My father, Roger Kramer passed away from lung cancer on June 2nd, 2019 after his 129 day battle. His cancer progressed quickly after his diagnosis on January 24th 2019. The cancer spread to his C2, eating away at the bone and fracturing his neck. After finishing chemotherapy and radiation, a PET scan t revealed the cancer had spread throughout his body. I was honored to care for him in his final days and he passed away 4 days later. We not only lost a father but Craig and I lost a dear friend and community member. A Fatherless Daughter is a blog series that highlights his last few weeks and the struggles we have had to overcome as a family as my dad’s cancer battle came to an end.
April 28th, 2019 – 17:29
Well guys, there is no sugar coating this post so I’ll jump right in. Dad’s cancer has spread.
Dad had a PET scan back in February. It showed the cancer was ONLY in the right lung and the lymph node in his chest closest to the tumor. PET scans are not good at detecting brain cancer or metastasis to the brain because the brain is always active or lit up on a PET scan. So when dad was diagnosed in February he had an MRI of his brain as well to confirm the cancer was not in his brain. It was not in his brain.
Dad has been having really bad headaches lately. They seem to be progressing. Dad’s headaches got significantly better on Tuesdays and Wednesday’s when he was on big doses of steroids after his Monday dose of chemo. This concerned his doctors because brain tumors are typically responsive to steroids. Therefore they ordered the MRI of his brain which confirmed, again, that there was no cancer in his brain which was a relief.
When I took him garage sale-ing on Thursday he was in a lot of pain by the end of the day and could hardly move his neck. Friday was even worse.
Yesterday I got a call from my mom. She said dad was in the shower and really screwed up his neck. Dad explained that it felt like his head was going to fall off. I had never heard anyone describe a headache like that.
About 2 hours later I got another call from mom. Dad needed to go to the ER. His pain was too much.
My amazing co-workers in the ER at WMC took amazing care of him, got his pain under control for the most part and Dad was ordered a CT of the neck.
Dad’s cancer has spread to C2. This is the second vertebrae of his neck. The cancer is destroying this bone causing all of this pain and headaches. The PET scan didn’t pick it up because it was too close to the brain, the brain MRI didn’t pick it up because it was too far from the brain. The C2 allows dad’s head to turn side to side or pivot. No wonder he said he felt like his head was going to fall off.
Dad’s current chemo and radiation treatment does not treat this cancer. We *think* we have been told that he will go through radiation again to treat this but we aren’t sure.
Dad was in enough pain again today mom took him back to Lacrosse this morning. They put dad in a new neck collar to help with stability and pain relief which dad says he thinks is helping. They will need to do an MRI of the neck this week. That’s all we really know right now. We don’t have a plan or even really an official diagnosis but they were so happy with their ER visit today – they said everyone took such awesome care of them!
We do know that any time cancer spreads it isn’t good. We do know that the chemo and radiation he is on won’t treat this.
Dad is in a lot of pain. Dad still can’t eat or drink anything without first numbing his esophagus and then he can only drink milk shakes. Dad lost 7 lbs between Monday and Friday last week. There has been talk about placing a feeding tube but we don’t know that for sure either. He probably won’t be able to eat regularly again until June at the earliest even though his last radiation treatment is May 8th.
That’s about all we know. If we know more I’ll post again.
I absolutely love this photo of my dad from my wedding. He was halfway through his speech when it was taken. I am literally sick to my stomach when I remember that we never got a recording of his speech. It makes me physically ill to think about. We had a friend with a video camera that night who was supposed to be taping. The camera had died over the supper hour and he was charging it and missed his speech.
This post is hard to read. I wrote it while sitting on my parents couch across from my Dad who was minutes away from breaking his neck.
My mom called me from the ER to tell me so I could call the other kids. I could tell she was trying not to cry. It was a short and sweet phone conversation. I was totally shocked.
I hung up with my mom and burst into tears. I can still remember every bit of that moment. I looked at Craig and said “My Dad is going to die.” I can remember what I was wearing, I can remember pulling myself together, I can remember each conversation with my siblings telling them that the cancer had spread. It was late, we were all already in bed. It was a hard conversation. We all cried together.
Tune in tomorrow for another post from A Fatherless Daughter.