Today, I went to see a gentleman that I have grown to adore. He is in his last stages of cancer but is not ready to leave his loud, chaotic and lovely family. He wants to stay here although he hasn't really been out of bed much and has daily pain.
I walked in the front door and the place was so still, quiet...and peaceful. I could hear the TV on upstairs, but no voices from people in the house. At first, I felt like an intruder...but fought the urge to announce myself. I sat in the kitchen looking out the window, watching the sun peak around the clouds, listening to the hum of this home.
It's been a rough couple of weeks. Lying in the hospital, trying to figure out what lies ahead and hoping the medical folks are all wrong, makes life beyond rough. This man was told he was going home to die and the records I read about the state of his body seemed to second that opinion. But, get a man home to his own bed, his loving wife and family and watch the sweetness of family love heal all kinds of ills.
Yes, it took some doing to get him mostly comfortable, to take the pain medication as needed without taking too much and to recover from being told he is not going to last very long but he did it.
Today, because he is not ready to leave, decided that he needs to get stronger. He wants to walk around his bedroom and progress from there. He slowly sat on the side of the bed and turned a nice shade of green. We cranked his O2 up and cheered him on. After about two minutes of trying, he had to lie down again. I got him situated and told him that some days, it just doesn't work...and he let me know that he just needed a minute and he was getting out of that bed. I realized that this man fought cancer this way, raised his family this way, loved and lived his life this way. He lived ferociously and he is gonna die that way. Okay, then...I thought...that's what we are gonna do. He sat up again, took 10 deep breaths and grabbed his walker and before I knew it, he was across the room. He turned nice and green again, was grimacing from a painful spot on his back, and was running low on energy but...he made it to the bathroom and sat down on the bench. Then, he took a few more deep breaths and headed back to bed. His determination will get him through the transition from life to death.
We got him comfortable and began to talk. He understands what is happening to his body and that this is probably close to the end of his time here. He just prefers to ask for information when he is ready and not a moment before. Far be it for me to do anything else. He is dying as he lived and it's my job to help him do that.
As I was saying goodbye, I told him of how I walked in and the house seemed to quiet and peaceful...how I feel so lucky to be here with them at this time. I tried to remind him that his family is here and willing to do whatever he wants to help him and he said he knew that.
It has to be so difficult to know that sooner rather than later, you aren't going to be in the day to day workings of life. I often wonder how people can be so straight forward, so brave when they are facing death. I think anyone who looks death in the eye, declares that at the end, they want to be home with family and then continues to live well is amazing. The nice thing for me is...most days, those are the kind of folks I get to hang out with.
When I walk in a house, and there is an overwhelming feeling of peace, I know we are doing the right thing for that family. I sensed that today and encouraged my patient to rest in that quiet place, at home, in love, knowing it's going to be okay...
We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,