Help My Dad Rise Above Cancer
How do you feel about your dad? Is he a hero to you? Is he someone you’ve looked up to? Is he flawed, but you accept that, and him, because you love him so much? My dad is all of these things and he has been the sole provider for our family for many, many years. If you’ve met my dad, you know how hard working he is. You know he is the king of the dad jokes and one of the funniest dads you will ever meet. If you haven’t, god, you’re missing out.
I’m going to say this in a short way and a long way.
The short: my dad, Charles Phelps, has pancreatic cancer, one of the most painful cancers to have, and he is dying. He needs help.
I hate that I typed that out because that makes it so real. I will get into the long way, but before I do, I want you to consider helping. If you read nothing more, know that my dad begged me to do this in an effort to take some of the stress off of what is left of his life. I want nothing more than to make the time that he has left memorable, happy, and stress-free.
Here’s the long end of it: My dad has worked odd jobs most of his life. He recently got back into selling used cars, but that wasn’t making a ton of money. Nothing he has ever done has made much money. My parents have been living paycheck to paycheck as long as I can remember and when the recession hit back when I was in high school, it hit us hard.
Over time, my dad’s health and quality of life has been on the decline, but having not had health insurance in I can’t tell you how long, he never did anything about it. Looking back now, he realizes he really started to feel bad about a year ago, but he just assumed it was from getting old and fatigued from being overworked. My parents couldn’t even afford to eat some days. They’ve sacrificed a lot and here we are.
My dad is only 58 years old and he is currently jaundiced. His eyes are as yellow as can be and his skin is as well. He said he had a horrible stomachache and went to the hospital on Wednesday, April 6th. They did a cat scan and when the doctor walked in, my dad asked if it was bad news, the doctor said it was. They found spots on his pancreas, stomach, and liver. They had to move him to a different hospital because the facilities he was at couldn’t help him.
My family has also been struggling with a custody battle (some of you know this, and hopefully this will be resolved soon). My younger sister, Shelby, has a 3 ½ year old son named Dalton. Dalton is the light of my father’s life. You’d think he was a kid again when he sees him. We were fortunate enough that Dalton was brought up to the hospital while we were there on Thursday, April 7th. My dad started crying when he said he wanted to stay as long as he could to get as much time in with Dalton as possible. Dalton believes my dad has a stomachache and has said my dad is his best friend, his favorite person ever, and loves “pa” more than anything.
My dad wanted to go home. He was sick of the constant needles and blood taking. My dad is scared. He won’t say it, but I know he is. He asked to be discharged from the hospital and they let him go on Saturday, April 9th. I went with my friend, Matt, to pick him up. He was weak. He shouldn’t have left, but being home has been good because he has been sleeping better and his dog, Blue, missed him greatly.
On Thursday, April 14, 2016, my dad has to go in because they are sending a scope down his throat to get a final grasp on the situation. They are also going to put a stent in his pancreas because the bile duct is blocked by the masses growing. Once they put the stent in, he should stop being yellow, we hope. He just had a biopsy done on his liver. We haven’t heard what’s going on completely regarding time or treatment, but we do know he has malignant neoplasms in his body. His mother died from pancreatic cancer. Did you know it’s so rare that only 53,000 people in the US have had it this year? It seems like a big number, but when you think about the amount of people in this world, it doesn’t seem so big then.
Before we wheeled him out of the hospital, my dad sat looking outside for a while before he said that he has to find work when he gets out. Matt and I were aghast. I asked him how he could even think about work and he said that he was feeling such stress and guilt from being in the hospital and that the bills weren’t going to stop just because he had. It made me feel so hopeless and hurt.
I don’t know how long my dad has left on this planet, but I hope that if you’re fortunate enough to still have one or both of your parents, you see them, hug them, and tell them how much you love them. My dad’s time left is finite and I know everyone has a finite amount of time, but now that clock is really ticking and I have never felt such sadness in my entire life. My heart hurts; it actually hurts. To think that the strongest man I have ever known is slowly dying, is killing me. We all think the inevitable things in life won’t happen to us until they blindside us and make us realize that they can’t be stopped.
Money. Money is what is standing in the way of so much: bills (house payment, propane, water, electric), medicine, FOOD. I can’t believe something as simple as FOOD is something we are struggling to give him. I cannot even provide a decent meal for my dad because of money. He also wants to be cremated. My mom said that costs $800. My parents have nothing saved; not a single penny. I hate that they have spent so much of my life, and theirs, struggling to survive. You know, my dad owns next to nothing? He has two pairs of jeans, a bag of socks, and a few shirts with holes in them. These are the belongings my dad has to his name. He loves Detroit sports. He loves to laugh and lighten the mood. He cares. A lot. A lot more than he shows and he has a big heart.
I know people don’t care about other people the way you do when something is happening to you, but maybe you’ve been in this boat. Maybe you know me or someone in my family and you want to show some love and support. Maybe you know my dad and he has made you smile with a joke or made you one of his hamburgers or some chicken on the grill. Or maybe you’re a total stranger that can deeply empathize with what is happening to a family that is trying so hard to not fall apart.
For those of you that don’t know me, I am an artist. I’m offering those services if you want something out of this. I would be more than happy to make art, prints, or be commissioned to help make my dad’s life a little easier. Please, contact me through gofundme or view my blog: Chelsea Kirchoff Illustration .
We’re never ready for these moments. I know I’m not and I know my family isn’t either. I know that I can’t sleep and that I cry a lot, but I know that I can rest a little easier if I can rally enough people and funds together to help make these days the best days of his life.
The pancreatic cancer website’s motto is: You can hope or you can help. Will you please help us?
I hope so.
I’ll be posting updates as they happen. This money would be going to providing for Charles while he is going through this process so he doesn’t have to work while struggling to live with this cancer. To my friends and family, I know you will all be learning about this for the first time and I’m sorry we haven’t told anyone. We are trying to deal with this one day at a time and I am just trying to function on a day-to-day basis. I asked my dad what he wants to do with the time that he has left and he said he wants to just be with his family. I asked him if he would enjoy some quality cooking and a Tigers game as well. He smiled and said yes.
The Tri County crematorium is located in Ypsilanti off of Michigan Avenue along the business route. It's a blue building that you wouldn't even think to look twice at except for the smokestacks that protrude from it.
We walked in and a man asked us if we wanted to view him before we put him in. We did. His body was in a cardboard box to the right of us. Phelps, Charles. FAMILY TO WITNESS. He weighed 131 pounds. That's more than he weighed when he was alive for a long while. He asked us if we were ready, we said we were, and he took the top off. There he was. In the box with him were all of the things we wanted to send him off with including every single one of his birthday cards, some peanuts, a cigarette, some toys from Dalton, and a few other gifts from my family.
We stared at him for a few minutes. I stroked what was left of his eyebrows and Shelby kissed him goodbye. We opened the door and said we were ready.
The man asked us probably 5 times if we were going to be okay. He said he was going to get him ready to go into the crematory chamber and then bring us back. After a couple of minutes, he asked us to join him in what looked like a garage and in the side of the silver paneling was a door just big enough for this box to slide into. He took us to the side and explained that it was all computer controlled. On the monitor, it showed the compartment he was going to be slid into was working its way up to 800 degrees. Another chamber, beneath that one, was heating up to 1600 degrees.
He opened the door and it was a brick oven. The heat hit you right away. He slid Charles in and shut it. We went back around to the computer and once it reached the right temperature, he told us to start it. We put our fingers on the green "ignite/cremate" button, counted to three, and pressed it.
He asked us again if we were okay, we said yes, and then asked if it was our dad. We said it was and he said he would've proud of us.
We booked it out of there because I didn't want to smell my dad's flesh burning, but that's it. This is done. This is actually the end of this man's journey on this earth. We plan on getting glass necklaces once we get the remains back because they infuse the ashes in with the glass design and it's beautiful. In this way, we will always have Charles in our hearts, as well as, close to our hearts.
As we stood there staring at my dad's body for the last time, I thought about how he wouldn't be where he is if it wasn't for each of you. Because of your love, care, and support, Charles was able to have a proper funeral and cremation. He will be placed in an urn. Matt and I have to go and pay for the funeral this week, but we are so fortunate to have so many incredible people that helped make this possible.
My family is fortunate and we are also lucky. I am legitimately going to get started on the thank you's that are owed in full to all of you.
I am missing this man more than I can express; we all are. Our hearts are no longer whole, but we carry Charles with us forever. His humor, his spirit, his soul. His blood runs through us and because we are here, we carry the fire. His legacy lives on.
Rest in peace, Charles David Phelps.
We love you always and forever.
At least 60 people showed up! Some people I expected and a lot of people I didn't and it made it even better. There were some real, genuine, heartfelt conversations with people that elicited tears and it was lovely.
The music was a blend of happy and sad, the video I took while at Chemo with him and Matt played on Matt's computer of Charles telling stories from his youth about him getting candy and winning scavenger hunts that people smiled at, the picture boards were a smash hit, and you know what? He was smiling in at least 95% of those photos and it was beautiful to see.
When 4:00 hit and the service was about to start, I didn't think there would be a lot of people, but surprisingly, there was. Geoff, the spiritual leader from Hospice, officiated the service for us and he did an amazing job. He made us smile and laugh. Then, our cousin, Cody, kicked off each of us speaking. Shelby then went next with Alison following after. Our brother, Chandler, didn't speak, but Alison, Shelby, and Cody all spoke from the heart and even started crying. It was touching and it was great. Next up was me.
Since Halloween, I have felt moments of sadness and would cry for a few minutes, but overall, I have felt nothing. I am still this way. I feel removed or maybe just overwhelmed to the point that I am not emoting. I headed up to speak my eulogy that I put several hours into and I told everyone to stand up and take a stretch because it was going to be a long one.
It took me 15 minutes to say it, but it was GREAT. It was MY DAD! I told a lot of little stories about him and people were laughing left and right; it made me feel good that we could remember this man that gave us so many laughs and dish them right back. If Charles was there, sitting in the front row, he would've been laughing right along with us. I know he was there in spirit and I think I did him proud. I did not cry, but I smiled.
The best part of what I said was that I thought Halloween would be ruined for me forever. It's one of my favorite times of year, but it's said that the souls of the dead return back to this earth. Maybe that's why he left us on Halloween so that each year, he can come back to us in some way, shape, or form. In this way, I can find comfort when it comes and remember to not mourn him leaving, but celebrate his return each and every year.
Geoff finished up the service by saying it was one of the most unusual services he had ever been to, but in a good way and when we told him to dress casually, he didn't fight us on it, but thanked us. It put people at ease and made them more comfortable. There was a lot of talking and smiling and it wasn't your typical funeral despite the fact that there were also some tears. We kept it fun and lively because this was a celebration of the life of Charles and it's how he would've wanted it; a true FUNeral.
After the service, we headed outside with all 59 balloons in hand. Everyone gathered around me in a circle in the parking lot. Matt suggested the family all hold the balloons and I said Janine should cut them. She cut them, and they all flew away together... except one. There was one green balloon that floated a little lower than the rest of them, but kept on flying. That balloon was my dad.
I could not have been happier with how yesterday went and we are so grateful for each of you that took the time to drive out and be with us. Some of you didn't actually know Charles in real life, but he would've hugged you and treated you just the same. He didn't have to know you to know that you helped him on his journey some way, some how. The immense amount of love we have been feeling during this incredibly difficult time is unexplainable and has done more for us and our spirits than you will ever know.
There will be one more update when I go to the crematorium and then we close the book. I have a lot of thank yous to send, but because of each of you, Charles was able to hold on a little longer and if that isn't completely priceless, I don't know what is. This changed our lives in the greatest way possible and even though I didn't think this was a good idea or that it would ever work, I am beyond grateful that I did it and that it did.
Rest in peace, Charles Phelps, you amazing man, you. We will miss and continue to love you every single day. Enjoy your big sleep, dad. We'll see you on the other side.
After a lot of thought, we decided we wanted to lighten this thing up. We're putting the FUN in funeral; it's what Charles would've wanted. He was always making jokes and never taking things too seriously, so, it's going to be a good time. After all, this is a celebration of HIS LIFE.
PLEASE, if you plan on attending, come casually! Janine wanted to put him in a suit. Shelby and I said, "No way. Dad hated dressing up." So, he will be in his finest Tigers shirt, jeans, and hat. We encourage you to wear what you will be most comfortable in!
Again, the address is: 2959 N. Adrian Hwy, Adrian MI 49221 and, feel free to light a candle or view the obituary on the funeral home's website:
Thank you all!
The link for my dad's obituary on the funeral home's website is up, as well as, the obituary that will appear in the Detroit Free Press tomorrow. I wrote and chose photos for both (but did not provide the terrible jpeg graphic for the one on the funeral website).
That sounds like a very nice ceremony. I am glad that it was a mostly positive experience for you and your family.
The suffering is over for Charlie, I pray for his family and friends. Rest In Peace cousin Charlie.
My thoughts and prayers are with your entire family at this time. He is no longer in pain, though it lingers in all of you with the loss of your dear father. Take care to all of you. Deb Short
Prayers are with you all today. Charlie...Rest in Peace. I hope you meet up with my brother and daddy! 3 hard working men that battled cancer and can now rest!
You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers
Dear God, thank you for all the glorious blessings. Please bring my cousin Charlie Phelps back to health. I ask this in Jesus name. Amen
positive thoughts, vibes, and love to you and yours.