Monday, November 29, 2010

Fear and Something Else to do with Fathers

Right now I am lying in bed as I type this, trying to figure out a cohesive way to write what is on my mind. It probably won't happen, but here it is for better or worse. I apologize if it is a  random train of thought.

Tomorrow morning at 7:30am EST my father heads in for surgery to repair a damaged vertebrae (C5) in his neck. It is the first of at least two major surgeries, and could take two days to accomplish. Why so long? Well, he also has a rare bone tumor that has destroyed that vertebrae as well as encapsulated a major artery to the brain and is impinging on several other nearby structures. Like his esophagus. His vocal cords. Oh, and a whole mess of nerves that lead to his arms. Oh, and he has osteoporosis to top it off.

This egg-sized tumor is called a Chordoma, and has been growing there since, well, probably since before he was born. The theories are that something went wonky in the bone cells as he was developing and they just kept growing, albeit very slowly. Tumors like these are incredibly rare; in the US, only 300 people a year are diagnosed with them. Having a rare bone cancer is bad enough, but this is the rarest of he bone cancers. Chordomas also are usually found at either end of the spinal column, not along the neck like his. Go figure. Seems pretty typical for the family though. We seem prone to living "interesting" lives.

The first surgery is to repair his vertebrae so it doesn't break and leave him worse off (either paralyzed or, well, dead). The plan at the moment is to fuse C2-C7 (his whole neck) and possibly down to T2. Plus add several rods for strength. And a bone graft from his hip to boot. This might take 2 days depending on how things go during the operation, as there is always a certain amount of unpredictability here. Did I mention that he has a team of, I believe, 8 different doctors? He has a lot of confidence in them, so I have to trust his feelings on it. I would like to be there for additional moral support, but we just can't swing a trip across the country for potentially several months right now. So it falls to my mom and sister to be his support. I wish we could be there though. The second (or third) surgery will be to actually remove the tumor. Then after a short recovery, five MORE weeks of radiation. Then lots of physical therapy since he won't be able to turn his head, and hopefully he WILL be able to play music again.

My father is an excellent musician. Growing up, we were surrounded with music and art (my mom is an artist), and we learned to play different instruments from a young age. While I don't play like I used too (I really miss playing piano and other instruments), I still have a love for music. It really speaks to my soul, and has the ability to completely change my moods. I would be terribly sad if he could not play again (as would he, obviously!)

I have so much more on the subject to say, but I am getting tired, and tomorrow will be a stressful enough day as it is that I really need some sleep. Plus some quality cuddling time with my fabulous husband while the kids are snoozing.

Do I dare write down my worries? If I acknowledge my fears, does that give them more power to actually happen? There is power in giving things a name, but who will that power best serve? I am afraid of losing my dad. We have finally become much closer after years of being somewhat aloof. And I would hate for all those amazing experiences he had as a child/teen to be lost since he is the repository of so much family history. I want him to play mandolin to my children and tell them of his boyhood, and escaping the Nazi as they swept through Hungary. Be strong Papa, we aren't done with you yet. We love you.

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