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Family Deals With the Return of Mesothelioma Tumors

Last week Amanda talked about the fresh start to the New Year. In that article she also mentioned that her father slipped several times on the ice. Was it the falls that were leaving him feeling sick and tired?

February rolled around and it was a big birthday month for our family: it was my birthday and my brother, Adam’s, birthday. I was turning 28 and Adam was turning 22. Our birthdays are only 10 days apart and since we both live a distance away from Mom and Dad’s, we have been combining the celebrations together when we could both make it home. We decided on February 22, my brother’s actual birthday to come home and celebrate. Dad was very excited for us all to be together and we were planning on going out to dinner. He said it was my choice where to go to dinner, and I had picked one of my favorite chowder houses that is close by to their home.

The weekend had come around quickly and I was very busy with work and coaching and had not been checking in with Mom and Dad as much as I usually did. Plus, if there were any concerns or something was wrong I knew they would call me. In my mind, all was still going well at home with Dad’s health and work was still going smoothly.

My plan for Saturday was to go to a cheerleading competition with the cheer team I coach and then head home to my parents for the rest of the weekend. After watching my girls compete and get their awards, I started on my way home. I called my mom to check in and see what everyone was up to.

She only then informed me that Dad had not been feeling well for the last week. She said he had been really sore in his lower back and he was very short of breath. My first thought was that his back was still bothering him because of the couple falls that he had. She said that he was going into work that night and she mentioned that we might just cancel dinner on Sunday because of the way he was feeling. She would cook instead or we would order from our favorite pizza place.

When I got home my mom and I caught up and watched some TV on the couch together. As we were sitting there we got a message from Claudia, Dad’s secretary. She said that she was concerned about him. She said that he looked horrible and that he had just got sick at work. She insisted that he go home immediately and even had offered to have her husband drive him all the way home. Dad insisted that he could drive himself and he did. As soon as he got home, he went straight to his bed. Mom and I checked on him, took his temperature, gave him medicine and made him comfortable. He didn’t want to be bothered and just wanted to lie down.

I started texting with a good friend of mine who is a doctor and often gave me advice when it came to my dad. She mentioned the falls that he recently had and how there could be something wrong because of the blood thinners he was on. She suggested that we take him to the emergency room just to be sure. I mentioned it to him and he wanted no part of it. So I told him if he doesn’t feel any better in an hour or so, I wanted to take him.

Sure enough, he finally said he wanted to go to the hospital. My mom and I took him to the local emergency room and they took him right back. This made me very on edge, as did my mom. We were under the assumption that his fall in the driveway was causing some type of bruising, a fractured rib, or just severe soreness in his back. When asked by the doctor how much pain he was in, to our surprise he said a “nine” and asked multiple times for pain medication. For Dad to say that, a man who has a very high pain tolerance, he must have been feeling very miserable. I cannot even imagine.

We ended up being there until about 4:00 a.m. The doctors did a handful of tests including x-rays and a CAT scan. After the CAT scan, the doctor said he would be out with the results within an hour. This hour felt like eternity. We sat and sat. Mom and I fell asleep for a little bit. I paced up and down the hallways. Almost two hours had gone by since the doctor finished up the scan. As I was walking, I saw the doctor studying the results on the computer screen in the office area. Right then and there I got a horrible feeling: it’s back. I knew it at that moment. I went back in the room and I sat there quietly.

My mom said she had a bad feeling. I told her I did too, but to just wait and see what the doctor said. Soon after that, the doctor came in, and he reported to us news that he hated giving. The mesothelioma had come back aggressively. He compared the last scan in January to the one now in mid February. He said that we needed to call his doctors in Philadelphia immediately and get down there. Within about a month the cancer had grown from two pea-size spots to multiple masses in his chest with the largest being the size of a grapefruit on his liver. This was why he was in so much pain in his lower back. The tumor was pushing on his ribs and lower spine.

Our hearts sank and once again we felt defeated. After those few months of feeling relaxed and things were somewhat normal, why did this have to happen? After the intense surgery he had gone through, why did this have to happen? After chemotherapy and radiation, why did this have to happen? All that kept circulating in my mind was “why, why, why?” All the doctor could do for Dad was give him some pain medication and send him home. We listened to the doctor’s advice and Dad called UPenn first thing on Monday morning.

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