Life as a Daughter of Agent Orange, Part 8

A Chemically-Forced Submission in a Self-Absorbed World

Life as a Daughter of Agent Orange, Part 8
Photo Taken by Author

Wow. That is about all I can say when I looked and saw how long it has been since I last shared Part 7. I will eventually get to why it took so long, but suffice enough to say it had to do with my dad's health problems as well as a surgery my mom underwent (both are fine right now, though!). The first order of business I wish to tackle is to explain my subtitle: "A Chemically-Forced Submission in a Self-Absorbed World." I believe in the commandment to honor one's father and mother; to me, that is to be respectful, serve them with love, and submit to them regardless of one's age. By "submit," I mean there are times when their needs are greater than my own and, out of love, I put my needs in a "later" box. Note how I say the word "love" and not include "respect." There are not a lot of moments where I respect my dad after all that has happened, but I do respect him as a fellow human being as as the person who sired me. Agent Orange required me to put my needs on "pause" so early in life, long before I had the maturity to understand, that it felt like a forced submission. Only in recent years have I learned how to not have it be forced, but done in kindness and love.

The world we all live in today has become more and more self-absorbed; meaning, nobody (vast majority since there are those who do care) really cares what I am going through in my life and do not want to hear how I need help or encouragement in this life-long battle. On top of the world being self-absorbed, my dad has that quality as well since he would be content to manipulate a way to keep my mom, younger sister, and I within his narcissistic reach to control in whichever way he has planned. Hopefully by now, you have read my previous parts and know that when I speak like I do, it is based off of years of experience and data. So, now that I am happy with that being cleared up, on to the main story!

After returning home from Texas, I spent a couple of months sorting out what I had learned about myself and how to be aware of it before someone is hurt. I wish I could say life was much easier at that point since I had spent months at a Bible institute, but that is the funny thing about God and faith. The curve balls keep coming in order to have a more solid faith. I was back to work at the grocery store I had been hired on with in 2014, but I had a hard time transitioning back. I was still trying to piece together what I wanted out of life and out of my relationship with my dad and frankly, I missed the freedom and responsibility I had had at my job in Texas. On top of that, attempting to have dad treat me like an adult was as difficult as ever. His moods were increasingly cantankerous no matter what anyone did to appease them.

I honestly do not remember as much as I thought I did, even though the years I'm writing about now are within the last three. I know I went through a few changes (career-wise, health-wise, etc.) and that is what sticks out the most for me until January of 2017. A couple of months leading up to that point were interesting, to say the least. I have always had a sensitive sense of smell and around November of 2016, there was a scent that followed Dad wherever he walked and it would linger for a few minutes afterwards. It was a sickly-sweet smell, not body odor, but sickness. It made me nauseous whenever Dad walked past me or I entered a room he was in. What made it worse was it was all over his clothes and the chair he sat in. It was so bad, at one point I advised my mom to not wash her clothes with his because even our water purifier could not get the scent out and her clothes were beginning to carry the scent.

Nobody else could smell it and I felt like I was going crazy. Mom would share my concerns with Dad's doctors at the VA hospital, but they could not smell it and chalked it up to body odor. There was one time I was able to go along on a day off and I came prepared! I brought a piece of cloth that carried the sickly-sweet smell and when the doctor came in, I explained what I had been smelling and even gave him my sample (which, after two hours, had lost the strength of the stench). The doctor treated me like I was crazy and did not know what I was talking about. He pushed that it was probably body odor, even though I said that I knew what Dad's odor was and this was not it, and prescribed medicated body wash. Unfortunately, me feeling like I was being scoffed at was the least of my problems and worries.

Come early December, Dad was not doing well at all. He had little to no strength and was pasty-pale. We tried to check his blood sugar levels, but of all the supplies he had, NOTHING matched! There were six different machines, but none had the right strips or lancets. I tried to give him cheese, juice, anything to help raise his blood sugar, but nothing was working. It got to the point where we took him to the ER and received a lecture like none other from the attending physician about how to manage diabetes (as if we did not know). Mom flat out told the doctor that Dad is a grown man and she refuses to fight over how he takes care of himself. While waiting for tests to come back, we were given information on diabetes that we had never been given before (just another way to make Mom and I look bad since Dad was the one in charge of his own health). The results came back and we were all shocked; Dad was overdosing on insulin! He was not keeping track of how many units to give himself (based on a sliding scale) and was simply taking a fixed amount. He was taking 1,000 units more than he should have been! The doctor told us if we had waited a few more days, Fad would have died from that overdose. So, whilst Mom and I were lectured about how we were not doing our "jobs," we actually saved his life (again) from his own stupidity (he himself is not stupid, his lack of self-care is).

So, after that lovely visit, we started up on the sliding scale routine. It worked pretty well; Mom and I both kept on him about it (which he hated and would yell at us to stop treating him like a child). After about a week, the smell went away. And then it came back in early January. Dad was going to a regular checkup at the VA and was going to mention the issue of the insulin overdose. I cannot recall how many days after that appointment Mom told me the news, but I remember how I felt upon hearing it: Dad was diagnosed with cancer in his esophagus. It felt like a sick joke because of all the cancers he should have received (from the Agent Orange), this was not the one on the top of the list at all. Actually, it is more than likely caused by Dad's acid reflux problems that he did not take care of the best.

To say I was in a state of shock is an understatement. For the first time, Dad's death was a reality and I did not know how to feel. My emotions raged between the possibility of being set free to the guilt of even thinking that. Then I was angry because how could I be free to hate a dying man? I cried in the shower for what seemed like an eternity and I prayed for guidance; the answer was to serve my parents for a year to get through the worst of this trial. I had no idea what God was to bring our way and I never could have imagined the growth I have gone through in just a single year. These 365 days feel thrice that and my own body feels much older than it is. But, that was the easiest part of the year-long trial.

Soon after the diagnosis, Dad was told he had a couple of choices to make. He could go on chemotherapy, have surgery to remove the affected tissue (most of his esophagus), or do nothing and die. If you ask Dad now, a year later, what he would have chosen if he had known what things were going to be like, he would have chosen to chance it and do nothing. As it happened, he opted for the surgery. This surgery is not to be taken lightly; it will completely alter one's life and it will take a lifetime to get used to all of the changes. After he made his decision to have the operation, he then chose a date in mid-February. One of the hardest things to watch was Mom trying to find out where to stay while he recovered in the hospital; we could not afford a hotel nor the gas money to have her drive there everyday (it is an hour drive from our house to the VA hospital).

Thankfully, the House of Hope came to the rescue. I forget where Mom heard of it, but it saved us in so many ways; it truly was a house of hope for my family. Once all of the logistics were sorted, all we had left to do was wait for the day to arrive. I wrestled with my emotions, trying not to be angry or bitter and there were times when I was not; but, as he went on as if nothing serious was going to happen, I was furious. Our lives were about to change drastically and what were we doing? Oh, celebrating his birthday a month and a half early so he could eat some stupid cake. While I'm sure he was scared, he sucked up the attention for all it was worth since, as a manipulative-narcissist, he loves it when he's the center of attention.

I am going to have to end this part here; unfortunately, this is bringing up a lot of negative emotions and memories that I do not want clouding my writing. I already allowed bitterness to write a couple of sentences and that is all I wish it to have power over. Hopefully, it will not be nearly as long for part 9! Which means, no more medical emergencies are allowed hereafter.

Thank you and stay tuned!

Elizabeth Adolphi
Elizabeth Adolphi
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Elizabeth Adolphi

As a child I had a flair for the dramatic; as an adult, the flair has turned into a subtle, yet continuous hum. I love to see the world through different scopes and to tell stories based on the takeaway. Cheers!

See all posts by Elizabeth Adolphi