Legal Property

* * * * * * * * * * * * * This blog is the intellectual property of Anne Baxter Campbell, and any quotation of part or all of it without her approval is illegal. * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This Is My Story - Sharon DeWire

My father turned ninety years old nearly one year ago. He also celebrated his sixty-fifth wedding anniversary with my mother a few weeks later. His ninety years comprised mostly of being a hard working dairy farmer and bus driver. The children and parents adored their bus driver, "Johnnie."

Our farm and homestead stood on a hill overlooking a creek, pasture, and mountainside where the men would go hunting and fishing on a yearly basis. It was within this context and setting I was abundantly blessed to be born and raised. I have so many memories of waking in the summer mornings, excited to find what my father would be doing that particular day in hopes to tag along.

My father spent the majority of sunny summer days driving back and forth from one field to another, loading and unloading wagons. He also had the job of raking the hay on hot days so that it would dry for baling in a few days. His tractors were always open to all the elements.

He wore a baseball cap and short sleeve cotton, button-down shirt of some sort and his long pants and work boots. His fair skin would gradually turn from white to almost black by the time summer was over.

I never thought much of his sun exposure until the early 80′s when there was growing concern about skin cancer. But as the years went on and the warnings became more prevalent, I rationalized he was fine because his arms were the only exposed area.

He began to see a dermatologist on a regular basis to have moles on his skin frozen and removed. It had become evident his time under the direct sun damaged his skin. One spot in particular required the doctor to surgically remove it in his office. It was cancerous, and there was discussion of possibly using chemo or radiation to prevent it from growing back again.

However, when the biopsy came back, we discovered it was squamous cell carcinoma, and that type of cancer doesn’t respond to radiation.

His doctors continued to watch for any regrowth each time he visited. Unfortunately, it did grow back two more times. Each time it returned, it grew deeper and required more invasive removal.

The last time it was removed in the doctor’s office, the staff became alarmed at how deep it had grown and the removal became a near emergency. My father was bleeding profusely and they nearly took him to the emergency room because the dermatologist didn’t realize how bad it was this time.

My father came home with several stitches in his head, and he was crying from the pain and recounting the terrible in-office procedure which the doctor attempted in an inadequate setting.

It had been nearly six months since the horrible experience when my mother and I noticed an area above his eyebrow was starting to protrude. We managed to get an appointment for three months later. By that time, my father’s eye was nearly shut and the growth from above his eyebrow had become large and had grown down into his eyelid.

Every time we looked at him we felt helpless and desperate. It was a train running full speed ahead and we couldn’t do anything to stop it. As it grew, my father got headaches and no over-the-counter medication would give him complete relief. The choice had become clear--my 81 year old father would need surgery to remove the cancer and lose an eye in the process.

The agony of waiting for the day of his surgery and hearing him cry from pain as the cancer spread into more of his orbital region was more than we could bear. We started crying out to God for relief from the pain, but it just continued. Word spread to our church, relatives and members of other congregations as well. By the time his surgery day arrived, we were covered in prayer all over the United States and even overseas! Such a tremendous buoy of strength came from the prayers on our behalf.

I still remember the day of surgery as they prepped him and each surgeon came in to discuss briefly what they’d be doing. We all knew he would come out looking entirely different than when he entered. He survived the six hour surgery. After briefly seeing him and letting him know we were there, we went to the hospitals’ hotel and continued with communication with everyone.

He learned to adapt slowly to the loss of an eye. His depth perception was affected. He was never able to accurately gauge the distance of a step without misjudging, and he had some mishaps and occasional falls. But through it all he survived.

We were told they wouldn’t be able to give him a fake eye because the area they removed was much too large. My mother ordered a new pair of glasses with one lens opaque so people couldn’t see the open socket area easily. Needless to say, to this day, he still gets many stares (especially from children) upon seeing the “man with one eye.” Children always ask what happened, and their parents usually blush and ask forgiveness for their child’s curiosity.

So let’s speed ahead to my father’s ninetieth year of living. As a result of my father suffering multiple mini-strokes, my parents now live in an assisted living facility close to me. We were slowly adapting to the new move and felt like my father was well enough to bring him over to our home for a Fourth of July picnic.

My mother requested that I examine his brow, because she thought cancer was returning in the exact place the other had appeared. As we were saying goodbye, I lifted my father’s baseball cap to take a close look. I just couldn’t believe what I saw. There was a large protrusion where the cancer had been removed. Instantly, I relived all we had gone through with the other cancer and felt my knees buckle beneath me.

I cried out to God to have mercy on him. After all he survived, did God find it necessary to end his life in such a painful, blinding, disfiguring way? I’m not afraid to admit I asked Him “Why?” Despondency quickly settled in.

I had such heaviness in my spirit and was expressing my dreadful fears to my seventeen-year-old daughter. She responded by challenging me to pray for a miracle. I told her, “Oh honey, I know this is just the way it’s going to be for Grandpa. But if you feel so strongly about this, go ahead and pray for him. I just do not believe it will happen. Sorry.”

I missed his next doctor’s appointment and was frustrated when I called my mother. I waited patiently to hear what he said about the large protruding areas. She didn’t mention it and I finally asked her. She said she didn’t know anything else and that they were on their way back home.

What?!!!! I asked her again about the spots and she said the doctor didn’t say anything about them!
When I drove to see my father, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The large spot above his eyebrow was GONE and the other spot inside his eye region was also gone! If one spot had disappeared, I would have questioned whether the cancer was real, but to have both areas gone as if they never existed, was an outright MIRACLE! It truly blew me away! The faith of my daughter and her wonderful prayers came to fruition!

I no longer need to fear the pain, suffering, and horrific disfigurement and witness the loss or blindness my father would endure. Praise God!

One evening I was tucking him in bed after a visit. When I leaned over to kiss him, his eyes welled with tears. I asked if something was wrong.

He said, “No, I just want you to know I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. You’re the best daughter I could ever ask for.” I told him how much I adore him and how precious he is to me. He continued fighting the tears. After a hug, he said, “Isn’t it good to know how much I love you--just in case I don’t wake up one morning? Then you’ll have the memory of me telling you this.”

Can miracles still happen to 90-year-olds? Yes, they can! I praise God for His miracles and the faith of my seventeen-year-old daughter! All glory to God!
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