If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen a week ago that my dad had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his abdomen. This was his fourth abdominal surgery to remove tumors in that area since his cancer diagnosis in 2009. Mom and dad have a team of phenomenal doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and we knew that dad was in good hands.
The surgery was scheduled last minute, but I made the drive up to MN the night before... not because they really needed me, but because living seven hours away from my parents as they struggle through the valley of cancer has made my heart long to help in any way I can. Surgery days are long days... not just for doctors, but also for family who wait anxiously - slowly and repeatedly imagining every worst possibility. I knew mom would appreciate the familiar hand to hold. I'm so glad I was there.
Surgery days are pretty familiar to us, but each one is a little bit different. A different building, a different schedule, a different set of nurses, a different hallway, a different length of waiting.
I always bring my camera on these trips, and force myself to document the day. Not because it's exquisitely beautiful or photo-worthy, but because these photographs are snapshots of God's grace to us as a family. Celebrating life is not just about remembering the good times, but also the times of hardship and anxiety that we made it through. Those moments are worth holding on to.
Oftentimes raising my camera to my eye in the midst of a tender moment is awkward and uncomfortable, but other times they produce a humorous moment of sweet relief. A chance to be silly and acknowledge that this medical world they live in can seem quite odd to outside eyes. (Especially robes that puff up with air and make you look like Baymax!)
Other times my mom is NOT interested. :)
After hours of waiting, the moment comes to say goodbye and we linger in our embraces. This is the awkward moment when I wish I wasn't a photographer with a loud camera, but I push my shutter knowing that these images of my parents' tenderness will be cherished for many years.
And somehow stepping into my photographer box makes it easier to hold back the tears.
We wave goodbye with anxious hearts, but so thankful that the process has finally begun.
We take one last look at the empty chair that is still warm from the man in the silly Baymax suit and we head out to distract ourselves for as long as we can.
Distraction usually takes place in the form of walking for mom and I, and we set out to explore the beautiful campus.
Mom is so cute. :)
After what seems an eternity, we hear that surgery was successful and we can see dad.
He's alive and groggy, and after we enjoy a few moments of reunion, we settle into the familiar routine of fussing over dad.
Mom puts on the hat of the Head Nurse who make All The Rules and you do not mess with her or else you will feel the wrath of Mama Bear.
But don't be fooled. She's just so happy to see him. :)
The next day he's sitting up and walking down the hall and telling jokes to the nurses and I feel confident enough to head home... knowing that, once again, he's in good hands.
Thankful for the courage and hope of my parents. :)
PS - If you want to stay updated with dad's progress, you can check out his CaringBridge page here. His cancer journey isn't over, but we're thankful that he's still healthy and still with us.