I’m sorry but I will never buy the latest fad diet that you are selling. It’s not that I don’t want to. I want to support you and be a good friend. I want to be your cheerleader. I really, really want to. But I cannot buy into the latest trendy diet. I hope when you read my story you will understand why.
My father recently passed after a horrific battle with Stage IV tongue cancer. My father died unable to eat or drink orally. He lived on a peg tube. A peg tube is a tube that sticks out of someone’s belly and they receive all their nutrition through this tube. My father lived on a peg tube for 4 of the 7 years he fought his battle. He had a diet of medically prescribed shakes, Gatorade and water for 4 years, nothing else. Unless you count the numerous medications he consumed, also through the peg tube.
Cancer forces you to open your eyes and appreciate life. After you view life through the eyes of a cancer patient you will have no choice but to fall to your knees and thank God for all the little things you have taken for granted.
The last time I sat in a restaurant with my father was well over 3 years ago and it was a pizza place because after his radiation treatments he had difficulty eating most foods. He had to put a powder called “Thick It” in all his drinks giving them a thick nectar like consistency so his liquids would not aspirate into his lungs. He lived like this for 4 long years, then one day he was rushed to the Emergency Room with a very high fever. We were informed he had aspiration pneumonia due to damage to his epiglottis from the radiation treatments. Everything that he consumed orally; food, beverages, medications, even his saliva was entering his lungs causing aspiration pneumonia. A peg tube was inserted into his belly and he never ate or drank again.
From that point on my father spent the rest of his life yearning to eat again. Holidays, birthdays, special events were never the same. I would walk into the room to find him watching “The Food Channel.” My heart would sink each time he would discuss a new dish Giada prepared. We would sing Happy Birthday to him only to take the cake away. Not because he was on some fad diet, because cancer stole his ability to eat.
Of course pre cancer our big fat Italian family would diet. Because that’s what we do. We indulge, then punish ourselves for being “bad.” But cancer knocked on our door in 2009 and had other plans. Cancer left our family begging for just one more bite of anything, even that dreaded fattening chocolate cake or that big greasy hamburger smothered in cheese or a big dish of carb filled pasta! Oh how my dad dreamed of having just one more plate of Sunday macaroni! But cancer said, “No, not today, not tomorrow, no more eating in this life.”
The week before my father died I had to suction his spit from his mouth because he was too weak to do it himself. I bet you never knew they had a machine called a suction machine. I didn’t. It’s basically a long tube you stick down someone’s throat and it pulls out all the gunk they can’t cough up. I’m not sure what’s worse the deafening noise of a machine sucking the gunk out of someone’s mouth or the sounds of your larger than life father choking from a tube being stuck down his throat. And when I was done with this medieval contraption I couldn’t even offer him water or a sponge soaked in water to relieve his VERY dry mouth. All I could do was put some lip balm on his lips and pray that it would offer him some relief to the dryness on his lips and he would forget about his dry mouth.
The night before he died he asked me for a glass of water and I had to tell him no because everything he ate and drank aspirated into his lungs. I hugged him and we both cried. I denied my dying father a lousy glass of water. I’m haunted by the sounds of my sweet father’s voice asking me for a glass of water on his death bed. Maybe someday I can forgive myself for saying no. Despite my rational mind knowing if I gave him that glass of water I would have caused great distress, my heart hurts knowing I denied my dying father something so simple as water.
So I will not be dieting and depriving myself of foods I enjoy. Not today, not tomorrow, not in this life. I would much rather workout and indulge in the foods that I enjoy.
Cancer gave me a front row seat to witnesses her destruction. Cancer forced me to witness my larger than life father die starving to death. Cancer is a real bitch.