I have started this entry as a way to keep you up to date on my dad's health journey.
Background: Dad's illness dates back a few months, although it wasn't apparent at the time. In August, my dad had an ear infection that he let go on too long before visiting the doctor. Dad has never been one to go to the doctor unless it was absolutely necessary. For most of you that know him, Dad is tough as nails, and his opinion about most ailments, is to simply "rub some dirt in it" and all will be fine. Dad was put on antibiotics for his ear infection and was told that the side effects of the medication could cause shortness of breath. Mom and Dad came to visit us in Tennessee in September for Parent's Weekend at UT, and I noticed that Dad had lost a lot of weight, and that he could not catch his breath. Dad also had some bruises on his hands and arms, all which Dad easily explained away. Fast forward to November 11th. Dad's breathing became so labored, that he could no longer walk from the kitchen to the living room without resting.
November 12th-16th: Dad finally went to the doctor on November 12th. His hemoglobin numbers were below 5, when normal levels range between 12-15. They admitted him to the hospital for immediate blood transfusions and to try to figure out where the blood loss was coming from. I also flew home to spend the week with Mom and Dad. Dad had several blood transfusions in the first 24 hours. They did a colonoscopy and endoscopy and found several polyps in his colon that they removed. There was one large polyp that they did not want to remove until it was biopsied. They also did an echo cardiogram to check his heart, which thankfully came back normal. His chest x-ray was clear. They were concerned about his weight loss but were able to stabilize his hemoglobin level enough that they sent him home until the biopsy from his colon came back. I flew back to TN.
November 17th-22nd: Dad did his best to get rest and eat to regain his strength. The biopsy results from his colon came back clean which was wonderful news. They made a plan to remove the polyp for December 19th. They want to remove it so that it doesn't cause any blockage in the future. Dad's appetite did not return and his breathing just seemed to be getting worse. On November 22nd, he was readmitted to the hospital.
November 22nd-November 28th: Dad's stay in the hospital consisted of daily iron infusions and blood tests to attempt to stop the internal blood loss. They also then found polyps on his lungs and he had his lungs scoped and biopsied on November 27th. We are still waiting for the results of the biopsy. They sent Dad home on November 28th to wait for the results of the lung biopsy.
November 28-Today: There has been no improvement in Dad's breathing and today they did a PET Scan on him. An oncologist has been assigned to his case and they are suspecting some kind of blood cancer, but they do not have an official diagnosis. They have said Leukemia and Lymphoma, but in the same sentence said we need more test results. Dad's hemoglobin dropped significantly again over the weekend, so he had to get another pint of blood through a transfusion today. We are hoping the PET Scan and Biopsy provide some kind of direction for a diagnosis, but I suspect their next step will be a bone biopsy. Dad is very thin. He has lost over 30 pounds in just a few months, he also suffers from degenerative arthritis, which has made this ordeal very painful for him. Due to the extreme weight loss, and the fact that his body is taking vital nutrition from his muscles, it is painful for Dad to lay in a single position for very long. He desperately needs nutrition that can only come from food. He cannot breathe and he cannot walk.
At this point, we do not have a diagnosis, nor do we know if this is something that is treatable. The waiting is brutal. I will be going back to Chicago to help Mom and Dad, but I just don't know when. It is so very hard to gauge the timing of when it is best for me to be there with them. Therefore, right now Cathy (my sister) and I talk to Mom several times each day. We limit our conversations with dad since even talking is such an effort for him. Mom is a soldier right now, amazing really. I know she wants us there with her, but she too is carrying the daily weight of all this until we get some direction from the doctors.
We are praying for answers and a manageable prognosis. Please pray. An update will be posted as soon as we know more.