Thursday, July 8, 2010
The strongest woman I know
I've been on a bit of life tilt lately. I have a lot of shit happening that I'm still trying to process and it's been a bit of a bite in the ass. I really don't even know where to begin. Then I get this little nugget thrown on me tonight.
My aunt was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years back. First it was pancreatic, then lung, then brain. Then I think liver, but can't recall. The point is that she took the chemo, took some radiation, the stuff in the pancreas wasn't cancer, the lungs were but were healing, and the brain wasn't the "serious" kind.
In fact, she handled the whole situation pretty goddamn heroically. In fact the only noticeable part of her battle was the wig. And that wasn't noticeable if you didn't know she was wearing one. She was a trooper. Insisted on living alone, being self sufficient, and was always upbeat.
A few weeks ago she started getting a little iffy in the walking department and was staying tired a lot longer than normal. The Docs thought it was a good decision to stop chemo for a while and see how that went. It didn't go as expected as she only became more exhausted and weary.
My mother finally decided that enough was enough and she went up to see her sister against her wishes of being able to live on her own and found her in a pretty bad state.
She was slurring her words, not keeping her balance at all, and was a little delusional talking about things in the past that no longer were. My mother feared she had a stroke and tried to get her to agree to a visit to the hospital.
She got up from a chair and fell over into the wall beating up her face pretty good. Mom took her to the hospital and that's where she's been since last Thursday. She was dehydrated, but didn't have a stroke. They fixed her up and kept her through the weekend as it was a holiday and had to wait til monday for testing.
After some MRI's the doc's came back with news yesterday. The brain cancer has spread throughout her brain. Numerous tumors have spread around the brain and the prognosis is mortal. This is where the hard part comes.
The strongest woman I ever knew has decided that she has had enough. She doesn't want to fight anymore. She doesn't want to live a life where the only thing that will prove life is a beating heart and active brain function as indicating by a machine.
For that, I can't blame her. I can only admire her. She is coming home tomorrow. My parents are moving in with her until her time comes to an end. The best case scenario is 12 weeks. The worst case is 4. The doctors have prescribed medication to keep the swelling down in her brain so that she can retain her faculties. They also said that when she goes, it will probably be from heart failure because of the meds she will be taking.
Hospice care will be there once a day to help with pain management and to help my mother take care of her. I can't imagine what she must be thinking. I'm struggling thinking about what it would be like to know that your signing your own death sentence by opting out of treatment. I get it. I would do the same thing. But the realization, after you make your decision to not have treatment, that you are going to die real soon... at this point, I have no words.
I've seen death. I've experienced friends, family, and loved ones from all ages pass on. It's just hard to think about it and what she might need.
I love this woman. She has been a huge influence in my life. Now, I have to figure out a way to honor her after she's gone.