Fighting for a second chance. As Catherine (Debbie Allen) went under the knife for the surgery that could remove her cancer, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) was faced with saying goodbye to her father as he lost his battle with his own cancer on the Thursday, January 31, episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
Meredith wanted to be there for Richard (James Pickens Jr.) when the time came to remove Catherine’s tumor, but he told her he didn’t need her — instead, he wanted her to channel all of that supportive energy toward her father. Thatcher (Jeff Perry) was dying after he decided to stop receiving treatment for his terminal cancer. Even though they’d been estranged for years, Meredith got up the courage to go see him and was surprised by what she found: a frail, sick man who was a shell of the father she remembered.
At first, they sat in awkward silence and then Thatcher began filling her in on everything he’d been doing since the last time they’d seen each other. After Lexie’s death, he threw himself into building schools in Zimbabwe and stayed sober until he got sick, which didn’t sit well with Meredith.
“You went and got a whole new life, halfway across the world this time,” she said. “But you didn’t give a damn about the people you left behind.”
Meredith was angry that Thatcher was never there for her when she needed him, but then he shocked her: He actually did fly home for Derek’s funeral, but apparently, she was so lost in her grief that she hadn’t realized he was there.
At that point, he was almost too sick to continue talking, but he did manage to thank her for giving him a second chance at life when she donated part of her liver to him to save him years ago. They were able to spend time laughing, until Thatcher admitted that he wished he had the chance to know Meredith’s children. But just as she was telling him what she loved most about Zola, Bailey and Ellis, he was gone — but not before letting her know that he had a box full of gifts for his grandchildren in the closet.
After hiding her cancer from her family, Catherine finally decided to let Koracick (Greg Germann) and Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) take a stab at removing her tumor for once and for all. They were nervous, but they knew what they had to do — and Catherine was prepared for things not to go her way, handing Jackson (Jesse Williams) her will before going under the knife.
Before surgery began, though, Catherine took a minute privately with Richard, kissing him goodbye. “I will see you when I wake up,” she promised — just as Jackson started up some music so they could dance together one last time before surgery.
Then, the operation began, with Jackson, Richard and Maggie (Kelly McCreary) watching from the gallery. Everything was going smoothly until Amelia realized she wasn’t able to get the tumor to budge from the back, which meant they had to change their entire approach and risk paralyzing part of Catherine’s body to get it out.
Richard then got on the intercom and offered up a solution: Remove the tumor piece by piece, instead of all at once. Although this method hadn’t yet been approved, Amelia and Koracick decided to take a stab at it. Ultimately, Catherine survived the surgery — but they were only able to remove 95 percent of it, and further treatment wasn’t likely to cure her. However, as far as Catherine was concerned, it was a win.
“I’ll operate. I’ll hug my son. Make love to my husband. Chase my Harriett,” she said. “Make mistakes. Fight about who gets to pick the movie on date night. You two have given me my life back.”
Grey’s Anatomy airs on ABC Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET.