My father came down with thyroid cancer around 2005. He and Mom were living in Knoxville, Tennessee and I was living on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, by the beach. It was an 11 hour drive to get home. Dad had to have surgeries, eventually three. The third was the most serious. It was basically open heart surgery where they broke his sternum in half and went in and took out all of his lymph nodes around where the thyroid had been. I decided to move up to Tennessee to be closer and to be supportive of my aging parents. I’m an only child and making flights and long drives were proving problematic. So in July 2006, I moved to Chattanooga, two hours south of Knoxville. Shortly after, Dad had his third surgery. I went up to Knoxville and stayed for quite awhile. He was in the heart wing at UT Hospital and I guarded his door. He needed rest and groups of people from his church kept coming by to visit while he still wasn’t really able. I ran errands, did some chores, helped out when Dad got home. It took him a long time to recover. I eventually went back to Chattanooga and got a job.
Back in late 2011, Dad’s cancer returned. This time it was his throat, his lymph nodes. He’d have to have them cut out, but one was practically on his carotid artery, so he was in danger of losing his voice box (might have to be removed) or of them having to sever the artery. They brought in extra surgical specialists to assist with the surgery. Now, by this time Mom and Dad had moved down to Chattanooga to be near me, but he had this done up in Knoxville at UT Hospital with the same surgeons from his earlier surgeries. He didn’t want new people working on him. I went up to Knoxville with my parents and Mom and I said goodbye to him as they wheeled him into his room. It was supposed to take three hours, but as time ticked by, we were getting more and more worried. People from their old church came by to offer support, about 40 all told. That was nice. Finally, after something like five or six hours, Dad was out of surgery and it was deemed a success — they didn’t have to remove his voice box or sever the artery.
Dad’s had to undergo radiation and it’s really impacted him a lot. He suffers a great deal of oral pain from it, which makes me feel really badly for him. But his cancer was gone. That’s good, right? Well, a couple of weeks ago, Mom told me they’re worried it’s returned again! He feels pain in the side of his neck where they did their work. He feels something in there when there shouldn’t be anything there. So today, he and Mom are in Knoxville where he’s undergoing tests with his surgeon. I’m really hoping nothing will come of this. Four hard surgeries for cancer are too many. He’s 73 now. I don’t know if he can survive another big one. He’s not as healthy or as young as before. I’m really trying not to be too stressed out and I’m saying lots of prayers. For those of you reading this, I’d be grateful if you sent prayers, good vibes, or just crossed your fingers. He can’t get cancer again. He just can’t….