Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Losing my dad

    Dad is dying. I am sitting in a hallway at OHSU awaiting the removal of the esophageal stent we had hoped would allow him to eat. It  was a failure. The stent slipped below the tumor and rested against the wall of his stomach. He cannot eat. It has been 10 weeks since his diagnosis. He has had no treatment other than an incomplete round of chemotherapy. Insurance has not allowed him to come to OHSU until now. The doctors at the local hospital seem content to let him die. They speak of pain relief and hospice. They speak of quality of life and how the cancer cannot be cured. Duh!! We know that. We know he cannot defeat the beast. The tumor is aggressive and angry. We are treated like we are stupid. Dad will die but not today and not without a fight.
   Chemotherapy and radiarion can give him weeks. It may even give him months but nothing has been done. I am reminded of the time Kaiser Permanente told me that giving me Provenge was a waste of resources. Is that what we have come to as a society? My perception is that the medical community has lost its faith and its compassion. Death panels have become a reality. Insurance companies make decisions who to treat and what medications to treat them with.
   My dad is 73 years old and just a few months ago he was on the Columbia river in his boat salmon fishing with my mom. Looking at dad now I can see why the doctors are reluctant to try but they are wrong. If they were only ingesting 500 calories a day they would look just as fragile as my dad does. They would be too weak for chemo as well. Dad needs nourishment, hydration , and treatment.
   The Doctors at OHSU seem to feel he is stong enough for treatment. They have not lost hope but unfortunately he has to go home and his fate will be in the hands of doctors who are forced to answer to some bean counter working for united healthcare.
   Dad is dying. Just like everybody else. What is it that makes his life less valuable. I am angry. My frustration is all consuming and I have taken it out on those who I love the most. There are two local doctors who have come close to a punch in the nose.
   His stent was removed successfully.  The surgeon believes that the initial Chemo shrunk the tumor and caused the stent to slip. I hope we can get the local doctors to jump on board. The surgeon believes he can now eat. If he can eat he can get stronger. If he is strong he can fight. My dad is a fighter. I learned from him.