"Your Dad Has Cancer. Very Bad Cancer." I heard those words 18 years ago. They still hurt as much as they did on that day. I want to write about how it feels to be on the receiving end of those words.

My Dad died 18 years ago, today, at 12:40am. 

We, meaning a hospital room crowded with many people, had to publicly have our last moments with him…while he laid in a morphine-induce coma of which he occasionally came out of.

However, the real fight began 2 years prior.

For awhile, my healthy, handsome, gregarious Dad (though not a perfect man, but I am not a perfect woman so I can now, as an adult, understand this better. When I was younger, I did not and it affected my childhood oddly) had been feeling “off”.

He went to a doctor or two. 

They all said he was having a ‘mid-life crisis’ and put him on Prozac. (Prozac is a anti-depressant drug).

I was just graduating high school, looking forward to college in a few months.  

I had no idea that this “leaving home” and “starting a new season” in my life would end up being ridden with guilt versus giggly and great like many of the other college freshmen I saw. 

After being on Prozac for a bit, he went off of it because he was scared of getting addicted to it (a typical reaction) and he saw no improvement.

So, that summer he started seeing more doctors. To the best of my recollection, he was still working at our family’s very successful heating and cooling business but at a reduced level. He’d replaced my Grandfather as President and was enjoying the new role. My Dad was the epitome of “a salesman”.

He could have sold you a broken car even if you’d wanted a Mercedes 🙂

The doctors did tests. A lot of tests. Nothing showed up. But Dad did not “feel well”. He had a lack of energy, he started to look pale. He gorgeous, shiny black hair lost it’s sheen.

BY DAD …. Healthy


MRI’s, EKG’s, Blood Tests (big wha??? later on in regards to this). I remember that it was a battery of tests that took place over several of weeks.

Meanwhile, I was buying necessities plus non-necessities (smile) for my new dorm room. My roommate (a friend from highschool) and I were coordinating our room from the bedspreads to the desks lamps. We were geeked!  I knew the tests were occurring but I was not exceptionally concerned because, though Dad ‘looked’ a bit sick, it seemed minor. 

Dad was NOT COUGHING, he was able to work some (the reduced hours I believe were due to lack of energy and # of doctor appointments), he did not talk like he was very sick – all he said was “I just don’t right”.  

I believe he was still fishing, enjoying the company of his best friend who lived close, and complaining a bit that I was “leaving” and giving me stern instructions on how to act “away from home”…I can smile now…but I was raised in a exceptionally strict, quiet, and no-emotional setting. It makes sense now that he was instructing me though I had not caused trouble a day in my life. Seriously Dad?!

Finally, about early August, a doctor thought to due a chest x-ray. (really? almost a year into “not feeling right” a chest x-ray is done…know Dad had been around asbestos given our family’s business? I still shake my head at that.)

His lungs were FULL of cancer. Not just a spot. FULL.  They were not functioning well. This explained the “I do not feel right” but it is still baffling to everyone that my Dad did not cough, wheeze or have shortness of breath -ever.

The cancer was so developed that the doctor’s estimated IT WAS 10 YEARS old. TEN YEARS OLD. TEN. 

Some of us were glad we’d not had to battle cancer for those ten years. Others of us, me included, assumed that if had been caught 10 (TEN!? how?!) years ago that he would not have died from it so soon.

The doctor’s gave my Mom and my Dad this grave news in a sterile, uninviting room at the hospital. 

They came home and called my twin sister and I to the kitchen table. Their faces looked funny. 

Mom would not look us in the eyes. Dad had his hands spread flat on the wooden, round table. Then Mom started fiddling with our country, floral, fabric placements. Dad looked out the window then quickly looked back towards my sister and I, then back out the window. We were 18 years old.

My Mom said, “Girls, your Dad has cancer.”

My heart knotted. (For the record, there are tears rolling down my cheeks as I type.  18 years does not take away these memories. No amount of time ever will. People who say it will are speaking in cliche).

My mind was just confused. 

No one said a word. NOT.A.WORD.

We sorta looked around at each other for several minutes. No one cried immediately. No one did anything. 

I had no idea WHAT to do. 

Do I go hug him? (he wasn’t a hugger).  

Do I cry? (Crying was sorta out of place in our house)

Do I ask questions about the cancer? I knew people who had died from cancer. I knew this was bad news but ‘how’ bad? 

Finally, my Mom said, in a solid voice, “It is in his lungs. He will start chemotherapy and then radiation therapy.”

I sorta knew that if BOTH therapies were needed, that meant it was fairly developed.

I then asked, “How bad?” and looked my Dad.

He put on his half-way salesman grin and said, “Who knows?”

They did know. They were sheltering us. 

My thoughts then ran, selfishly, to leaving for college in 3 weeks. (By the way, I had met my Jim about 2 weeks before this. I was already in love. God KNEW I would need Jim’s broad shoulders and strong faith the next 2 years of Hell.)

“Do I still go to college?” I wondered, thinking about how Jim was going to be in the same town as my college, I had a full scholarship, all the stuff was bought. Then thinking I was the worst daughter in the world. 

“Absolutely.” Dad said, determinedly. He had always been proud of my academic achievements and very proud that I was paying for some of my college via scholarship (smile). 

“This changes nothing.” Dad said. He sorta ended the discussion by pressing his hands on the table, getting up, and going into the family room to watch TV.

Changes NOTHING?

REALLY? Truly? It is not that bad? 

I NEVER considered that my sister and I were being protected from the TRUTH. NEVER once did it occur to me. Call me naive or say that I just wanted to believe it so I could get to college (1.5 hours away from home) but I truly thought “this changes nothing.”   

Dang. That statement proved to be terribly, terribly, terribly wrong. 

 He died 2 years later in a hospital bed, a hospital room, a horrible moment that is seared in my mind.

However, seeing as how today is the day I lost my Dad, I want to include some pictures that he would have loved..mostly of my kids. 

Mercy. I am sure he would have adored them. I am almost positive he would have become exceptionally “huggable” (smile) with them and more comfortable with strong emotions. It seems most Grandparents do…Why would my Dad have been any different? My Dad was, though we were raised in a strict, etc., home know as a ‘jokester’ when he was at work or with friends. 

I can imagine the jokes he would be playing on my older kids now. I hate that they don’t get that. 

Well…here are some people that my Dad would have lived for….if he could have….(crying so hard)

(My caption for some of the pictures is pure guesswork. I truly do not know how my Dad would have been in his later years but I am using what I do know of him to predict how he’d be today…I hope I am right 🙂

Dad would have enjoyed and been proud of our family’s odd, weird, and wacky ways. 
He would have been SO STINKIN’ proud of my Jim’s career. 

 Jim meeting his daughter…Dad would have OWNED Aven 🙂
My Dad might not have understood our special needs adoption…but the instant he met Tye -after we crossed oceans and back! – Dad would have completed related to Tye’s “salesman” personality! He would have been smitten immediately.

Tye could sell that broken car, the Mercedes, AND and Amish buggy to a dude via internet 🙂 

 Our first adoption. I was 23. Jim 25.

Dad would have needed some convincing but, again, the instant he held this angel he would have taken him under his wing and helped us, even financially, with Chase’s medical bills that occurred, surprisingly, after Chase was home.  ($2,000+ dental, costs for Fetal Alcohol stuff for years, etc. We could barely afford to get Chase home…We had one family member help in a major way…) Dad would have been there.

Our first bio-experiment…Trey William James. The “William” is after my Dad and my Grandpa (who passed 18 months after Dad and who I loved desperately. I was a hard time, eh?)
Dad would have made fun of my baby belly.
He ‘might’ have held Trey as a newborn but he would have quickly put him back into my arms.
Smile…However, he would have been very protective of me and my health at the hospital. He would have known the nurses name (maybe flirted…sigh) but he would have had me taken care of.
Jim did a FINE job of this though… Love my husband
By now my Dad would be saying, “3 kids? This is it right?”
And we would have laughed.
Zane LOVES, ADORES, CRAVES fishing. Dang they would have had a blast together.
As Tae Kwon Doe is part of our homeschooling adventure, this picture reminds me that my Dad would SO SO SO not have ‘gotten’ homeschooling 🙂
He would have cajoled, been vocal (as my Father-in-Law just watched and waited to see how it went…He didn’t understand either 🙂 Now he says “He gets it”)  My Dad would have been much louder with this who “crazy, fanatical, who does this?, homeschool ‘thing'”.  
Whatever Dad! Proof is in the pudding Poppa..,for now 

 Dad would be SO SO proud of Tye’s efforts and improvements in speech, health, and attitude. He would have said, “How did you guys do that” [7 years later…yes…it’s taken that long] and we would have said, “It’s God Dad. We just follow the path” and Dad would have smiled.

Dad was a Christian but did not love the ‘organized, denominational’ idea of church. He and I have that in common. He attended regularly but I think  it was for my sister and I to be involved in the great youth group at the church. I completely understand this now as a parent.

Dad refused to go to church on major holidays, Easter/Christmas, as he knew it’d be crowded. ha! Get that too!

THESE are the Grandparents my kids know and adore. They knew my Dad, a bit, and for that I am extremely grateful.
They want to give the kids attention and fill the gap that is left on my side of the family 
My father-in-law, I call him PoppaBear, said something I will never forget when my Dad was diagnosed. I am sure PoppaBear has no idea that this impacted me so much.

You see, my in-laws led a very typical ‘hippy’ lifestyle in the early to mid ’70’s. Drugs, alcohol, not a ton of parenting occurring (I can say this as they travel now talking about this time in their lives and how God pulled them out of it. They are in-country missionaries)

Given all the drugs and alcohol they consumed, my Father-in-Law muttered, almost to himself but I oerheard…
 “This should be me”. 

It was one of the most compassionate and honest things I heard during the 2 years we fought the cancer. Not that I ‘wanted’ it to be him
 [ I swear upon your God-forsaken deer stand that I did not want it to be ‘you’ ;}}

Thanks PoppaBear. You rock.

 See the BEAUTIFUL lady surrounded by some of her great-grandchildren?  

That is my Dad’s Mom, my Mamaw.  She is strong force in my life and one of the last connections I have to my Dad. 

She would NEVER spoil me again if I told you her age…but…you would be shocked 🙂 I HOPE to JESUS above that I inherited her “aging DNA”.

More of my Dad’s Mom, holding Chase for the first time at the Airport, Gate “B” 🙂 
My Dad had her eyes.

My Dad would have secretly loved this picture but he would have joked about it for day 🙂 However, I would have found it in his wallet, secretly made into wallet size…. That’s how he rolled.
He’d be proud that I’d embraced who I finally figured out I was …. a creative cat with a twist of normal.


She will NEVER – EVER know the love.

 This is me about 3 hours after the horrible, horrible Chicago traffic incident. They’s vacuumed glass out of my side, my legs could not move much and could bear no weight. I was trying to be a trooper but that didn’t last long.

Jim made it to Chicago in record-speed – truly. He did not even stop to put the top up on his convertible. I find that absorbing and unforgettable and when I saw him I felt SO much safer.

My Dad? He would have gotten to Chicago – not as fast as Jim- but that’s because he would have been on the phone with Jim, the hospital, the mayor of Chicago, the President of the Chicago Transit Authority, the company that rented the stupid semi-truck to the deficient driver, the people who were snapping pictures of us bleeding on the sidewalk, the families of the deceased, the President of the hospital and then all the nurses 🙂

 I recently found out that my Dad played several instruments when he was a teenager! Who knew?! (told ya family didn’t talk much!)

I think Dad would have been geeked over the boys’ love of music and would have been at every “gig” the kids had. He might not have screamed as loud as me, heck he would not have screamed at all, but he would have given the boys a high five and -maybe- a hug (haha) afterwards.

 My Dad did not travel out of the country except to the Bahamas (that I am aware of)

I believe he would have been happy that our kids are getting exposed to many cultures but also to different places within America. 

He’d probably force his way into several of the trips saying, “Aven would want me there Andrea!”

 My Dad hated sand.

I wonder if that would have changed with Grandkids???

Naw. I seriously doubt it. 

 When I had Show Choir (sing and dance club in high school for my international friends :), my Dad would sit in the audience and make funny and horrible faces at me and my girlfriends. 

It was SO hard not to laugh and I always got mad at him afterwards, but -inwardly- thought it was awesome. My friends would come up and say, “Mr. Lowe! You almost got me in trouble” and Dad would say, “Really? That’s to bad.” and then laugh. Told ya he was a jokester.

We had “Madrigals” once a year…Oh.My.Word. He went CRAZY FACE the entire time.

I have to admit. “Madrigals” is a really odd event. I understood the faces 😉
Somehow, I do NOT think he would have made faces at Aven for her first ballet concert this year. I think he would have been a raptured over her and would not have even remembered to breathe.
Now, years down the road? I would have had to warn her about “Grandpa Bruce’s” antics.

I loved my Dad…faults and all. 
When we lost him, my life changed forever.
I truly thought it would zip back together and I would be able to fill that “hole” somehow.
I’ve learned that’s not the way it works. There is not a person that can really fill that hole for me. Now that I am a bit healthier..

(my PTSD may have started the 2 horrible years of our family fighting cancer but I still had coping stills to cover it up…the Chicago incident may have ripped those away. Thus giving us the life we have now…dealing with my mental health issues…WHICH WE WILL BEAT 🙂

I will wait until Heaven to be reunited as there is no type of event, person, or moment that can give him back to me, in a certain sense.

I do, finally, have a better sense of a certain type of ‘closure’ – as in, yes that happened and it is horrible and you will never, in so many ways, have what you thought you would have as extended family but you need to decide that that is okay right now- that I’ve never had until now.

However, that doesn’t fill the hole. It makes my mind healthier, but not my heart so much.

When I leaned over to kiss my Dad “good-by” when he peeked out of the coma for a moment, I think he knew it was me. I think he said, “I love you”. I know I said, “I love you Dad”.  I was scared of the equipment, the moment that was about to happen, the looks I was getting, the smell of the hospital, leaning over the rail of his bed to kiss his forehead.

I was scared of death. What will it feel like for him? Is he scared? He asked “if my box ready” at one point. The entire room gasped. That was the FIRST time he admitted defeat. Up until then, he was going to beat it…at least that’s what he said to me, even though, before the hospital he was bedridden and has bedsores, no hair, and sunken cheeks. He’d still smile at me. 

He never talked about death….until then.

Part of me hates those words, but part of me is soothed by them. It means he knew what was happening at times. It meant he may have been praying or getting some things right spiritually.

Maybe he was reliving happy moments? I do not know.

But, I do know that we, immediate family, stood around his bed, with our hands on him, as he stopped breathing.

We did not want to take our hands off.

But then I SO did. I wanted out of that room Out of that hospital. Out of that moment.  

That moment was over, but the moments of missing him, of hearing “Your Dad has cancer”, of returning almost every weekend from college to see how things were, to people asking me for 2 years “How is your Dad?”, of his sickness and death affecting the first year of our marriage, of the future decline of family relationships…..

Those moments linger. 

People die everyday.  People are left behind everyday. 

The people left behind?  Their moments continue to stack up.

P.S.  I did not proofread this. Writing has me spent! Sorry for them or even if the post doesn’t flow…
AND…I’d love to hear what you think all of this…HAVE YOU LOST SOMEONE? Do you think of it like I do? I am I out of box on this?

5 thoughts on “"Your Dad Has Cancer. Very Bad Cancer." I heard those words 18 years ago. They still hurt as much as they did on that day. I want to write about how it feels to be on the receiving end of those words.

  1. Jen – learnin’ from you. You and I ? We love hard, live hard, and write it all out. Are we normal? 😉

    I miss my Dad…I adore my family…putting them together equals a “desired love” yet unattainable love….I guess that showed.

    thanks my friend –

  2. Dear Andrea…..I loved your words honoring your father. Putting yourself so bear, I feel will help in your healing. Facing the fact of the impending and the inability to stop it, or to understand it’s happening.

    These times are totally out of our hands. We know there is a God who loves us even in the midst of our worse happening. His love is what sustains us during these times and every day after. Facing the giants in our lives is always healing even though hurtful.I find being honest with how I feel makes the next day a little easier.

    As you stated he would love who you are and your beautiful family.norma

  3. Wow! Just….wow! I’m a hot, sobbing mess right now! First….your father was a handsome man. You and Amy look a lot like him. Second….I wish I could explore my feelings like you do! Seriously. My hubby has to pull stuff out of me. I was abused as a child and I learned, real quick, that thinking led to trouble so…..I didn’t think much. Reading this reminded me sooooo much of the passing of my beloved Papaw. He was my shelter in the storm of abuse. He was an amazing man who, like your father, tried to protect his girls from the stark reality of cancer. He told us they were only doing radiation because that’s all he needed. That was in December of 1993. He came back home to Indy from his retirement home in Florida in the middle of April in 1994. He was only home for
    Three weeks when he passed. He knew, from the first diagnosis, that he wouldn’t be with us much longer but he chose to do what he’d spent his whole life doing….he protected his girls. He passed on May 5th. It was, without a doubt the worst day of my life. He was my guardian. Everyone knew I was his favorite and he was mine. He raised me until I was 10.
    Crying as I write this….I still catch myself thinking….when his birthday
    Comes ……thinking, “He’d only be 94! Why couldn’t I still have him?” My girls know how much he meant to me and they ask about the memories I have of him often. I always tell them…”He would have LOVED you!” And he would have. He would have adored them just the way he adored me and all of us who were blessed enough to love him. My sadness is that I don’t know if he’s in heaven or not. I pray he is. Thanks for sharing. Love you sister in Christ.
    Amanda Sievertson

  4. Hi Andrea,

    I so enjoyed reading this post about your dad and I know if he were here he would be very proud of his girls and their families.

    I remember when your dad and mom wanted our grandson (Brandon) to spend the night. At the time he was only about 4 or 5 and now he is gong on 28. They showed him such a wonderful time and we thought it was very sweet of them to want to have our grandson for a sleep-over.

    Charles and I are often laughing and talking about all the wonderful times we had with your family when you girls were growing up. We especially remember your dad on his birthday as it is Charles’ birthday too. Someday we will see him again in heaven and pick up where we left off and we will have eternity to enjoy each others company.

    It was great to get to see David and Amy at church and to hear their heart for their ministry in India. I know they will be going back to India this month and I know as a family you guys will miss them. You and I both know when God calls us to a certain ministry we aren’t happy until we are doing what God calls us to do so we have to be happy for them and to accept that whatsoever state we are in therewith to be content. Only God can give us that deep settled contentment and peace.

    Love you guys and as always you all are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Darlene Campbell

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