Every time I sit down to share changes we've made to our family, I can't help but think nearly 3 months ago my whole world came crumbling down. I never told you exactly how it happened because I couldn't gather the right words. Gosh, I still don't have the right words, so bare with me. Before I can move forward I need to pay homage to my poor Dad who recently lost his life, after a ridiculously short 6 week battle with cancer. Seeing that all of these changes wouldn't have happened if I wasn't grieving him.
So let’s start from the beginning… grab your cup of coffee, a box of tissue, and lets dive right in...
The photo below was taken on November 4th, only 4 days before we found out that my Dad had cancer. The baby was sick, the boys were naked, the lighting was all off (a photographers nightmare), but for some reason I had this weird feeling to snap a quick photo before he left our home that night. If you ever have that strange urge, just go with it! It's better safe then sorry. This will be the last photo that my kids have of just them with their grandpa.
This past summer we noticed that my Dad was starting to look a little thinner, we thought he was just aging, never in our wildest dreams would we think he was deathly ill. This guy was the healthiest man we knew -he exercised everyday, ate clean, and was still so youthful! He did have this lingering cough that started in June and we noticed it was getting worse -to the point he couldn't get a word out without having a coughing attack. Doctors had been running tests for months, and finally approved a CAT scan. On November 8th we received the news, he had cancer. We wouldn't know for certain what type or what stage until a Biopsy was taken the following week.
We were all in total SHOCK! Even so, we remained hopeful that the cancer would be in a early stage to fight. We know many survivors and we knew for sure he was going to be a survivor!
Those 2 weeks of waiting were the longest weeks of our lives! My Pops health took a quick turn for the worst. He was in excruciating pain, to the point he had to be bedridden. Things weren't looking good. He was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer (gastrointestinal), it had already spread to his lungs (causing his cough), and was quickly taking over his spine (leaving him unable to walk).
This was all happening too fast to process! How could it already be at stage 4? Since when is a cough a symptom of cancer!?!
But wait, there's more... the following week we received news that it was TERMINAL, and they predicted he'd only have months to weeks to live!
Within a period of 5 weeks my Dad found out that he didn't have much longer in this world!
Imagine being told you have less than two months to live. What would you do with the time you have left?
Now imagine you were in too much pain to get out of bed and can't do any of those things!
Pretty shitty, right!?!
The days were long and the weeks were short. My Dad was a warrior through it all. He was given medications to manage his pain so he could live the rest of his days in peace. Oh how I wish they had worked for him sooner than later! When the CBD didn't work, we turned to Morphine. After that kicked in, so did the insomnia and hallucinations! This was the scariest thing I've ever experienced and unbearable to witness. The Fentanyl Patch was our final option, it seemed to finally ease his pain for the last week of his life.
Yep! That’s really how fast it went! My Dad’s battle with cancer lasted a whopping 6.5 WEEKS! Exactly 46 DAYS!
He never got to "live like he was dying"! Check off anything from his bucket list!
This man worked his butt off his whole life and never got to retire and enjoy it!
He celebrated his last birthday in bed surrounded by his family.
And just like that he’s gone! Leaving behind his family who'll miss him more than he’ll ever know!
Somehow through all of this... I’m thankful.
Thankful I had the chance to grow closer to my Dad in the last 6 weeks of his life than we’d ever been.
Thankful I got to see a beautiful patient, loving, forgiving side of my Dad that I never knew.
Thankful that he held on just long enough for ALL of his children and grandchildren to be together for one last Christmas celebration together.
Thankful that I got to tell him how much I loved him, and appreciated the valuable lessons he taught us.
Thankful I got to kiss him goodbye and hold him for one last time!
So there it is... our story in a nutshell. It definitely doesn’t do justice to the nightmare we lived. There were so many things that happened in between. It was the shortest and yet the longest thing I've ever experienced. It sounds confusing because it was! Like slowly ripping off the most painful bandaid, but never wanting it to end because that just meant he'd be gone. Movies never prepared me for this side of cancer.
He never lost any of his hair. Never had a chance to get chemo. He never had a chance to fight.
This whole process has totally changed my perspective on cancer and how fast it can take away a life. It leaves everyone feeling so helpless as you sit there watching your loved one lose every ounce of strength till there's nothing left.
My Dad took his last breath on Christmas Eve morning. Even though we knew this day was coming, there was NOTHING we could've done to prepare us for the pain we were about to endure.
I completely checked out from the world, crawled into my little shell of a home, and grieved.
Oh boy did I grieve!
I felt ache in places I’ve never felt before! Physically, mentally, emotionally. I lost complete control over my feelings, my family, my home, my routines, my health, you name it! I felt lost, empty, and alone (even though I had everyone around me). I learned you can never really prepare to live without someone forever. To never hear their voice, feel their warm embrace, smell their scent. Breaks my heart over and over again. But I have faith that we’ll meet again!
Wow that was intense! My shirt is drenched in tears and snot! Yuck!
I'm not trying to get your sympathy, y'all have shown me more than enough love during this hard time! I'm just hoping that sharing my heart can allow us to connect on a deeper level than just the snippets you see on social media! If you've been feeling shitty lately, dealing with hard times, feeling like your life has fallen apart -this is for you! Please know you're not alone! It will get better. I felt like I was losing my mind, I'd be in mid conversation, then BOOM! I'd break down into tears out of nowhere! Thankfully these outbursts have reduced over time. The hurt may never completely go away, but eventually you'll be able to function again. I could sugar coat it, but grief is a B*tch! There's no way around it! The pain is so intense! It’s a process and I know I have a long road ahead.
Here are 5 ways I was able to grieve in peace...
If you made it to the end of this very long post, you're sooo AWESOME! Thank you so much for your love and support!
I'M JANELLE MARINA
Wife, Mama Shark, + Photographer.
Most days, you'll find me in mismatched socks and a top knot, working behind my computer with a smile on my face, listening to Zac Brown Band and R&B
--or, dancing in the kitchen with my 3 littles and hunka husband, seeing who could come up with the coolest dance moves. I'm a wedding photographer, West Elm lover, aspiring advocate for our buddies with special needs, and a Certified Dreamer since 1986. We live in a cozy city in Southern California and are always up for a good adventure. I enjoy telling stories with my camera, grubbing on spicy food, and solving the latest Dateline case.