My dad was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer May 10, 2021, and I remember the heartbreak as I heard those words even though deep down in my gut I already knew he had some type of metastatic disease.
He had been to see his primary care physician for a wellness check on March 13, 2021. Even being a lifelong smoker, everything checkout well for him at the age of 69. He had routine lab work, normal vital signs, had his second COVID-19 vaccine, and went on his way. He was a trucker and continued working full time with a plan to retire this December. He and my mom wanted to travel together. Due to his job, I was able to see him every Friday after work, and I looked forward to those visits. He would sometimes complain of fatigue, but nothing unusual for a 69-year-old man who worked full time.
His fatigue never slowed him down. He was mowing grass, planting a garden, visiting friends, etc. May 1, 2021, was my son's 10th birthday party, and from the moment my dad got out of his personal vehicle, I knew he was sick. Very sick. I could tell he had lost weight and tightened his belt. I could tell he was having pain as he shifted his weight repeatedly while standing and talking with me. He looked like he had aged 20 years. I asked him how he was feeling, and his response was, "everything hurts!"
I was instantly broken. My mom told me later in the day after I asked that he hadn't been eating well and had lost almost 20 pounds. She told me he lacked energy and generally didn't feel well. My best friend works at his PCP's office so I made it my mission that evening to get him into the doctor again. It wasn't until May 7th that he went back to the doctor. He had more blood work and a chest X-ray. It was Friday, so we had to wait the weekend. Monday, May 10th, his doctor reviewed his imaging and labs and sent him straight to the local ER for a chest CT. My worst fears were confirmed. My Daddy, the hero in my life, had been diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. He was admitted for the night and had a brain MRI and a liver biopsy. We learned that his liver was double the size it should be, and while the cancer was not in his brain, it was in his bones.
Fast forward to May 18th, and he was at home on hospice care. He had a neuroendocrine tumor in his left lung which did not respond to the one chemo treatment he tried. His liver was failing quickly. The goal now was to spend all our time with him and keep him as comfortable as possible. July 1st, 2021, my Daddy ran into the arms of Jesus. From the day of diagnosis until he died was only six weeks. I never thought I'd be telling a story such as this. I told him everyday after nursing school that smoking would in fact kill him, and it did. I would never wish the pain he experienced or the pain we continue to experience on anyone. I encourage those who smoke to QUIT. I encouraged doctor's to do lung cancer screenings on those who meet the criteria. I encourage more research and funding so we can find a CURE for this horrible disease.