My father, at the age of 70, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in December 2000. As we all do when confronted with a devastating illness of a loved one, I read and reread the statistics. It didn’t look good for my Dad. A man of his age, with a stage 4 tumor the size of a grapefruit in his spleen, which had metastasized to his bone marrow and liver, had maybe a 20% chance of living another year.
You see my father was never sick a day in his life. Both of his parents lived until their early nineties. This wasn’t supposed to happen to him, to our family.He bravely took his medicine and suffered through the many side effects of chemotherapy. His positive outlook never wavered. Not once, not for one minute. Eighteen months later, the lymphoma came back and this time he had no choice but to attempt a bone marrow transplant. Once again, he endured tremendous pain and discomfort. Miraculously he went into remission once again, however this time he lost the use of his kidneys. His positive outlook never wavered. Not once, not for one minute.
In March 2006, I received yet another call. However, this was one was different. My Mom and Dad were in Florida trying to enjoy their winter in sun and warmth like do so many other seniors in their 70’s. I needed to fly down immediately and I did. I landed at West Palm Beach airport and received a call from the Nephrologist who was treating my Dad.
“Alan,” he said, “I am sorry to say that your dad has significant tumor activity throughout his abdomen, chest and elsewhere.” Now I experienced fear. How was I going to tell the news to my Mom who was sitting next to me while driving on I-95 to the hospital? Why does she need to hear these same words for the third time? Why do all of us need to hear these words again?
So next, we were in Hackensack, New Jersey and my Dad underwent high dose chemotherapy for yet a third time. This man, who was first diagnosed with Lymphoma five years ago, who lost his kidney function and had to suffer through dialysis three times a week, was once again confronted with his mortality.
I said, “We’re going to get through this, I just know it.” I knew better, however. I suggested to my father that we set up a blog. He said, “a blog? What’s a blog?” I went on to explain that a blog is like a diary online, a place where people can express themselves and share ideas, information, and stories with others. He loved the idea of helping others with Lymphoma or other cancers.
I told him that our blog would be a place where he could reach out and link with others who have cancer. I explained to him that it was also a place where our family and friends can see how he was doing and wish him well. It has been an incredible tool.
On May 15th of this year, I received a call from his Oncologist telling us that he couldn’t help my father any longer. May 15th is my birthday. My mom, sister, and I had to tell him- our father, husband and hero- that we couldn’t help him anymore.
The doctor sat by his bed and was quite clear. “Maurice,” he said “we tried but we can’t help you anymore. I also suggest that you stop dialysis so you don’t have added discomfort.”
My father looked at him, and then looked at us, and said, “I understand. I am ok with this. My family has suffered enough.”
Can you imagine? My father, just told he had three or four days to live, was comforted that his family no longer had to suffer. I am speechless.
My father died three days later. I will never forget how brave and fearless he was. In his last days, he told me that we now have an ending to his blog. I told him that his blog will never die. In fact, his blog turned into BlogTalkRadio.
The week before he died, my father told me, “I have found that the will to live is greater than the will not to live. In all of my years of living with this disease, I very rarely gave up hope. I believe that this is one of the reasons I am still alive. A few days ago, I felt so sick that I thought I might not make it. But ultimately, the will to live suppressed any negative thoughts. The will to live would never leave my mind