As I'm sure some of you remember, back in July, I went to New Zealand to visit my Grandpa as he has been diagnosed with cancer, specifically lymphoma. He was on chemotherapy at the time, and seemed to be doing well. This pattern of apparently positive progress continued over subsequent months. But that all changed. My father told me today the outcome of a recent meeting Grandpa had with a specialist. The chemotherapy had seemed to be putting the cancer into remission, but ever since the chemo cycle ended ... it's come straight back. The chemo, in other words, has failed. He is straight back where he was earlier this year, when he was diagnosed, with about 6 weeks to 2 months to live if there is no treatment. I understand there is still radiation treatment that they can do. I ... don't know how successful it's going to be. I was already going to New Zealand in January just after my birthday; we were planning that he would come up to Wellington, as we thought he would be well enough, but now we're heading down to Nelson and my trip may be extended.
I've felt in somewhat of a daze all evening. I have tried to do other things. Tried to keep myself occupied. Everything seemed to be going well with his treatment, and then this. I don't know how long this radiation treatment will keep him going. I can't believe that he might soon be gone. It ... doesn't register, it really doesn't. He's always been a constant in my life. I'm scared of how Grandma will cope once he goes. They'll have been married 53 years this April, if he gets that far.
I've been very lucky. I'm a month off turning 21 and all four of my grandparents are still alive. Nobody close to me has died. Everyone else I know is lucky to have half their grandparents still alive even at the start of the teenage years. But I'm scared of how I will respond when the inevitable happens, and I get the impression the inevitable is coming sooner rather than later. It seems most people learn to cope with death as children, and children are resilient. I never learnt that. It looms over me horribly. I'm just slightly paranoid about it; my closest friends and family can attest that I get a little nervous when they fly or I don't hear from them for an unexpectedly long period of time. What will happen? Death's so fucking permanent; I'll be a wreck. I can't imagine life without Grandpa. He's such a character, his personality is really warm and he tells such great stories and jokes that are so overwhelmingly lame that they become funny.
Well, he survived the Tangiwai railway disaster. The only survivor in his carriage (a fact I did not know when I wrote the 2004 entry I just linked to). One of only 28 of the 176 second class passengers to survive. I'm sure he believes he can beat anything. I hope that attitude doesn't wane, because as long as he's got that and his sense of humour, he'll cling in there and fight all the bloody way. 24 December will be especially poignant this year, 54 years after Tangiwai and likely the last with Grandpa here. Perhaps I will go to Tangiwai next year to pay my respects.
It's almost too hard to believe, but that mangled lump of wreckage in the foreground is the second carriage of the overnight express from Wellington to Auckland on 24 December 1953. The much more intact carriage on the left is the train's first carriage. My Grandpa was the only survivor from the second carriage. I believe he was sitting by a window and was hurled through it into the torrent.
Come on, Grandpa. You survived that. Survive this too.
I can't believe how long it took me to write this entry. I feel ... a strange empty, queasy, sick, sorrowful feeling I've never quite felt and don't know how to describe.