We crammed into the room in the doctor’s office. There weren’t enough seats for all of us, so my brother offered to stand.
My parents, older brother and I were waiting to meet a surgeon we invited to help in my dad’s battle with cancer. A year after the initial colon cancer diagnosis, we learned the cancer had spread to my dad’s liver.
When he spoke to my dad on the phone a few weeks ago, he was optimistic, full of confidence and even used the word “cure.”
We huddled together, anxiously awaiting his arrival and hopeful that surgery would be an option. Surgery meant cure.
I saw the doctor when he opened the door. My first thoughts were that he looked like an old college classmate, and I hoped Mom would not say anything about the dandruff flaking on the shoulders of his suit jacket.
He was friendly and pleasant, introducing himself to us before sitting down to talk to my dad. After asking several questions about his disease and treatment, he pulled up my dad’s scans on his computer.
He started counting the lesions on my dad’s liver. I stopped counting with him when I ran out of fingers. He eventually counted 15. I knew surgery would not be an option before he said so out loud. There were too many lesions, and they were literally everywhere.
I fought tears when he told my dad he had a 15 to 20 percent chance of survival. Cure was replaced by phrases like “extending your life” and “making sure you’re comfortable.” When I realized the doctor received a six month old scan to review and not more recent scans, I wanted to punch someone in the face. He originally thought surgery was an option based on the old scan. The old scan showed three lesions, not the 15 the new scan found.
My dad was calm and accepting until he was told chemotherapy was the only option. He struggled with chemo and wanted to avoid it. The look on his face was one of defeat and sadness.
I found my voice. “What else?” I asked.
The doctor looked at me. “What else do you have?” I asked. “All I ever hear about when people mention this place is how cutting edge you are and how you take chances. Show me how you take chances. What else?”
He thought for a moment. There was a clinical trial, he said. He walked us through the protocol. My dad would still have to take chemotherapy as part of the trial, but the two treatments combined could possibly shrink the lesions enough so that the doctor could operate. Surgery might be an option after all.
My dad looked at me and nodded. Go get the paperwork, I said. The doctor left the room. My brother was livid that old scans were sent to this doctor. My dad shook his head and reminded us of how our grandma always said everything happened for a reason.
The doctor came back with not only the paperwork, but with the clinical trial coordinator. I went into what I call “delegation mode.” My dad calls it “being bossy.” Within a few minutes, we had a plan. I also had everyone’s phone numbers, including home and cell. Communication errors and not being able to handle simple tasks were no longer an option. Not when you throw around figures like 15 to 20 percent chance of survival.
I walked my dad through the plan, making sure he understood. He nodded. “I’m going to fight as hard as I can for as long as I can,” he said.
As we put on our coats to leave, my dad looked at me. “Thank you for being bossy,” he said.
I smiled. “Anytime, Daddy.”