As I get older, 30 next year eeek!, I am fully aware that the time will come for the inevitable "grown-up" issues of dealing with illness & death with immediate family. With my family members being on the "younger" side, (my grandparents are in their early 70's & my parents in their late 40's), I thought I had plenty of time left before I had to start experiencing these issues. Surely my grandparents would be first right? On April 3, 2014, my Dad was diagnosed with Stage 3 Oral Cancer at the young age of 49.
I'll never forget the day I found out. My sister & I were talking back & forth via text about ANOTHER business venture idea & just bouncing ideas back & forth, looking at pricing, etc. I was looking through a catalog when my phone rang & it was my Grandma. She asked what I was doing & if I could come over right away. I asked her what was wrong & she just didn't want to tell me. Since we were all in our lounge clothes & she lived 40 minutes away, I really needed to find out what the urgency was, because I do have a 3 year old & we always have to be prepared for anything, plus there's the whole "how fast do I need to safely drive?" thing with any urgent situation. After what seemed like a billion "What's wrong's?", she finally told me it was something to do with my Dad.
A while prior, there had been some issues with his wife's brother so immediately my mind went there that something terrible had happened. Secondly, my mind then jumped to the conclusion that he had been in a horrible wreck in his semi-truck & that he was either A. deceased, or B. severely injured. So, if it was one of those 2 things, obviously I needed to be prepped for a long night & needed to be packed accordingly, & mentally & emotionally ready. I know, I'm strange. I FINALLY was able to convince her to tell me: he had Cancer. Cancer??! Wow, ok, people beat Cancer everyday. This was going to be tough to deal with, but I had time to get there & be mentally clear to hear what we were dealing with.
My Dad had discovered a spot on his tongue & did the worst thing possible & googled it. He found pictures that looked like his new growth & they were labeled 'Oral Cancer'. Instead of going to a dentist or doctor to confirm, he silently hid it from everyone & taught himself how to eat & speak again while the growth continued to grow. About 3 months into his secrecy, a lymph node showed up practically overnight the size of a lime & he HAD to tell & couldn't hide any longer. The day my Grandma called, he had just gotten back to her house after being seen at our local hospital, where he was officially diagnosed with Stage 3 Oral Cancer.
When I arrived at my Grandmas to be briefed on everything, I instantly knew something was very wrong. My Grandma had been crying ,which she NEVER does, & my Dad was a mess. I instantly switched into Nurse mode & wanted to know everything I could. When I found out it was Stage 3, I knew he had a very long road ahead of him. I also knew I didn't want him going to our local hospital for treatment, but was in so much shock that my mental wheels just wouldn't turn over & figure out what to do next. After feeling angry, sad & helpless we all went into fix-it mode. My Step-mom got on her phone & asked around what to do. Several people told her that they had loved ones that received treatment at M.D. Anderson in Houston, TX & they had amazing results & were ALL in remission.
At that moment, we all decided he needed to go there. It would be a long process, expensive & exhausting, but we all NEED him to live so we did what anyone else would, look for the best. As time goes on, I will try & document what has happened so far with his treatment, our fundraising adventures & much more.
**My Dad is a pretty private person, so if he ever finds this, he'll probably cringe, but I wanted to get information out there about Oral Cancer. **
For more information on Oral Cancer please visit the Oral Cancer Foundation website. Please have your dentist check you at each & every appointment. It could save your life. Thank you so much for being a reader & my prayers go out to everyone that has been affected by cancer in one way or another.
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