(art by one of my favorite Colorado artist: Phil Lewis, I think this painting of the Colorado sand dunes would make a great inspiration for student art. He really uses line, movement and color in fun and successful ways!)
I've just returned to Oregon from spending time with my mom and dad. I was pretty surprised when I got home to find my dad (who I mentioned has stage 4 esophageal cancer) in much better shape then I expected. While he has lot a lot of weight and is on oxygen 24/7 (Denver mile high altitude and all) he is at home, getting around on his own and not feeling too bad. Best of all he has already responded to his chemo and the tumor in his esophagus has shrunk enough that he is able to eat small meals of solid foods again.
After talking to the oncologist, the two chemo nurses and my parents we have decided my dad is more in the months to live category then the weeks to live category. People who have esophageal cancer often have been heavy/life long, drinkers or smokers, neither which describes my dad. So his other organs are much healthier than your average stage 4 esophageal patient. I was also really happy to know that the chemo is shrinking his tumour and killing cancer cells in all parts of his body so quickly.
My dad is holding court and has never had so many visitors and callers in his life. I often had to wait my turn to hang out with him because of the constant stream of neighbors and friends coming to see him or calling on the phone. My mom and I also were feeding my dad any food he requested (aka breakfast one day was a scoop of ice cream, a chocolate pudding and part of a doughnut ) so I think in a small way he is digging parts of this process when he focuses on the hear and now.
The day before I headed home my dad weighed himself and had gained about 8 pounds back and my mom and I agreed that while he can still have the junk food for the calories he also needs to start having some veggies and healthier stuff also now that he can have solids again. I was pretty surprised when he had me go buy him a chili reano and rice and beans from our fav Mexican food joint and then even more surprised to watch him eat all of it over two days time, including chips and salsa and some of my guacamole tostada and soppas!)
The chemo nurse and oncologist told me it was ok to go back to work at the start of the school year and that I should probably hold onto my leave for a few months down the road. My parents and I also have agreed that I will save my leave for when my father's health really starts to decline.
Everyone was quick to remind me that while things feel optimistic now, that this particular type of cancer mutates very quickly and then will re-spread throughout the body. That is why almost no one lives more than two years with it. For now I am happy my dad is doing so well and is able to eat again (one of his, and my! favorite things to do). I am also grateful that I will (hopefully) be the one in my classroom the first day of school and will have at least a few weeks to get the students settled into the school year before I have to take leave.
Thanks for all your kind words of support. I really appreciate them!