Dad taught us how to live according to Scripture through both word and action. A lifelong Christian, he lived his life as a witness to the glory of our Lord for not only his beloved wife, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other family members but as a legacy for his great grandchildren and innumerable friends both of his own and of his extended family. Dad was the type of friend that everyone wanted; always there with a helping hand, kind word, and gentle but strong guidance.
Dad, still very active at 75, was always working on some project either at home or at one of his children’s homes (building garden walls, remodeling, laying in irrigation systems, etc.); playing with his grandchildren and great grandchildren; or providing service to those in need. He was looking forward to his 55thwedding anniversary (July 2) and the birth of his third great grandchild; Ezra was born on July 5, 2010.
In June 2009, Dad went in to have a mole on his left shoulder blade checked and was diagnosed with melanoma. Surgery successfully removed the area and testing throughout the remainder of 2009 showed Dad as melanoma free.
Dad experienced what appeared to be a stroke toward the end of January 2010 and five tumors were discovered in his brain. Brain surgery successfully removed the largest tumor and the other four were too small to remove surgically. Dad recovered quickly – so quickly the physicians and staff at the hospital were amazed. Dad was actually mowing his lawn within a few weeks of the surgery. Dad and Mom discussed with a radiologist the concept of pin-point radiation on the remaining four tumors and the area where the fifth was removed and the treatment was scheduled.
Before pin-point radiation could be started, one of the four remaining tumors became larger and Dad had another stroke-like episode in February. This tumor was successfully removed with Dad’s recovery from surgery even more amazing – the staff had to send him back to his room in surgical intensive care, the evening of the surgery; he was up and walking around. His physicians threatened to arm him with a pager just so they could track him down because he was never in his room but up and walking around interacting with family, other patients, staff, and visitors in the hospital.
Dad started targeted radiation therapy and a sixth tumor appeared. After a long discussion with the radiologist, who had presented Dad’s case to a group of radiologists, it was decided Dad should have full brain radiation. This treatment was completed and Dad was at home recovering from the normal side effects of radiation treatments. Mom noticed that Dad’s recovery seemed too slow for what was described to them and they went back to the doctor to have him checked with a new MRI, the doctor discovered Dad now had over thirty tumors in his brain. The surgeon told Dad that he had all the surgery he could have and the radiologist told Dad he had all the radiation he could have. Dad scheduled a visit with his cancer doctor who prescribed a one-pill-a-night chemotherapy treatment. Before it could begin, Dad had a grand mal seizure and was back in the emergency room spending several days in palliative care.
Dad came home for care and the Lord gathered him up July 29. Six months of relief thinking the melanoma had been eradicated – four months of false hope in the treatment provided – two months of painful acceptance.
Hopefully by his witness, it is evident this disease is devastating not only physically but emotionally. Melanoma appears to be resolved then reappears moving very aggressively throughout the body.
The hardest part for the family was the loss of communication with Dad. Communication became difficult with the two targeted radiation treatments and was even worse after the full brain radiation with the partial loss of his hearing and the repeated bouts of confabulation and confusion that followed. We were initially told these symptoms would last for no more than four months and when Mom talked with the doctor, we were told to expect these side effects to disappear within six months to two years; sadly, Dad did not have that long.
After Dad’s seizure, his symptoms drastically grew worse, especially with his ability to understand the written word as well as the spoken word. Although we could see and touch one another, telling him how much we loved him, simple instructions/guidance either needed to be painfully figured out or were not comprehended at all. We tried writing and simple signing in an effort to assist him with daily living – gone were the lengthy discussions about: what a Bible passage meant or how the work day was or ‘what do you think about’. Although Dad could see, his brain just couldn’t make the symbols on the paper or the simple sign mean anything understandable or it would mean something totally strange and/or offensive in the translation via his brain. Many times he felt left out, abandoned because he couldn’t hear or understand and he would retreat to his bed.
Dad was a strong foundation upon which our family depended. He will be missed, and we will celebrate the gifts of his life and love forever.