Snippets of a Surreal Summer

It is strange spending the summer in such a beautiful place. Your brain wants to slip into vacation mode but that’s not what we are here for. After the peaceful walk down the drive to greet the sun and exercise the dog, you return to semi-organized chaos.

There are nutritional shakes to be mixed with supplements, vitamins and minerals…..adding anything that may make it more palatable. Medicines need to be given…feeding bags prepared. Breakfast needs to be made, shopping lists written down, dogs fed. If it is a weekday, there is the hour drive to Durango for the treatments. It takes a village, truly, to care for him and care for the caregivers.

Early morning walk down the drive

A random Saturday morning, I’m fast walking around Walgreen’s with my mom and sister. We have already hit up the farmer’s market to get some fresh veggies, drink some real coffee and have a little breakfast.

We are looking for a pill organizer among other things. I find a suitable size and rifle through the colors. My sister tells me, “Find a happy, bright color!” I grab a yellow and search for another color. Maybe orange…blue…my mom chimes in, “not red.” My sister asks her, “Why doesn’t Dad like red?”

In my best old smoker lady voice, I blurt out, “That’s the color whores wear!” My overly loud proclamation drowning out my mom mumbling something about red lipstick. After a slight hesitation, we all start chuckling as we are on the move again to the checkout.

We are learning that it is okay to laugh. It momentarily alleviates that constant anxiety that is quietly gnawing away at my insides.

We started with high hopes of enjoying time in Colorado and helping Dad get through his intense treatment schedule. The first week I was there, Dad was able to get on his tractor and work on the grass and weeds.

Farmer Dan and his trusty John Deere

We were invited to a Fourth of July party at the mysterious, wealthy neighbor’s place. I had heard tales of this neighbor who once took the ‘rents on a ride in his helicopter which he parked in the field next to our drive. I was expecting to meet someone kind of like this after hearing rumors of a bomb shelter being constructed:

Hank Scorpio Tech genius/Evil Mastermind

In reality, he does have something to do with tech but not so much evil genius. he and his wife are great people who love to entertain. There was genuine Texas barbecue and a live band. I had armadillo for the first time ever and it was pretty tasty. My dad ate well that night and it was a delight to see. That was the last full plate of food he has had. I’m ever thankful to our neighbors for the invite. Who knew how meaningful a big plate of BBQ brisket, ribs, armadillo and sides could be?

Outside seating at the coffee house….which is next to dispensary and the air is fragrant with mary-jane.

I’m doing a last minute errand before I leave to go back home to Arizona for a week. Of all the things I thought I’d never be doing…..this is tops on that list. I’m driving to the dispensary to exchange my Dad’s vapor pipe. It stopped working a few days before. He obtained a medial marijuana card a few weeks before treatment started. I enter, explain the issue… after a few minutes of testing and conversation that included all kinds of lingo that I pretended to understand… (I had to google “shake” in the truck) I was out the door, new pipe in hand.

I speak only for myself, not any other family members when I say, marijuana can be a blessing. Seeing someone you love experiencing pain and wasting away is gut-wrenching. The pain reliever (narcotic) and anti-nausea (anti-psychotic) meds that were prescribed for him are frustrating. They dull him to the point of just wanting to sleep all day.

We have found a schedule of different medical marijuana products that help him get through the tougher days and nights. It is trial and error of finding what works when. It helps with the nausea, eases the pain and settles the anxiety. Instead of being zombie-ish, he is present maybe giddy here and there (to my mom’s dismay.)

My son left this on the breakfast table.

I am learning to appreciate the little things even more. Time is getting more precious. I am sitting with Dad one afternoon before having to leave again. He asks if I can fetch his nail clippers which are in another room. He clips his nails then notices some rough spots so I get him a file. He is smoothing his nails then mentions maybe I can do his toe nails. I jokingly say, “How bad are they?” He smiles then says, “that’s okay…” feeling a little self-conscious about his feet.

I tell him, “I’m’s no big deal, let me get the toe nail clippers.”

I take off his sock and start the process. His feet have been a bit neglected. I carefully clip his nails. “Dad, I think we need hoof nippers..” I tease, he chuckles. I file the clipped nails down and then use a baby wipe to clean up the dust. I generously lotion his feet, shins and calves. I massage the lotion in taking care to not be rough. His skin is sensitive right now.

“That feels really good.” he says as I’m working on the soles of his feet. I look up at him and smile, he smiles back. I continue on until both feet have been taken care of. I make a mental note to buy him some more socks…. the ones he has on are becoming worn. I want to throw my arms around him and not let go, as if that could stop time, stop the disease and keep him here with us for just a time longer.

Footnote:  I want to thank everyone who has helped us out over the summer in big and small ways. For those of you struggling or who have a friend or family member dealing with cancer, my heart goes out to you. It is aptly named…cancer. It spreads beyond it’s physical boundaries and creeps to affect everyone involved. Personally, I have good days and not-so-good days. Being there is hard and being home is hard for different reasons. Coming to terms with the situation is a struggle. It’s an ebb and flow of acceptance and hope. 

I have created a Gofundme to help with some of the needs associated with Dad’s care. If you are inclined to donate, I thank you ahead of time. Sharing the link would be much appreciated. I think Dad would be really astounded at how many people are pulling for him. 


Danny Duels Cancer