My Two Favorite Dorks

My Two Favorite Dorks

Monday, September 17, 2012

Resting in peace

Roger Platt with his grandson Sawyer, here about a year old
Last weekend, Todd's father's fight with cancer ended. For those of you who know most of his story, for those who have heard bits and pieces throughout or if this is mostly new to you - here is his story.

Ten years ago, Todd's dad Roger was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His wife had died of ovarian cancer five years earlier and I remember Todd telling me early on in our relationship that watching his dad go through surgery and radiation made Todd realize that his dad really did want to live life for himself - to exist beyond the void that had been left after so many years with his wife. I think we saw this attitude in him for the rest of his life.

I was in Cleveland visiting my dad and step mother for Thanksgiving almost three years ago when I found out Roger's cancer had come back and metastasized to his bones: where there should have been bone marrow, there was only cancer. Roger had lapsed in his check-ups, became totally run down and was in really bad shape when the diagnosis was made. A few days later, Todd's brother Brad brought Roger down to Raleigh to begin cancer treatment at Rex Hospital, where Todd and Brad's cousin (Roger's nephew) is chief of staff and also is good friends with an excellent cancer doctor who would begin treating him. This would be the first of many trips Roger would make from Newland to Raleigh over the coming years. While unfortunate, that is time Roger otherwise would not have gotten to spend with us and his grandkits and grandpups.

Roger and Brad on the back porch during a rare time of all four golden retrievers at our house: Henry, Sam, Clyde and Doc (front to back) - April 2012
What followed was a period of relative good health for Roger once his cancer was under control. He was on a couple of hormone treatments, neither of which lasted as long as we hoped they would. They were not without side effects but nonetheless seemed to work pretty well.

Eventually, the hormone treatments became ineffective so Roger started on chemotherapy. He had relatively few side effects with it and again enjoyed a period of good health, including two trips out to Montana last summer. After several months of chemo, a brand new hormone therapy came on the market and Roger's doctor put him on it right away. He again enjoyed about six months of relatively good health before that stopped working.
Roger, Sawyer and Todd in Montana - June 2011
Sister Martha, Jaylynn, sister Susan and great-niece Stella help Roger blow out birthday candles - Holden Beach 2010
At that point, all that was left to try were two other chemos or cycling back through hormone treatments. He elected for chemo again but this time was hit hard by side effects. He discontinued after four treatments - it only worked to stabilize him for the first three treatments anyway. His numbers were starting to really climb.

Meanwhile, the family had been planning and Roger had been looking forward to a big trip out to Montana in August with Roger, his four sisters, me and Todd, and of course Brad and Brad's four-year old son Sawyer who are out there already. It would be everyone together under one roof for a last bit of fun while time for Roger seemed to be growing ever short.

Roger and sister Martha - Raleigh, July 2012
Unfortunately, about a week before we were scheduled to leave for Montana, Roger really started going down hill. His neck pain was so bad that he couldn't lift his head up. He was sleeping a lot. "Good days" became good "half days." He wasn't even talking about the trip which normally he would be talking continuously about. His COPD was also fairly bad by this point and had been causing congestive heart failure for several weeks. We were very worried and didn't know if going to Montana was even the best thing for him. What if they didn't let him on the plane? What if something happened so far away from his doctors? What if we got him out there but couldn't get him back? And on the other hand, what would it do to a terminally ill man's spirits to not be able to make a trip he'd been looking forward to so much?

We did all make it out to Montana. And we did get to spend 10 days together, three generations of Platts all under one roof. Roger got to see his grandson. Sadly, he was not able to do much of anything else besides sitting outside or watching TV for a little while. Fishing was out of the question. Hell, leaving the house was even out of the question except on one occasion. Some days he didn't talk much at all. And he was (understandably) disappointed at times that he didn't feel better.

Susan, Nancy, me, Todd, Roger, Jane, Martha, Brad and Sawyer (left to right) - Montana 2012

We all pitched in and took care of him. The sisters were always trying to get him to eat, to drink Ensure, milk, juice, milkshakes. We helped him to the restroom and fetched his pain and anti-nausea medicine. Tried to help him get comfortable. Moved his oxygen around from place to place.

It was tough. And yet, as Todd and I drove to the airport to fly home, I was overcome with a feeling that, instead of death being some big scary unknown as it had been, it was simply the next step for him. It didn't seem possible for someone that sick and uncomfortable to last much longer. And frankly, it was getting to the point that we didn't want him to - for his own sake. Something about all that was more okay for me than it had been before the trip.

And as all eyes had been on getting Roger out to Montana, after Todd and I left, all attention was then focused on getting him home. In a massive effort by his sisters, he did get home. And he died there almost exactly one week later.

That last week was hell: Roger required round-the-clock attention from Todd, his aunts, friends and others. Hospice was called in but probably too late to do much good. Multiple phone calls would occur throughout the day between the sisters, Brad and Todd and I.

The day before Roger died, Todd spent three hours stuck in traffic leaving Raleigh to drive up to the mountains for the weekend. I'm glad that he did. Todd was up with his dad throughout the night - it was a very bad night. Todd had tried to help him take some of his pills that morning but wasn't sure how successful he'd been. His dad was very quiet, withdrawn and too weak even to sit up. Early that afternoon, Roger took his last breaths surrounded by the love of his oldest son and three of his sisters.

Martha, Susan, me, Todd, Roger, Brad, Nancy and Jane - May 2009
Hundreds of people showed up to pay their respects at Roger's visitation last Wednesday in Newland. Having spent his entire life there, he had touched many lives. We stood in line receiving people while they shared their favorite tidbits of him. It's funny how one person can be so many different things to so many different people. To me he will always be the quiet man sitting off to the side; a man of few words yet smart as can be; the slowest story teller of all time; a man who loved dogs and kids and fishing as much as anything; a man who loved to smoke and drink; and a man who got to spend part of his last weeks in a place that he dearly loved with those who dearly loved him.


Here is a link to Roger's obituary; you can also see a slideshow of photos that we put together if you download the video player.

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