Growing up I always viewed my Dad as the strongest man in the world. There was nothing he couldn’t fix and he was always there to protect me. He worked away from home during the week as a stone mason so Friday nights were always my favourite time seeing his van pull up outside knowing he would have presents for me, my brother Daniel and my sister Sarah. After dinner he would take me out for ice cream and being in the van up high allowed us to drive down the country roads outside of Newcastle and see all the animals in the fields. Being a young girl I couldn’t have thought of any other better ways to spend my Friday nights.
A few years ago in 2016 my Dad started to struggle with headaches. He was coming home from work and going straight to bed because of the pain. As time went on and the pain of his headaches started to deteriorate my Mum booked him in with his GP who informed them that the pain he was experiencing was “nothing more than the common headache.” Relieved by this news Mum and Dad came home with a new set of painkillers hoping they would clear the headaches.
The next time my Dad had a headache he took 2 of his painkillers and waited for them to do their job… to kill the pain. As a few hours passed Dad realised the pain hadn’t eased at all and not being one to complain it was my Mum who decided to take him to A&E to see if they could help in ways a swift visit to the GP couldn’t. After a few scans and tests they were told again that the pain he was experiencing was no more than a common headache. However unlike their first visit to the Doctors this one was different as before they arrived home one of the nurses phoned my Mum and asked if they would be able to make their way back to the hospital. Then they were informed that it wasn’t just a headache but after taking closer looks at my Dad’s scans that they were sorry to tell him that he had a tumour growing on his optic nerve and across his pituitary gland.
The next few months insisted of frequent visits to the hospital and lots of medicine. After plenty of tests and scans Dad’s Neurologist decided that it was time for him to have surgery as his tumour had doubled in size over a small amount of time. Still working up until a few days before his scheduled surgery it was easy to see that the man I viewed as the strongest man in the world was terrified, and this scared me more than anything.
I’m not sure how to describe the day of his surgery other than it was strange. No one knew how to act but pretending to be normal didn’t feel right. As my parents were panicking we set off to the hospital a few hours early which made me feel more nervous. Waiting around for something is bad but having to wait in a quiet room in a hospital is worse.
A lovely nurse came out to get Dad ready for his surgery and informed us that it’s better if we go home as after the surgery we wouldn’t be able to see Dad for a few hours and that she would phone us when we were allowed to visit. The surgery was scheduled to last 2 hours as they thought it would be a simple procedure but after a lot of complications and 8 hours in surgery the Neurologist realised he couldn’t remove all of the tumour and the risks of having my Dad in surgery for any longer were too high.
Driving to the hospital we didn’t know what to expect as the Doctors didn’t tell my mum much over the phone. I remember standing beside my Dad’s hospital bed crying and praying that he would be okay. You never expect things like this to happen to you or your family and even though we had known for months about his surgery nothing could take the fact away that it was actually my Dad lying in the hospital bed and not someone else’s.
After a week in hospital post surgery it was time Dad could home which was the best feeling EVER. It honestly took a good few months for my Dad to get back into a routine. With the strong side effects off all his medication to prevent the remainder of his tumour from growing it was decided that instead of going back to work it was better for his health if he remained at home. I thought the hard part would be over now but it was really difficult to watch my Dad struggle with staying at home. He had worked his whole life ever since he was a young boy and being at home and feeling too weak to leave the house for more than an hour or so was really difficult for him.
Like most stereotypical retired men Dad built a green house in the back garden which turned out to be a great distraction for my Dad and still is. It keeps him busy but in the comfort of our house so if he starts to feel unwell or needs to take a break he can easily do so.
Even though I’ve always been a ‘Daddy’s Girl’ one positive thing that has come out of these emotional and stressful few years is that it has allowed me to realise how much can change in a short period of time. Being a teenager when this all started to happen I as always directing my attention to trivial things like nights out and social media etc. I feel so blessed every day to still have my Mum and Dad spoiling me and this crazy experience has only made me want to appreciate everything they do for me and my siblings even more.
Anna Grant is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram – annagrantx