My Daddy, the Diagnosis, and My Father

It was around this time of year five years ago that my father was diagnosed with lung cancer.  I’m usually pretty good with birthdays and anniversaries, but I’ve forgotten the exact date of his diagnosis on purpose. 

For several months before being diagnosed, Daddy’s left knee had felt kind of sore, but he was in his mid-60s and everybody figured a little arthritis had set in.  And since his retirement a year or so earlier, he’d been busier than ever.  Who wouldn’t be a little sore?

He’d been on a couple of really great hunting trips; two that he’d been looking forward to for a long time.  One was to South Dakota and the other was to Argentina, and a good friend went with him on both trips.  Mr. Fox noticed that Daddy was having more and more trouble with his knee and quietly arranged for the folks who ran the hunting camps to make sure that he could enjoy a full day’s hunt without it completely exhausting him.  They were happy to oblige, and Daddy had the time of his life on those trips.

But the pain persisted, and we finally convinced him to see their family doctor just to check things out.  We had no idea what was wrong and no reason to suspect cancer.  For all we knew, it was arthritis and he needed to take something a little stronger than the Aleve or Tylenol that he would occasionally try.  Or perhaps he needed a knee replacement.  All we knew at that point was that things weren’t getting any better.  What we found out was that they were going to get worse.

After an X-ray showed that there was definitely some kind of mass above his knee, he was sent to Jackson, TN, for an MRI, which confirmed our worst fears.  The mass appeared to be cancerous.

Daddy flew as a navigator in the Air National Guard Reserves and was a retired Colonel.  One of his good friends in the Guard flew as a flight surgeon, but in “real life,” he is an anesthesiologist here in Memphis.  He recommended an oncologist, the one he said he’d want to see if he were in Daddy’s shoes.

A week or so later, my parents were in Memphis meeting with the doctor and nurses who would treat my father for the better part of four-and-a-half years. After a couple of tests and a needle biopsy on his knee, we learned that Daddy had lung cancer.  There were a couple of small tumors on one lung along with the tumor above his knee.  It was not in the bone, but resting just on top of the bone. 

I was teaching school that day, or doing my dead-level best. It was my first year at a new school, but my principal had been a curriculum coordinator (assistant principal) at the school I’d just left.  She’s the kind of person I like to work for, and when I had the opportunity to work in a school where she’s completely in charge, I jumped at it.  You’re about to understand why.

When my parents called to fill me in, Daddy was just about to have his biopsy.  My class was at their specialty class (Art, Music, PE, etc.), and I was in my room telling my friend, Beth.  My principal happened to be walking by and came in.  I think Beth had to fill her in because all I could do was cry and try to keep my heart from falling out of my chest.

I finally caught my breath and gave some lame Annelle-like statement. You know, as in, “Miss Truvy, I promise that my personal tragedies will not affect my ability to teach 3rd graders.”

She hugged me and told me to get my purse and go to the clinic and hug my mama and daddy.  She said, “I’ll arrange to have a sub for you for the rest of the day, and I’ll pick up your kids from Art/Music/PE.  We’ll read books until the sub gets here and it’ll be great.  So, go.”

I protested, saying there was nothing I could do at the clinic and that I was fine, really fine, to stay at school.

“I know you are,” she said.  “But you’ll be better if you go.  And so will they.”

So I left school and I got to the clinic just as my parents were walking out and getting ready to leave.  (I tried to call and tell them I was on my way, but they never leave their cell phones on.  EVER.)  They both laughed the funniest laugh when they saw me.  It was one that only a parent can laugh, as in, “You silly child, do you know that you have a job with a room full of children?”  But because they are parents, they understood. 

My mother got to me first and hugged me.  She whispered, “We’re going to be all right, my love.”

Then I hugged my Daddy.  I felt his arms around me, and all I could say was how sorry I was and how much I loved him and how we would make this all go away.  I had lost the ability to be an adult at that point, as the reality of the situation set in.  Lung cancer does not go away.  There is no cure.  

I wanted to stay wrapped in my Daddy’s strong arms forever.  My Daddy, the one who always made things better; who always helped me see things more clearly, even if I didn’t want to; who waited patiently for me to calm down when I was upset so that he could help solve the problem; the one I ran to when I was afraid; the one I sought when I needed advice; the one man who loved me unconditionally.

It’s been five months since since Daddy passed away, and even longer since I was able to really snuggle into his arms for a hug.  I sure do miss him, and I miss those hugs.  

But I am reminded that my Heavenly Father’s arms are always open and ready for me.  So often I collapse into them and they close around me, and I know that I am forever held by the One who always makes things better; the One who helps me see clearly, even when I don’t want to; the One who waits patiently for me to calm down and seek His help or simply see that He is helping me anyway; the One I can always run to when I am afraid; the One whose advice is always here for me and will not fail me; and the One who loves me unconditionally.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ginny
    Sep 07, 2008 @ 16:09:00

    (through tears)…as wonderful as those hugs of your Daddy’s were, doesn’t it make you wonder HOW MUCH MORE wonderful it will be when we are in our heavenly Father’s arms? Oh, Marian, your Daddy was such a special man. We saw one of “his planes” in the air JUST YESTERDAY, and I was able to tell my girls about my friend Marian’s dad who flew those planes. Love you…


  2. Calista
    Sep 07, 2008 @ 21:12:07

    I am so sorry for you to have lost such a wonderful Daddy. I know you miss him terribly. I know it was such a blessing to him to get to know Tater Tot. You had to wait so many years before having him, but wasn’t God good in bringing him to you while your Daddy could still see him here on Earth. And what a comfort your little man was to you at such a hard time as well.
    Please consider yourself hugged.



  3. Upside Brown
    Sep 08, 2008 @ 07:27:17

    I am SO proud of you – and you know why.
    I love you.
    That’s all.
    Hug my boyfriend(s) for me!! :0


  4. thefarmerfiles
    Sep 08, 2008 @ 16:32:06

    Thanks so much for sharing such a great tribute to your Daddy and to the One who still holds you.

    I lost my SIL to cancer 5 years ago (Hubby’s little sis). Her 10cm mass above her hip seemed to be an arthritic pain for many years.

    My heart goes out to you as you contiue to grieve and miss your Daddy.


  5. reb
    Sep 08, 2008 @ 19:28:35

    found your blog through the farmer files…I am so sorry about the loss of your dad. August 15th was the 8 year anniversary of my dad’s death. Every year it gets a bit easier, but doesn’t make me miss him less. My thoughts are with you as you grieve. I love your description of our Heavenly Father. May you feel His extraordinary love and peace!! Rejoice that one day we too will feel the strength of our Father’s arms!!


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