cancer is contagious. My father’s cancer is destroying me with same speed and ferocity as it’s destroying him. My form of cancer won’t show up in an X-ray or MRI, it can’t be cured. I have symbiotic cancer, it’s an elusive shadow colonizing my cells and relentlessly spreading throughout my existence.
My dad was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer in September 2013, by November he was stage 4. He entered a hospice program in January. I am, have been, his sole caretaker since it started. I drove him on the daily 100 mile round trips for radiation treatments, I take him to all his appointments, I do all the paperwork, run all the errands. I get his groceries, make his meals and serve as translator because he won’t wear his hearing aids. When it came time to enter hospice, he didn’t want to leave his home. I turned myself inside out to make that happen, and it did.
A quick trip through my Facebook statuses will show that I haven’t done this all without complaint. I complain, I vent, I cry – then I pull myself together and get back to caregiving, because there isn’t any other choice. I’m the only one he’s got and the sole target of all his angers.
Yes, if a disease attacked me, stole my life, stole my quality of life, I’d be angry too. It’s only natural. But he was an angry person before cancer, always reliably grouchy about a galaxy of irritations, always reliably negative. The difference now is I can no longer reason with him – and I’m one of the very few people who ever could reason with him.
His angers are all that’s left now. He is only angry, furious in fact. He sits and stews, remembering every slight, every incident from his life that angered him. Like a dragon with a hoard of gold, my father is jealously guarding rage and taking every opportunity to hurl his rage at me.
The verbal attacks are getting progressively more vicious. Since the whole head radiation in November, his memory has a lot of gaps, time is blurred for him. He makes up “facts” to stoke his rage, using his revised history to demonstrate what a waste of time my whole life has been.
I called to check on him yesterday afternoon, left a message on the machine when he didn’t answer. I called again 1 1/2 hours later and he still didn’t answer. Since he refuses to wear the alert button, we rushed over to check on him. It turns out that he heard the phone, heard my message, but didn’t call me back because he’s pissed off that the garbage disposal stopped working.
Then he laid into me for barging in, waking him up, not giving him any peace. Fine, we’ll just go on back home. So sorry for caring and all. But he wouldn’t let me go, he insisted on telling me how I come from lazy stock (he’s technically my stepdad), how the Rodrigues’ are lazy, how my siblings and I can’t hold jobs or do anything right.
And let’s not forget about my stupid book. What a waste of time that is and who wants to read some fairy tale full of magic and weird names and giant cats. I am clearly a very spoiled child without clue one how to be a responsible adult and I need to grow up.
Just FYI, Los Hermanos Rodrigues have managed to hold jobs, own businesses and raise children, so we’re not as useless as the media portrays us.
The toll this is taking on my mental and physical well being is stupefying. I cry all the time, have stress eaten until I can’t fit in my clothes anymore. There is a ceaseless pain in my face from clenching my jaws. On the recommendations of many, I’m trying to get some medical help for my problems. But I don’t have a primary care doctor and am still waiting for a return phone call from the psychiatry office to let me know if I’m covered so we can proceed to make an appointment for two months from now.
There’s a reason I avoid getting health care. That reason is the insane bureaucracy of getting health care. I could go to the ER or a walk in clinic, but just the idea of sitting in one of those uncomfortable places waiting to prove that I’m not a crackhead seeking recreational drugs makes my chest tight and blood pressure soar.
I just don’t know what to do anymore. I am overwhelmed, over-stressed and exhausted. Since last night, I can’t help but wonder if my dad is too much a danger to himself or others to be left on his own. The man has guns in his house. But just thinking about this makes me feel disloyal and petty. Once again, I have to make a hard decision and I don’t know if I can.
I am lost. I am tired of being a punching bag. I want my life back.