Our Year With Cancer

2019 has been a very rough year for us personally. I have shared a bit of our story with my dad’s cancer throughout the year, but today is the one year anniversary. It’s very important to me to be honest and open about our struggles. Who knows? Maybe one of you are dealing with something similar. Writing out our story is a big form of therapy for me, so I hope you don’t mind!

The Beginning of Our Journey

It’s December 31, 2018. New Year’s Eve. I’m at the gym working out with my trainer when my mom calls. I always let her know when I’m going, so I knew this had to be serious. I step outside to answer the phone, and she says that my dad has been having severe cramping to the point of barely being able to walk. She tells me that they’ve been trying to get my dad to the doctor, but the doctor won’t answer. I’m thinking, “Well, yeah. It’s New Year’s Eve. I’m sure she took the day off.” But, I don’t say it. I tell her to keep trying and keep me updated.

I get back to my apartment after my workout and start answering some emails when I get the next call. “We are at the Emergency Room. They said his kidneys have failed. They said if we waited another day, he’d be gone. He’s being admitted to the hospital. It’s going to be okay. God’s watching over us all. Call Jack and come down when you can. I need help with the dogs.” The dogs?? What about my dad?? I’m now sitting on the floor, bawling my eyes out. I can’t move. I can’t do anything.

Finally, I get up the courage to call Jack and simply say “I need you. Please come home.” He drops everything and rushes home from work. Rocky is with him and comes to kiss me. I barely get out the words to tell Jack what is happening. He wraps me in a hug and told me it would be okay. God’s watching over us all. I’m not a spiritual person and I lost my faith a long time ago. But, I listen anyway. 

Heading to Town

Jack and I make it down to my parents side of town about an hour later. We check in on the dogs and make sure they are okay. We put away all of our New Year’s Eve party supplies because there wasn’t going to be much celebrating that night. My mom calls and says we can come to the hospital. He’s at the terrible hospital in town, but it was the closest one and the one the doctor requested. I’m frustrated that he won’t get proper care, but I push through. I’m shaking the whole drive to the hospital and Jack is trying to keep me calm. He says that I have to stay calm for my dad. I don’t know if I can keep it together, but I try. 

We finally get to his room and I do everything I can to not cry. He has IVs placed in his arm, and looks very yellow. He’s in a bit of a daze laying in the hospital bed. I’ve never seen my dad be anything but strong and I’ve definitely never seen him in the hospital. The sight breaks my heart. He sees me and starts crying which leads to my tears. I ask my mom if I can go hug him because I’m scared to pull something out or hurt him. She tells me, “Of course.” I run over and give him the best hug I can and we both break down. You never want to see anyone in your family in that condition. He tells me he is okay and he’s very thankful that he’s still here. He just wants to find out why they failed. The doctors didn’t have any answers yet. 

Orlando Wedding Photographer Our Cancer Story

A New Setting

My brother flies in from Princeton to see everyone and helps keep him company. My dad is in that hospital until January 3rd, when he is transferred to a better suited hospital for his condition. We still don’t know what the cause is. At the new hospital, my dad has his own room. We make him as comfortable as possible and try to keep his spirits light. He hates the hospital food (who wouldn’t), so we try to get him some Wawa shorty rolls whenever we can. Over the next week, we alternate staying with him at the hospital to not miss any information and to make sure he knows he’s not alone. He starts dialysis 3 times each week to help his kidney function.

They find a mass in his shoulder and took a biopsy, but weren’t sure what it was or if it was related to the kidneys at all. It’s just a waiting game at this point. Until January 8th. I have the overnight shift into the afternoon as my mom is in her first week back at school and my brother was back in Princeton. The doctors come and tell us they have results as to why his kidneys failed. The next 10 minutes are a blur. 

Orlando Wedding Photographer Our Cancer Story

The News

They tell my dad and I that he has a cancer called Multiple Myeloma, which is a bone marrow cancer. The protein it produces causes kidneys to fail. They tell us that it is treatable, but not curable. The doctors say that the prognosis is not good, but an oncologist would need to tell us more. They order a pet scan to make sure it didn’t spread more.

Through all of this, I am fighting so hard to not cry. It’s just my dad and I, and I don’t want to show him I’m terrified. I know he is in a worse state. He was just diagnosed with freaking cancer. The doctors leave us to process everything. I look at my dad and we both break down. I hug him tight and let him know that everything will be okay. Now I have to call my mom and brother. How do you tell someone over the phone that their husband and dad have cancer and the prognosis isn’t good?

Sharing the News and Next Steps

I call my mom and she starts crying. There’s nothing she can do from school and has to wait until she finishes the day. I tell her everything will be okay, but deep down, I don’t know that to be true. She calls Cory for me because I couldn’t keep talking. Jack arrived at the hospital a few minutes later, and I break the news to him. He holds me and says he is there for whatever we need. 

We finally see the oncologist and he tells us that the biopsy is back and my dad is in Stage 3B of the cancer. This is the final stage with kidney failure. It was found in his shoulder, hips, thighs, and on the kidneys. We are in shock because he showed no signs of being sick at all until New Year’s Eve. They don’t have a date prognosis, but they are starting treatment right away. They moved him to the oncology suite where my dad says he has a penthouse view. The doctors start him on a 5 day treatment called plasmapheresis to clean out his bad plasma.

Orlando Wedding Photographer Our Cancer Story

Trying to Find Normalcy

On January 15, my dad is discharged from the hospital. He will continue chemo at the cancer center and dialysis three times a week. He is so happy to go home and be in his own bed. It takes him a while to adjust to not being able to move things or lift above 5 pounds (and to this day, he still is terrible at it). We make life as normal as we possibly can while figuring everything out. My dad is able to celebrate his 66th birthday on January 20th at home with the family and we are so grateful. He goes back to work a few weeks later. 

Orlando Wedding Photographer Our Cancer Story
**Cory’s photoshopping was done poorly on purpose**

We have hit many bumps in the road on this new cancer journey. But the one thing we will always have is hope and faith. Prayers are huge in our households and we know everything happens for a reason. What the reason is for this? We don’t know yet, but we aren’t giving up our hope and faith. Jack and I moved down the street to be closer to help out and it has made every relationship stronger.

Orlando Wedding Photographer Our Cancer Story

2019 started out terribly and the year only became harder. We are determined to make 2020 a better year personally and we can’t thank you all enough for your support. Now, we have a wedding to plan and my dad will be able to stand by my side, which I am forever grateful for. Keep praying and hold your loved ones close. Happy New Year, everyone. 

Orlando Wedding Photographer Our Cancer Story
Thank you to Lacey Irving Photography for capturing this season of life for us!!
Orlando Wedding Photographer Our Cancer Story

To see more of Lacey’s work, click here!

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