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Saturday, March 25, 2017

No regrets!!!

It's been quite awhile since I sat at my computer, candle lit, glass of pink wine poured and wrote.  Finally, I am here to say a few things...

The last four months have been a whirlwind.  Health issues, visits to Peru, Holidays, a visit to Phoenix for spring training and trying live my purpose has kept me overly busy.

My house is quiet tonight and I want to  share a few thoughts about what has been rattling around in my brain.

Time is flying don't you think?  My kids are young adults, my husband is going to be 56 years old...looking hard at 60, and my brother in law is going to be 70.  Where did the time go?  It went every day in the minutes and hours that I tried to get caught up.  Caught up for what?  To relax and sit around and admire my stuff?
To compare what I have to the next person?  I say no but what the heck is going on?

If I am brutally honest...probably.  I have come to learn that I am only good at living in the moment when I am sitting by a bedside with a person who's time is limited.  Then, I can sit and look at them and talk about whatever they want to and time goes by and I am in the moment.  Otherwise, I am driving in my car thinking about all the laundry that is sitting on the laundry room floor that needs to be put in the washer, or the cat litter box that needs to be scooped, the charting that is not completed or getting to the gym because I am too fat!

I am humbled because, so many times, I am introduced to family members that have come from points unknown because a person is dying.  The person is not responding to voice or touch, but lying there breathing and very comfortable.  I tell the family that they can still hear what they are saying and that they need to say everything they ever wanted to because this is it.  Then, in a quiet voice, they tell me they were going to come last year but things got really busy and the time got away from them and they really wished they came when the patient was going through treatment to let them know what they meant to them.  I always tear up and tell them it's okay and that at least they are here now and to tell them everything.

You see, we all get busy.  We need the next thing or our kids need the next thing.  Oh, and then there are college funds for the best college there is.  I learned my lesson, I thought,  with my mother as she went through chemo and then died.  I showed up long enough to take her home and let her die in the living room.  Regrets and wishes I could have gotten a do over...

Then, after my father had a massive heart attack and had no heart function, you would have thought it was pulling teeth to visit him.  Yeah, he was hard to get along with because he felt lousy and knew he was dying but you know, I had little kids and they were so smart in elementary school that they could't miss.  Regrets...you  betcha!

Now after those two episodes when I shoulda, coulda, woulda...I try to live my life without regrets when  it comes to those I love.  But, we are human and we are not perfect so we make mistakes.  It is also so much easier to think people are going to live longer than they do.  It helps us live with the fact that we love someone so much and it will hurt when they are gone.

But, we don't know what is going to happen tomorrow even though we plan it out.  Tomorrow is not guarenteed, never has been really. The one who leaves this earth or has the funny pain that takes us after awhile may be us.  Or it may be someone that you meant to call or meant to stop by but never got around to it. 


I have decided that I want to live with no regrets.  I want to make sure that the people that mean something to me know it.  I want to spend time with my husband, my kids and the family that want to spend time with me.  I don't want to show up to sit at a bedside and watch someone breathe for the last time....I want sit with them  with a glass of pink wine and laugh about all the good memories that were made in the time that I was living in the moment with them.

Because, as my sister says "there aren't too many shopping days until Christmas" and what she means is...life is too damn hard and short, so we need to forgive and forget, visit often, and remember the good times.  There will be bad times and suffering and before you know it, you will be old and have regrets.

So, live each day as if you don't have another one and love the people you love and maybe some you don't!

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,
Terry



Sunday, February 12, 2017

The new law....

I have written about this before, the " Medical Aid-in-dying" law but I think it is worth having a perspective from someone who works every day with the "dying".  Also, as this idea has become a Colorado law it is on the mind of everyone who cares for dying folks.  I must say the opinion I voice is my own.....from my years of taking care of the dying...and while you may agree or disagree, here is some food for thought...


I work with the dying almost every day.  I want to state the obvious...being declared someone who is dying, and who has 6 months or less even if that is not how it goes, is difficult.  Do you see the understatement of that sentence?  Have you been a part of a person's life that received that edict?  What was it like?  Did you sit there in disbelief with the person or did you just shut down?  Did you want to cry or wake up from that terrible dream?   Were you or are you that person?

I have been there with a person who was told they were dying.  The person was in my family and it wasn't  the "6 months to a year talk", it was the old, "days to weeks" talk.  It was my worst nightmare and then to tell him over and over "yes" when he asked if the doctor just told him he was really going to die.  Have you been privileged to be with a person that was hearing that about themselves or a loved one?  Count yourself lucky if you haven't had to live through that...


In my family, it was exactly that...days to a week.  He was home just a week and he died.  The new law would not have applied to him even if he wanted to take the pills.  He couldn't have given them to himself and that is part of this law.  You have to be able to administer them to yourself.  Research says that many people get the pills and don't take them.  The pills are wasted and the patient experiences a "normal" dying process.

I think about these folks I care for all the time.  I have seen patients that have been able to continue as usual knowing they were in their last days and I have had folks that cannot.  Some fall into a deep depression and living with the knowing is much harder than dying. Some do very well and the only fear is the end and how it will go...  

 Dying people want control.  They have ridden the roller coaster of treatment, feeling ill from it, questioning if it is helping or hurting them more...then worrying about every ache and pain and wondering if it's the cancer.  Many of the patients I care for in hospice are ready to get off the roller coaster.  They are ready to be in control of what they can.  They understand they have a terminal diagnosis.  They know they are going to die and all they really want is some control or semblance of control of the suffering they perceive at the end.  Most folks come to terms with leaving this earth, they just don't want to suffer.  

Sadly, I have been part of suffering at the end of life.   The suffering can come from pain, inability to breathe easy, inability  to care for oneself, or the disbelief that they are leaving and cannot do anything about it.  It can come from leaving too early...little kids that they won't be able to see grow up, or a grandchild in the womb of a child of their own that they will not meet.  I have sat with these people, tried to plan for it, explained the medications to use, and prayed.  Sometimes there is no solution for them but leaving this earth.  The pain is too great.  I believe that people experience suffering in different ways and having a few pills on the beside table to put an end to it gives a person a sense of control to gauge when enough is enough.  

Don't get me wrong, I am a advocate for hospice care.  I have experienced it with my family members and have cared for many a dying person.  I have watched love permeate every nook and cranny of a house while the adult children loved their parents into heaven.  I have seen husbands care for their elderly wives with such tenderness that I could not speak.  I have seen wives climb into bed to hold their husband for their last earthly breath and not be able to let go once they are gone.  That time at home near the end is holy and profound.   If hospice care is nothing, it is genuine, authentic love in action.  It is also soul shaking and one of the most difficult times that this life gives.  I can say that it is always an honor and a privilege to help people at such a difficult, intimate time.  Most families are so comforted by the love they gave and received during those difficult times.

BUT...

There are also times when a disease process has been lengthy and the dying process is tearing a family apart.  The patient is ready, he or she is done, and wants to go.  They have thought deeply and profoundly about all the ramifications of leaving in this way and have made the choice.  They have discussed it with their family and have made the decision to get the medication.  I am sure it would not be easy to do or to decide to do.  Deciding to stop treatment and receive comfort care is not easy and it takes courage.  Think about the courage it will take for the person to swallow the pills that will permanently close their eyes...

Some people who are against this measure say that it is "playing God" and we are not supposed to do that.  I think it is how you look at all of these things...some folks say that stopping treatment for cancer when all of the treatment has stopped working is "playing God."

Thankfully,  I will not be making the decision for the folks I care for.  They will make it and I will honor the decision and give them all the support and the knowledge I have to help relieve their suffering.  I will sit beside the bed and hold their hand and listen, and I will not judge. I will help love them out of this world, and support their family, whatever they may decide.

And, I am more than happy to sit with God when it is my time and explain why I elected to support folks that were suffering and want to use the law instead of talk them out of it.   I will take responsibilities for my "sins" and hope for the best.

Just think about it...

We'll tawk soon, 
I love you all,
Terry