Monday, August 18, 2014
Tension Breaker. Had To Be Done.
In a corner of the front bedroom I came across this model of Joan C. Edwards Stadium, the home of Dad's beloved Marshall University Thundering Herd. Dad was a season ticket holder there for many years and he loved the game day experience.
The memories came back in a torrent when I remembered the first time I had ever seen the little replica of "The Joan".
It was early December, 2004 and I was a patient at Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in Ashland, KY. Four days earlier I had gone through extensive abdominal surgery. A colonoscopy two weeks earlier had revealed a large mass in my right ascending colon. Dr, Warrier, who had done the test told us that it was likely that the mass was malignant, and that we should see a surgeon immediately. Within a week, Dr. Staten had done my surgery. He told me that he had removed about three feet of my colon. He told me that he had seen some suspicious spots on my liver, had biopsied them, and also removed several lymph nodes for biopsies as well. Plus, he said, while in there he removed my appendix.
Now, four days later I was beginning to feel much better as I recovered from the surgery. I had been up walking that day, and I was hoping to go home in a couple of days. Even though we knew we were probably going to be dealing with cancer, we were still waiting for the results of the pathology reports and were optimistic that the malignancy was still contained in the colon.
I had several visitors that day. Linda was there with me (she had rarely left my side since the operation). My son, Benji's in laws, Lance and Linda Clanton had come by to see me, and Mom and Dad had driven down from Huntington to see me for the first time since the surgery.
Dad had brought with him his brand new prized possession - the scale model of Marshall Stadium that had come as a surprise gift from Mom's sister, Dori, in Houston. She knew how much he loved the Herd and had ordered the keepsake for him as a surprise gift. Dad proudly pointed out to the Clantons where his seats were located, and we talked about the good times we had experienced in that place.
While they were all there, my family doctor, John Darnell, came in to see me. On this occasion, however, he had two nurses with him. Normally he made his rounds alone. We exchanged pleasantries and introductions of the visitors and he asked how I was feeling. We talked about the fact that I would probably be discharged in a couple of days.
"Any questions?" he asked.
"Yes" I said. "When will we find out the results of the pathology tests? Will Dr. Staten give me the report, or will you, or what?"
Dr Darnell looked around the room uncomfortably. "I can give you the results now if you like..." he said quietly. Again he gave an uncomfortable look around the room at the visitors who were there.
"These folks are all family" I replied. "They can hear whatever I hear".
"Well" he said, after clearing his throat and looking at the chart he carried in his hand. "The mass in your colon was malignant. Also the biopsies of your liver and lymph nodes showed that the cancer has spread to other areas of your body. You have a very aggressive form of cancer. You are in Stage 4, and it is incurable."
I heard a short gasp escape Linda's lips. Everyone else was totally silent.
I remember thinking, so this is what if feels like when they tell you "you're going to die". Here I was, only 54 years old, and I had just come face to face with my mortality, and I felt nothing. Just numb.
The silence was deafening.
It seemed like forever. No one said a word. The Doctor sat quietly waiting for me to ask the obvious question (how long do I have?) but the words just didn't come.
Then from the other side of my bed I heard my Dad's voice. "Hey Doc! Look what my sister in law sent me from Texas!" he said holding up the stadium model.
Dr. Darnell's reaction was priceless. His head snapped toward Dad, and with a puzzled look on his face, said weakly, "Yeah. That's nice.".
I've thought a thousand times what he and those nurses must have thought. "I've just told this guy he's going to die, and his Dad wants to show me a stadium replica!" They probably thought he was crazy, but anyone who knows my Dad, knows exactly what he was doing.
Tension breaker.Had to be done!
It worked. I snapped back to reality and asked the Doctor what comes next. He said we need to get you with an Oncologist. Although the diagnosis was "incurable", hopefully my life could be prolonged for a few months with chemotherapy treatments. I quickly asked if I could see Dr. Kirti Jain, and Darnell told me he would get that arranged, and he quickly exited the room.
It was a typical Caudle Adkins moment.
Although the situation was serious, the silence was broken, the mood was lightened.
It wasn't that Dad didn't didn't grasp the gravity of the situation. Nor did he think that little stadium replica was that important. I was his oldest son. His namesake. His colleague in ministry. He understood completely, and I'm sure his heart was broken to hear what we had just heard.
However, Dad just had the gifts of common sense, discernment, and the ability to defuse any tense situation with his down home sense of humor.
That stadium replica sits in my office at the church today.
I cherish the memory of my Dad's actions on the day I heard the worst news of my life.
I miss him so much, and I thank God every day that I was blessed to be raised by Caudle and Patsy Adkins. I'm thankful for the priceless memories I have of him.
I love you Dad, and I'll see you soon!