I had never heard the term "sandwich generation" until I received a brochure in the mail recently, advertising a series of lectures for people like me -- adults "sandwiched" between raising young children and caring for aging parents. I have a precocious young daughter. I write about her exploits often, and she is one of the joys of my life. I also have an 81-year old father. Last summer, he was diagnosed with lymphoma, just two years after lung cancer claimed my mother.
My dad decided to seek treatment and began chemo just before Thanksgiving last year. The clinic said that he was the oldest patient that they ever had who had chosen to undergo this particular chemo regimen. With every cycle, his white blood cell count would be wiped out, almost to the point of non-existence. He didn't want to eat or drink. It was a battle to get him to take a few bites of his meals. His hair fell out, which left him depressed. Anti-depressants caused him to hallucinate. With each new problem and each new hospitalization, it became more and more apparent that my dad would need to be more closely monitored. So, although my dad was already living with my brother and his family, we decided that it would be best for my dad to move in with me, the stay-at-home offspring, for awhile.
I was happy to do it, but it's been hard. I didn't realize how stubborn my dad could be about things, even things you'd think wouldn't be a problem, like taking his medication when he's supposed to. I understand that this is scary for him. The cancer and subsequent treatment have robbed him of his independence, and he needs to rely on me and others. Helping him isn't a burden. It's the battles over him accepting help that leave me worn out. When he is tired of me and the reminders of his dependence, he snaps, "Well, maybe you should just put me in a home." He knows we wouldn't, so I say nothing, even though sometimes, sometimes when my patience has worn thin, I feel like snapping back, "Well, maybe I will." But like I said, I don't. I just feel tired after confrontations like these.
But I have to pull it together because I have another person that I am responsible for, my daughter. She is still of an age where she depends on me for a lot of things, and I'm no good to her if I'm too angry, too tired, or too sad over my dad's situation.
It's not all hard though. I worry a little less about him now because I know firsthand that he is eating regularly and taking his medication. My daughter likes having him here; she acts like a "little mother" to him. And I know he enjoys seeing her on a daily basis.
To say that my brother and I were devastated by the news that my dad had cancer would be a gross understatement. We just didn't think it could happen--that cancer would strike both our mom and dad. I am sick of the word "cancer." I am sick of reading articles and statistics. I am sick of hearing about friends, relatives of friends, and friends of friends that have been newly diagnosed. But I can't get away from it.
The worst effect that cancer has had on my brother and I is that it has robbed us of our hope. We don't pray for the miracle anymore. A few months ago, The Spouse found out that one of his good friends from high school has an inoperable, malignant brain tumor. As we read his wife's blog, I was struck by how positive and hopeful she sounded about the treatment he is undergoing. She prays for the miracle, the cure. I pray that it won't be as bad as it was last time.
Even when we get good news, like we did a few weeks ago, I still can't quite believe that it is true-- that the chemo appears to be working.
We don't know yet if this living arrangement will be permanent. So for now, we are taking it one day at a time --my dad, my daughter, and I