It's been on my mind for the past 4 years and to this day I feel guilty about it. I've talked to family about it and they've reassured me that I made the right choice, but I'm still so unsure.
I'm terrified that I killed my dad. When he was on life support my family was in the waiting room just...waiting. That whole situation is really a blur for me. I had received a call from my aunt earlier that day telling me they were taking my dad to the emergency room and to leave for Houston because they weren't sure he would make it. I sobbed the entire ride.
We had known he had cancer for about three weeks and it was Stage Four esophageal cancer that had also spread to another body part--liver or pancreas, I don't remember. He had immediately decided to tackle his cancer as aggressively as possible with both chemo and radiation. (God, this is so hard to write.)
My dad was obviously in a lot of pain. He had lost an incredible about of weight in a very short time. I think it was because he wasn't allowed to eat solid food. The tumors in his esophagus might have caused him to choke. I actually gave him his last meal. When I was visiting him in the hospital one weekend he said he was hungry so I grabbed some Culver's burgers and headed over. He loved it. He said it was way better than the hospital food. I'm really glad we got to share that together.
I drove as fast as I could to the hospital. I had been taking a summer class in Austin so I was only visiting him on the weekends. Had I understood how terrible and deadly cancer is I would have dropped the class and been with him the entire time. I had no idea how bad "Stage Four" was. Everyone I had ever known to have cancer had gone through their treatments and lived. People don't die from cancer and especially not people I know.
When I arrived at the hospital my family was in the waiting room of the ICU. They were only letting two of us go back at a time so I had to wait until someone left his room. I finally got to see him and it was just tubes and a hospital bed. My dad didn't look like my dad. He was bloated and unresponsive. I asked the nurse how long he would be like this. If he was going to die. I don't know if she meant to scold me, but she told me not to say those things around him because he might hear me.
I couldn't stand to see him like that. I didn't spend a whole lot of time with him in his room. I wanted answers. My cousin is a nurse and told me that Stage Four esophageal cancer is basically a death sentence and that they never should have given him so much chemo and radiation. My grandma asked me if I wanted to take him off life support. People were telling me the only reason he was still breathing was because of the machines. I know the decision was made with other family members' input, but if I had said no I wonder if they would have gone with my decision.
We took him off life support. I was holding him as he died. My family held hands and prayed over his body.
I need to forgive myself for taking him off life support. I know it wasn't my decision alone, and I recently learned that he had signed a "Do Not Resuscitate" document.
My dad was a fighter and the strongest guy I knew. Some of my fondest memories are from when I was a kid and he would let me crawl all over him. I would ride on his shoulders, hold his leg and make him walk with me there--I miss him so much.