January 20, 2012

my dad..still fighting cancer after a year

always trying to 'be strong' as in 'b' for 'bob' strong
this is my dad, Robert Strong.  his motto is 'B strong'.  his faith in God is very strong.  he practices relying on God rather than himself.  he enjoys being with people and making them happy with his light-hearted humor and positive outlook on life.  this photo was taken when we first arrived to see him this past December.  he is living with cancer.  at this time he was almost 3 months recovering from a 27-day treatment of radiation.  his hair had grown back and he was feeling rather fine except that his energy wasn't as great as when he was undergoing chemotherapy.

within a week's time, we saw him go from this new sense of normal to one of fatigue, tiredness, breathing difficulties and excruciating pain when urinating.  it was just before the Christmas and New Year holiday season.  he started sleeping during the day and had no energy for watching us play soccer outside (in the very cold weather!).  he thought he might have an infection but it was not an easy time to make a doctor appointment; many of the specialists were on holiday and he didn't want to go to the hospital where they do not know him or his medical history..
chatting with the secretaries at the cancer center
during that time, he had his regularly scheduled bi-weekly appointment for a blood test and to clean out his shunt that lies in his chest.  he drove us to the appointment and was his usual cheery self, joking with the secretaries and nurses, trying to get a laugh out of them.  his blood results were given to him right away and they showed good counts of hemoglobin and platelets..
as we sat in the room where the shunt is cleaned out he tried talking with one of the nurses who is not a pleasant woman.  it's one of those situations where you wonder how someone reaches a point in their career where they are no longer happy, no longer a true caregiver.  this woman has an aura about her that makes you want to run away from her.  yet dad has continued to make every effort, every time he sees her, to be sincere and have a nice conversation with her.  this time he was asking her about the local football team.  she responded grumpily that she's never liked football and she never will.  dad made some pleasant reply and left it at that.  we both smiled and i thought to myself, 'my dad has a good heart.'
at my dad's home he can be found mostly in 2 places:  at the kitchen table with pillows under and behind him to keep him comfortable, or on his recliner chair reading the newspaper or watching tv.  his favorite time at the table is when family is sitting down with him around a meal.  he believes firmly in offering grace before we eat and is very thankful for the little things in life that we are all provided by God, like our health.  on this last visit we shared some good times but his appetite was less and he struggled to have enough energy and concentration to be able to play our favorite card game together: pinochle.  when we did play, he always needed to ask questions like 'who dealt', because he was not quick with his mind like he used to be.  we made light of it and often busted on him but beneath the surface it was troubling to my heart to see him this way.
dad looking worn out..but enjoying a smoothie made with fresh blueberries & strawberries made by dashiel
by the time New Year was approaching we all felt very concerned for dad.  he had managed to get a test that determined he did not have a urinary tract infection -- which led us to start realizing that cancer was taking its toll again.  it was difficult seeing him not be able to breathe properly; it was hard to hear him explain how agonizing it was to urinate.  it was a little sad to see him in a deep sleep in the middle of the day, missing out on precious moments with his grandchildren whom he loves so much.  but we had to keep waiting for the petscan which was scheduled just after the New Year.  this was our last week with him before going back to ghana..

the last week of our visit, when he went for the petscan early in the week, he could no longer drive.  at the University of PA hospital, where they all know him, he had to return each day for one reason or another -- sometimes just because of the inefficiency of the system -- and we barely saw him.  on the saturday that we had to say goodbye he was still light-hearted, positive, prayerful and hopeful.  with tears in our eyes we all huddled together outside of departures at the airport listening to dad offer a prayer of praise to God, beseeching His guidance for all of us.

a week later he was admitted into the hospital where he's been for a week now.  he's had a biopsy on his bladder where a mass was found, and he was given a spinal tap to determine if there are any lymphomic cancer cells lingering within the bones.  i'm waiting to see what the results of these tests are while he lies in the hospital each day with immeasurable pain until treatment can be provided.
dad's wife, Marti, always being strong and supportive as the caregiver for dad


  1. Thanks Pam for this beautiful narrative of your dad's condition. I love him so much and it is so heartbreaking to know he is battling such a painful illness. He's an amazing man and I pray every day for him to keep fighting the fight.

  2. relying on God and praying for him is the best way to heal him as he is truly in God's hands each day. thanks for the message. xo