I Lost my Dad When I Was 17

January 16, 2014 was the worst day of my life. It was the day that I would forever lose my best friend, my role model, and Dad. My dad suffered for a long year from a very rare form of cancer called cholangiocarcinoma. This type of cancer is also known as bile duct cancer where the body cannot properly digest and absorb foods, acids, and fats causing fluid build up in the lungs and other organs.

I remember it was early December of 2012, my junior year of highschool, when my parents sat my sister and I down to deliver us the horrible news. They told us exactly what my dad had been diagnosed with and that although this cancer was not cureable and only treatable, that wasn’t going to stop my dad from fighting and continuing to live a normal life.

At first, he was going to chemotherapy every two weeks; it seemed like nothing and everything would be fine. He was doing yardwork outside, driving me to my friend’s houses, cooking dinner, and keeping the house together. I thought that if he only had to go for weekly checks up and biweekly treatments but still live and physically appear normal that it would all be okay. But, I thought wrong and was soon proved otherwise.

As time went on, chemo got worse. It was hard for him to get out of bed, eat, and sleep through the night without being in pain. The amount of medications were increasing and slowly my mom had to stop working so she could take care of my dad. At the end of it all, it would cost her her job. It took me a couple of months to tell my friends what was going on at home and the reason I never wanted them to come over because I was too nervous if an emergency happened with my dad, I wouldn’t know what to do and neither would they.

Time went on and then it became summer. My dad still looked healthy although he did have his bad days on occassion. I was working at my sleepaway camp that I had gone to for the past seven years and for the first time it was hard to be away from home but my dad didn’t want me to stop my life for him. So, I stayed at camp. I only had about three hours to use my phone a day if I was lucky. One day, I was so busy that I didn’t even get a minute. When I checked my messages the next day, I had multiple missed calls and text messages from my mom and sister saying that my dad had been rushed to the emergency room because fluid was building up in his lungs, making it difficult to breathe. I wanted to come home so badly but by the time I had gotten to my phone, he was doing just fine and was going to be discharged from the hospital in a few hours.

When I came home at the end of the summer, life took another turn. My dad lost about thirty pounds, hair was thinner, voice was changing, and skin color was turning yellowish and pale. It was so hard to have a conversation with him because he was not the same person I saw a few months ago. This is when everything started to quickly go downhill, become realistic and scary all at the same time.

From then on, trips to the emergency room became normal, days got longer, and the pain got worse. Getting him out of bed was an accomplishment let alone eating one bite of food. He was not able to stomach anything, which was causing him to lose energy, weight, and health. Besides the cancer, chemo was starting to kill him. 

Winter came along and after multiple treatments, none of them were working anymore and only causing him more pain than he needed. It was the first week in January that my dad decided he was going to stop all chemotherapy. From that moment, I knew he was going to die any day, it was just a matter of when.

On January 7, 2014, he was rushed again to the emergency room and the doctors told us he wasn’t going to make it through the night. In full on panic mode, my mom called all of our family and friends and said they needed to get to the hospital ASAP to say their goodbyes. Within two hours, almost everyone that was important to us was there. Luckily for us, it turned out that he did make it through the night but now we had to play the horrible guessing game of when it was going to happen for real.

On January 15, my dad asked the hospital if he can be taken home with hospice because he did not want to die alone in the hospital. So, he went home and the doctors told us what signs to look for when it was about to happen. That night, he lost all ability to speak and communicate; he was basically a mute zombie. The next afternoon, his breathing became labored and while holding me, my sister, and mom’s hand, he took his final breath.

January 16, 2014 was the worst day of my life. I will never forget what my family and I went through and although it’s been three years now, it’s never “easy,” however it does get easier with time. Losing a parent at any age, let alone at seventeen is something not many people go through. Cancer is a horrible thing that we will never have control of, but it is important to raise awareness and always try to find a cure so that one day down the road, other people won’t be in my situation.

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