Dad’s three-monthly cancer-clinic appointment yesterday proved a real swings and roundabouts experience.
We had a near row in the morning about what time we should go. I think one of the hardest things about caring for Dad is that he cannot understand that I have a life of my own to lead as well as being part of his. He wanted to go really early so’s to be first in at the canteen for lunch, and then wander round the hospital grounds for an hour and a quarter until his appointment. I wanted to finish cleaning the kitchen and go in time to have a leisurely lunch and go straight into the waiting room (where we would then possibly have at least half an hour to wait anyway). I know he was really worried about the appointment and that made him all the more irritable and irrational, so it took all my powers of persuasion to keep him calm.
The traffic on the way there was terrible. I hate the tourist season. Almost an hour to do a fifteen minute journey! We arrived a little tight for time. I suggested I drop him off at the door and he head to the canteen to make his choice while I park the car and race to join him, but he stubbornly insists on coming with me “for the walk”. Then, as I go to the meter to buy a parking ticket, he disappears off into the building – I can only assume he’s heading for the toilets. I go and buy lunch… no Dad. I search the corridor to the canteen… no Dad. I go down and search the cafe… no Dad. I go back to the canteen… still no Dad. In the end I make a start on my lunch, laughing with the others on the table that when he did appear it’d doubtless be my fault I’d lost him. Sure enough, his greeting words when he appeared were “Where were you?” followed by “My dinner’s cold” and “I don’t know why you got coffee – we won’t have time to drink it!”
The traffic jam, though, proved to be a mixed blessing. When we arrived at the waiting room, the nurses were spitting nails. No, not literally! But the doctor Dad was to see had phoned to say he’d be late as he was caught in traffic. Apparently this is a weekly occurance! We were actually quite patient about waiting for him, but the nurses were so indignant that they went to see the consultant and he said he’d see Dad instead. Brilliant! This is the man who operated on him twice and whom we’ve never got to see in person. He was superb and such a lovely man, really easy to talk to and aware of the importance of speaking slowly and clearly so that Dad could take in what he was saying.
The downside of what he was saying was that Dad’s possibly going to need another op. Also he asked Dad what the prognosis had been when the cancer was first discovered and Dad said he’d been told “two, five, ten years” five years ago. The doctor then smiled and said “Well, you’ve had a good run so far, then… a good three score years and ten. Let’s see what we can do to improve your quality of life”.. which would seem to imply (as we thought anyway) that we’re looking at a limited time ahead of us. The cancer, however, is under control and does not appear to be spreading as the pains Dad’s getting in back and hips seems more due to arthritis.
The doctor was shocked that nothing had been done sooner to control the side effects of the treatment Dad has and immediately put him on some tablets that should stop the hot sweats he’s been suffering for five years. He also persuaded him of all the pluses of trying a catheter and was able to reassure him about that. A selfish “hooray” from me, too, because it will make life far easier for me as well as for Dad and will also give him more freedom and confidence. Please God, let it work.
As it turned out, he needed it a little sooner than anticipated… he didn’t feel too good when we got home and was concerned that he might be taken ill in the night. I phoned NHS Direct and was most impressed – within an hour a nurse was here fitting the catheter and settling Dad for the night. And a side bonus – instead of me going to collect Tiddles from Scouts, the Scout leader brought him home as Dad was unable to babysit Smudgelet.
I so appreciate how much better I’m coping emotionally with the stress of caring for him and the boys. It has helped so much going part time, and with Tiddles growing up suddenly and controlling his temper tantrums so well. I still need so much strength and patience, though, and I really appreciate the prayer support I get. I find it hard being torn between the two, children and father, and that Dad can’t understand I need time with them and time alone as well as time with him. I find it hard helping Dad not to worry about the tiny things in life which mount up to such big things for him because telling him they’re insignificant worries simply makes him angry (understandably). I find it hard that Dad takes it as a rejection when I don’t eat with him because I’m dieting, or
when I want to get on with schoolwork or housework instead of sitting and chatting with him, or when I have a visitor and he so clearly resents it. But then, it’s so wonderful to be able to express my love for him by caring for him and getting to know him better. It’s great to see something that’s worried him be replaced by confidence because he’s shared it with me. I just need to be firm, retain some degree of detachment (as my counsellor said, remember the difference between sharing a load and shouldering a burden), and remember that I have control over whether I let myself get stressed.
Gosh, I’ve blogged a lot today. It’s good to get it off my chest a bit, and also to have a record I can look back on which helps me chronicle how things develop.
I think all carers should be provided with a brick wall on the NHS… I mean, we need it to bang our heads against. 😀