Dying

By Judith

When they sent her home to die, she was in apparent renal failure and we were told, “Hours or days.”

Then her kidneys came back, she stopped vomiting, her lips got some color. She seemed comfortable.

That was two weeks ago. The Hospice doc came by on Thursday and we asked her if maybe Kirby’s young bone marrow might be returning? She said that takes 30 to 60 days. Can’t not think about the !@#$%^&* cancer that grows so fast.

The Hospice doc said days or weeks.

She is pretty much asleep all the time, with rousings. The base level of pain IV pain med is now 10 times what it was in the hospital. She is vomiting again after a ten day break…

Our days (and nights) follow the medication schedule: 6 am, 9 am, 12 noon, 3 pm, 6 pm, 9 pm, and 12 midnight. The Hospice people keep adding meds but administering them is increasingly sporadic with the renewed vomiting…K continues to be a trouper: opening her mouth to receive liquid med.

R is a genius at getting her to eat a little. A slice of cucumber and a potato chip (!) yesterday. A couple of bites of Pomegranate Blueberry sherbet. A spoonful of five peas. But mostly her intake is liquid: juices and water.

We continue to hold her hand. Sit by her and stare at her and weep. Robert continues to clear and clean the kitchen counters. Judith continues to string cranes. Jean makes coffee and adheres to the many house rules (recycle early and often, keep the kitchen sink clear…)

And things change. Here’s what I wrote just six days ago:

  • Dying was the 800 gorilla in the room for the last four months. Now it is out   in the open and there is much weeping…
  • But I, who wept for four months in terror of that monkey, now look at her and think about the resurgence of her kidneys and her young bone marrow and her heart rate reduced to a normal speed and her excellent blood pressure and I can’t help but wonder. Maybe she needed a break from vomiting.
  • Maybe the last two chemo cycles with their four agents (irenotecan, taxol, carboplatin, and avastin actually delivered a punch to those !@#$%^&* tumors. Maybe she drowses 23 hours a day because she’s doped to the eyebrows…
  • But the docs, the nurses, and now the hospice people tell us (over and over) it’s different for everyone. Maybe. Don’t know.
  • So I must rely on my feelings (she’s just doesn’t SEEM like she’s dying, except for the fact of course she sleeps a lot. But maybe that’s the drugs…) and delusional thinking, which is much nicer than embracing death.

But now: the vomiting returned, to be whack-a-moled back down with increased drug doses. Hospice added another three drugs. She seems to be wandering in space and time, the occasional space-y comment her contribution to conversation.

The journey continues but we are all tiring.

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. stephaniecavanaugh
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 15:17:57

    A delusion we embrace. Love to all.

    Reply

  2. Olya
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 15:20:39

    I’m crying and my heart is breaking for you all..I feel so lucky that I got to experience a few moments of serious Kirby-ness when I visited: Kirbs on our terrible singing, “I think you all need to practice some more.” 🙂 Gracious and funny in the midst of it all. I am humbled by her kindness and humanity and strength. And by yours.

    All my love and prayers….

    Reply

  3. Shelley Temchin
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 15:31:21

    What a beautiful family, sad and funny and kind through tears. Kirby thanked me for coming the other night when Tom and I dropped by, politely asked me for some water, and seemed to smile weakly at some inane comment I made about Ginger the cat looking comfortable. What a woman, what a family, what a tragedy.
    Love and prayers to all.
    Shelley and Tom

    Reply

  4. Becca
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 15:37:08

    Sending lots of love your way.

    Reply

  5. Peggy Banks
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 15:53:58

    My heart aches. Know that we love you all.

    Reply

  6. Ellen Passel
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 16:02:28

    It’s not delusion, it’s love. She really seemed much stronger than she did last fall. Thank you so much for allowing visits. We were grateful to come on Saturday and to get to spend some time with her and you. That Havdalah, with Kirby opening up her eyes and grinning, was amazing. The love in the room for her, for all of you was palpable.

    If love could cure, Kirby would be dancing.

    Sending love to you all
    Ellen and Jeff

    Reply

  7. Ann
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 16:03:08

    You guys are amazing, and Kirby is so fortunate to have you! Our love and prayers are with you.

    Ann and Steve

    Reply

  8. Linda Berman
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 16:20:40

    I am crying with you…. Linda Berman

    Reply

  9. deborah dorazi
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 16:37:20

    I send loads of love and hope to you all.

    Reply

  10. Susie blumenthal
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 17:20:48

    My thoughts and prayers are with Kirby and you.

    Reply

  11. Ruth Capen Batten
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 18:27:43

    Judith, it is so difficult to read or type through tears, and they are for all of you. Continue relying on your feelings and love for Kirby and each other and family and friends. You all amaze me with your strength and continue to have a sense of humor that never ends. Be it love or delusion or both, I’m with you all the way. I still believe in miracles and I love you all.

    Reply

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