whilst he was there or he would forget what he needs and always end up buying the same four items: cheese, cream, bacon and quiche.
Although onset dementia isn’t a joke I did always find the irony amusing where he would buy all the ingredients for quiche and then a quiche as well.

He, of course, did buy other items so we weren’t overly concerned but equally kept an eye on him as he is a man of that age who still feels it necessary to ignore the doctors’ orders, eat a fry up every morning, drinking 1,000 coffees, smoke 40 cigarettes a day and then having a bacon and cheese sandwich in the evening; somehow, despite having 3 heart attacks, 2 hernia operations and several other surgeries he seems to be carrying on stubbornly.
That was until he went to the doctors’ and then to the hospital and sat us down to have a chat.

Whilst tucking into his quiche he told me he has cancer.
Despite everything I am truly heartbroken. In many ways we are being told that we’re lucky where he has prostate cancer and it’s a more treatable cancer but have equally been told that dad has an aggressive form so more likely to spread. We haven’t had much else to go on apart from that fact that this week he starts his intense therapy to see if it can help.

Whist still eating I asked him how he felt. He just shrugged his shoulders and said “I either have cancer or I don’t and there’s nothing that I can do about it” and with that went onto some story about how he broke his finger when he used to play cricket so he’s not worried.
My brother, sister-in-law and I have tried to talk about it more with him as he really doesn’t take the severity of it in until it dawned on us that he probably doesn’t understand it fully with the onset dementia.

We have no idea at the moment what will happen, if the cancer has spread anywhere or if this oncoming treatment is going to work but the little comfort we can take from it is that he is happy sitting eating his quiche, slightly oblivious and enjoying his life as he has it.
I do hate cancer. But, I do like quiche.

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