Jan 26, 2020
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future
To a known God”
Corrie ten Bloom
My wife of 58 years (June 10) and best friend Eileen had been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the esophagus, in February 2019. This blog gives my thoughts, fears, prayers, and hopes during this challenging and difficult time.
God seems to be calling Eileen home more quickly. We went to see the oncologist on Monday, and Eileen was able to walk across the garage and get in the seat. There we discovered she was very dehydrated, as she had not eaten or drunk almost anything over the weekend. Her kidneys showed a kidney failure, registering only 16, where it was 80 just three weeks earlier. The oncologist believed the hydration would kick the kidneys on, and it seemed to be true, as she went to the bathroom for the first time in several days later that day. He said he was placing her in Home Hospice, as things were moving very fast. He promised they would see us in a few days.
On Tuesday we went into the radiologist for the fourth of five radiation treatments to reduce the arm pain, and talked with him. He looked at what was happening, as she was now in a wheelchair and found walking very difficult, and cancelled the remaining radiation treatment, as it would not be effective in time to do any good. Eileen could not walk well that day, and I had to pull the car very close to the house to reduce distance.
On Wednesday Eileen wanted to walk with the walker into the bathroom, but fell by the tub. “Fell” is the wrong word, as her legs just gave out and she folded up downward. We (Barb and I) had to call 911, and the first responders were there within 10 minutes! I was astounded and pleased, considering where we live out in the country. They gently got her up into the wheelchair we had waiting, and that was the last time she tried walking.
Hospice came that day, and taught us many things about moving her and how to keep her comfortable. They were there with us twice that day and twice the next day, as things are moving very rapidly.
On Friday the social worker came, the long-term caseworker came, and the home-health worker came to bathe her and keep her comfortable.
The nurse will come Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the home-health worker will come Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Barbara is now staying full time. Janet came for the duration on Thursday, and Karen and Maureen flew in on Friday, or I should say early (2 am) Saturday. Dan and 37-week pregnant Alisandra came Thursday also, but they can only stay a short time. Yes, her doctor said she is doing great, and can travel. And yes, they have new-born clothes with them, just in case.
We are using liquid morphine to stop the pain, which has been increasing. As reported last time, one week ago we were giving 0.25 ml every four hours. Now we have moved up to 0.5 ml every 2-3 hours. It can rise to 1 ml every two hours before they will start using other ‘cocktails’ to prevent pain. Eileen has been able to drink more, but all intake is up to her. If she is thirsty or hungry, she will ask and we will respond. The only food has been a few spoonful’s of apple sauce, even though she had a few bites of tuna-noodle casserole which was our supper and she loves it. It stayed down too!
Eileen sleeps much, but she is awake and responds when someone is here. Time remaining? Just a guess, but a few weeks at best, like two or three. It will be when it will be, but she is in minimal pain, as she asked God. She cannot stand on her own, and it is a two-person job to move her from bed to wheelchair or commode or chair in living room. One to hold her and shift her to new position, one to move chair or whatever she needs for desired place, and to help to ease her up or down as the case may be. She is still fighting having a hospital bed, as that will spoil the orderliness of the house. (How she loves our house and the order she has built with the arrangements!) We have arranged our king bed to be able to sit her up, and she is satisfied with all. Luckily, our children are strong, especially our daughter Janet who has taken up circus aerial performance as a hobby, and has a VERY strong core.
Eileen certainly knows what is going on, and questioned the social worker closely about what to expect. She is happy with that, and understands that this is part of life. She is to expect a slow slide towards constant sleeping or dozing, still able to respond by touch or squeeze, eye contact, or other means, then a slide onto a coma or semi-coma just before the end.
I am in tears with gratitude with all we have encountered in all phases over the past year of this journey. Gentleness and warmth and patience have marked every step. Only love and care marked all participants, from the very first diagnosis, when the doctor, with tears in eyes and voice, told us what he had found. And the love we have received from friends can not be overstated. Tears are common now, but many are tears of gratitude for all that has been given us. The smiles that greet us in all places is a wonder, and a sign, to us, of the love of God shining forth.
Oh Gentle Lover, how I am leaning on you at this time. Your Love has filled every moment of this journey, even giving Eileen the time for a wonderful holiday time. We bow before You, and accept this part of life aspart of life. Each day is a blessing, and each day gives me one more day love all my family. The wonder of family love and care, yes, laughter and joy amid the sorrow of the journey, is truly a wonder to behold. Just to have the time to sit and gently rub her hand is a joy You give me each day at this time. The love is overwhelming in the middle of the grief of letting her go on with joy.