Today’s post is a tribute to my dad. I haven’t been keeping up with my blogging the past two weeks. The reason for this was my Dad passed away on May 29th after a 7 month battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 67.
This has been a hard 7 months. Pancreatic cancer is a cancer that doesn’t give you much warning. Usually once you have symptoms, it’s too late to stop it. The only signs my dad really had before he was diagnosed was back pain, stomach issues, and then unexplained weight loss.
The back pain began in June of 2018. Everyone has back pain at one point or another. So this really wasn’t too alarming. Then at the end of August, he began to have stomach issues. Again, nothing too alarming. There can be a bunch of reasons this could be causing this. The one symptom that got him to the doctor which resulted in his cancer diagnosis was a 20 pound weight loss. This occurred in one month.
By the time he got the official diagnosis, his cancer was stage 4. The likely-hood of coming back from this awful disease was small. However, my dad was willing to try whatever he could to fight the odds and elected to try chemo. This treatment was given every other Monday. At first, the chemo really wasn’t doing much as far as the cancer markers went. It was just making my dad extremely sick. Eventually we did start to see results and his cancer markers went from the 90,000’s to 4,000. Hope was there. We thought he was going to be one of the few to kick this cancer in the butt and be a successful cancer survivor.
Unfortunately, after that, the markers started to go back up. The doctors then told us that we needed make Christmas 2018 the best Christmas ever. More than likely it would probably be the last for my dad. Christmas really was the best one I could ever ask for. It was the first time in 4 years our entire family was together. We had an amazing Christmas Eve dinner at my house. My brother hired a chef to cook the entire meal. None of us had to worry about anything for the meal. We could relax, eat, and just enjoy our time together. My dad was pretty sick, but he was able to be there and eat a few bites of the meal.
Christmas day was spent at my parents’ home, just like we do each Christmas morning. My mom made the meal with all the traditional foods that we enjoy each year. Gifts revolved around items that were more meaningful. My parents gave all the grandsons a Nerf gun as a reminder of my dad’s first rifle. This was with the hopes that dad would get better and they could all have a great Nerf gun war one day. All the girls got a Build-a-Bear dressed in fish attire. The bear included a recorded message from my dad saying, “It’s Grandpa Craig. Let’s go fishing. I love you!” My dad’s favorite pass time was fishing.
We also scheduled to have a family picture taken. The original place was to have the pictures taken up at our state capital building. As we got closer to the date of the pictures, my mom was concerned that we needed to change where we were having pictures taken. Our capital build is big and has a lot of stairs. She was afraid it would be too much for my dad to get to the building for the picture. He was getting even more weak and tired. Taking pictures outdoors in Utah wasn’t a good option either. The unpredictable weather and my dad’s sensitivity to the cold from the chemo treatments would be an issue.
We then found a local photography studio that you could rent by the hour. The location close to where my parents lived. This was a much better choice. We changed the location and were able to get the best family pictures done. After this, my dad still wasn’t ready to give up. He elected to try a different type of chemo, the last option if he was going to beat his diagnosis.
This treatment was very hard on his body and also has a results of lowering blood platelets. This treatment was every Monday for 3 weeks and then one week off. After the first treatment, he was unable to get his second treatment because his blood platelets were now too low. So the doctors said he would have to try the next Monday. The next Monday the platelets were up enough to do the treatment. This would still be considered the 3rd treatment for this round. After this, it would be a week off and then he could start this second round of this treatment.
As it came close to the day for starting round 2 of the new chemo, my dad ended up in the hospital. There was a fear that he had a stroke. They discovered he didn’t have a stroke but had many other issue like being severely dehydrated, blood clots in his legs, low platelets, etc. He was given an IV, blood thinners, and an infusion of blood platelets. At this point, Monday was the day he was suppose to start his second round of chemo and the doctors were surprisingly ready to do treatment. However, we all knew it was time to stop the fight. There was no way to win the battle.
My dad was then transported back to home, hospice was brought in, and he was going to spend whatever days he had left in his own home along with my mom. It was just about 1 1/2 weeks after he came home that his body finally succumbed to the cancer in his pancreas that had also spread to his liver. Over the course of those 7 months, my dad lost 85 pounds. The doctors said other than his cancerous liver and pancreas he was a healthy man. His heart was strong, his lungs were great. He was a healthy 67 year old. Cancer sucks! We have a history of colon cancer, so my dad was diligent and getting his screenings as needed. However, cancer still found a way to come into his life another way.
Even though those 7 months were extremely painful for my dad, he chose to give us the gift of time and hope. As hard as it was to see him that way, I am so grateful of the time we had to talk and say good bye. My dad was responsible, wise, practical, a provider, generous, hardworking, a fisherman, smart, considerate, industrious, blessed, strong, patient, dedicated, humble, a repairman, resourceful, and selfless. I couldn’t ask for a better angel watching over us in heaven. We also believe we will see each other again one day. I love you dad – and can’t wait until we are reunited again one day.
My brother and his wife started a non-profit organization in Texas in memory of her Aunt who passed away from cancer. The organization, The Ruth Cheatham Foundation, was named in her honor and givers scholarships to cancer patient/survivors ages young adults in Texas. Before my father passed away, my brother and his wife were able to tell my dad that they were adding a scholarship to their foundation in honor of him to benefit young adult cancer patients/survivors for the state of Utah. He couldn’t have been more proud! If you would like to donate to the scholarship in honor of my father, it will benefit some amazing kids!