One Year Ago: Reliving Dad’s Cancer Journey

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.

One year ago on February 7th, I wrote this:

Today was a tough day.

Mom and Dad ventured through the ice storm to get to Lacrosse for an appointment with dad’s surgeon and for breathing tests to see how he would fair without a portion of his right lung.

The news wasn’t great. We originally thought he would get 2/3 of his right lung removed. Today the surgeon made it sound more like maybe they would take the entire right lung. It’s amazing the difference just one lobe would make. Things would be a lot harder without that one lobe. Dad would probably be on oxygen for a long time. He might need a pacemaker. It would have a significant impact on his life as we know it.

There were a lot of big scary statistics that the surgeon brought up. A lot of big scary “if this then that” was discussed. Mom and Dad left the appointment feeling very overwhelmed.

We also found out Dad will need more biopsies on lymph nodes next week and will be in Lacrosse again on Tuesday and Wednesday. IF these biopsies come back okay – the big surgery will be scheduled the next week. IF they come back cancerous – we will start chemo first and the surgery will be delayed.

We all thought we would get a solid treatment plan by today. That keeps getting put off. We are ALL a family of planners. We so desperately want a clear plan and path of how to navigate this ugly disease. No such luck.

So we will wait until next week. We’ve been waiting until “next week” since January 24th.

We are all feeling a little defeated. I say “we” because Dad’s fight is our fight. Dad got some really nice cards in the mail today and their neighbors shoveled their sidewalk for them for when they got home which was so sweet. Mom got an inspiring message from a blog reader about her husbands triumph over the same cancer dad has. You never know when your well wishes or small acts of kindness are needed. Today they were needed. Dad reads all the comments on mine and mom’s Facebook so feel free to drop him a note.

I completely forgot that it was ever a part of Dad’s plan to remove his lung. When he did go in for surgery on February 18th his tumor was to intertwined in his chest wall, pericardium, and lung. They tried and tried to get the tumor out and then get the lung out but they couldn’t. It was so hard to watch Dad recover from the “failed” surgery. They just sewed him back up and sent him on for chemo and radiation.

Mom and I talk a lot about Dad’s cancer journey. We contemplate if we would have done anything different if we had the information we do now, then.

When would we have found dad’s cancer? Would it have spread so quickly? Would we have had more time with him? Would we have had less time with him? What if they had removed the tumor? What if they could have removed the lung? Would he still be here? What would his quality of life look like?

It is SO HARD not to jump down the “what if” rabbit hole. I just remember when we got those biopsy results that were negative – the cancer didn’t spread to his lymph nodes. We had so much hope in this surgery. It hadn’t spread yet! We got it in time! It was curable! But it wasn’t. We didn’t talk about the possibility of Dad dying because as far as we knew, there wasn’t a possibility. We didn’t ask what the prognosis looked like because we didn’t need one.

I’ll be sharing more as the anniversary of dad’s cancer battle continues. Everything happened so fast we didn’t have time to process everything. I’m going through this all again now one year older and one year wiser.

For more posts on the loss of my father, see the “Fatherless Daughter” category or check out these blog posts:

My Dad’s caner was discovered through a routine CT scan. If you are 55 years or older and currently smoke or have quit smoking in the past 10 years, please ask your doctor if you qualify for an annual low dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer. The test takes less than 30 seconds and can save your life.



  1. Linda in NE
    February 12, 2020 / 6:38 pm

    The “what if” game never helps. Our son had a heart murmur when he was little. Later on we were assured he had outgrown it. Apparently not. Still he refused to see a cardiologist though his wife urged him to go. Little did we know that he had a Bicuspid Aortic Valve. One that was badly calcified. There had been some signs of something the past few months….more tiredness, getting easily winded. He brushed it off as a result of long hours, colds, stomach flu, sick kids keeping him up. He passed away very suddenly on Jan. 28 at age 43 leaving a loving wife, 6 yr old twins and the rest of us. Would getting to a cardiologist last Fall have made a difference? Who knows. Now we know it runs in my side of the family. A cousin died of the same thing. My dad and an uncle also died very suddenly though my dad had been diabetic for years and back in the 70s may it wouldn’t have been found anyway. The best I could do was to contact my sister-in-law to keep an eye on my brother and their kids, and my cousins to watch out for their sons & grandsons. You know better than me probably, but this seems to affect men more than women. I, at least, have not had a single female relative die suddenly or be diagnosed with this particular heart issue. So, what if he’d gone to a cardiologist, what if we had known about this valve issue sooner, what if he had had some sort of treatment. There’s just no sense torturing ourselves with the what ifs. Maybe God needed him worse than we did.

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