A few weeks ago I had to make an emergency trip to Vicksburg, Mississippi. This is old news for most of the folks that visit my website, but for the sake of simply recording it on my blog, I am posting this information. My father, who as most everyone reading this will know by now, has been fighting cancer for three years. Katie and I visited over Easter, and my dad’s health had taken such a nosedive that we were seriously discussing the probability of him not being around by the fall.
But over the next week or two he bounced back like the tenacious dude he is. And everything was going well and the doctor’s were planning on getting him back on regular chemo treatments when he got a little headache. Which got worse. Then terrible. Then unbearable. Two days into the pain he was taken to the emergency room and given an CT scan to make sure there were no aneurysms or serious problems. The tests came back fine, but that didn’t explain the violent, repetitive surges of pain running through the nerves on the right side of his head. He was told it was likely Trigeminal Neuralgia, which is a condition that affects the trigeminal nerve in the head and is considered (according to the TNA) to be “the most painful affliction known to medical practice.” Needless to say this was not good news.
Now, as the son who lives 550 miles from home, I generally get this kind of report via the phone. And I always ask “Do you need me to come home?” I know my mom would never say “yes” because it would disrupt my life, but I ask anyway. And honestly, it would disrupt my routine NOT my life. This IS a part of my life. But I generally hold back from making any drastic moves that may ultimately not be necessary at the time. (Know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em, so to speak). I look for “a sign” to let me know if I need to hit the road.
Well, when my mom answers the phone at 9:30 am crying, I have received my sign. I left work and was on the road in an hour and a half. Dad needed to be seen by a neurologist before anything could be done, but no neurologists could/would see dad. He was incapacitated with pain and honestly could have been hospitalized, so I went home to see what I could do. Shortly after I arrived in Vicksburg, dad happened to show me a spot which he thought was a break out of pimples or some similar rash.
Well, thanks to David Letterman, this set off an alarm in the back of my mind, and sure enough, we discovered the next morning dad was breaking out in shingles. This is caused by the virus that causes chicken pox. It sits dormant in people’s spinal column but can reactivate in people with weak immune systems. It attacks the nerves and causes a terrible rash to appear on the skin that is within the “domain” of the particular nerve in question. So even though it was bad, we all breathed a sigh of relief.
But make no mistake, shingles is some terrible stuff, and certainly not good for cancer patients. It has been three weeks now and he is still in a great deal of pain. And all that recovery he was making from his Easter low-point has been shot to hell and back. But he’s still with us and is still fighting.
Now, there were some good points about the trip. Seeing my folks was one. My sister Erica also made a trip down and we had a day to spend together before I headed back to South Carolina. My buddy Ian came over and spent an afternoon. I saw grandmothers and cousins and other friends. And it felt good to be able to contribute to the caretaking of my father. This is why we are still here. We didn’t scrap our plans to go to Africa to remain distant from the fight. So for everyone who offered prayers, support and good vibes, we appreciate it greatly.
For those of you who would like to see what dad’s shingles rash looked like, click on this link. The photo is blurry but that’s probably a good thing. The blisters are gone but the poor guy is now dealing with scabs.
And for those who would like to follow along with the daily saga of the shingles / cancer battle, visit my mom’s blog. It’s the place for up-to-date info on dad’s condition. And pictures of cats.
And if you are interested in reading some of my past posts regarding dad’s health, search my blog with the keyword “cancer” and you’ll get the major postings on the subject.