Seven Days

Jean

Seven Days

Jean
sunshine-and-flowerSunday
Last Sunday, I volunteered to go early to feed my friend's dog and then visit with my friend in the hospital. I knew her dad and stepmom would welcome the opportunity to attend church together. They felt they needed to be at the hospital all day everyday... to the point that my friend was annoyed with it saying, "I don't need someone watching me all the time." They would sit there and "encourage," "push" her to eat. I wanted to scream at times, "Don't you think she knows she needs to eat... she's doing the best she can! " But I know her 81-year-old dad is feeling helpless and just doesn't know what else to do... she is his baby girl. They've always had a close relationship. He had a hard time when she moved out of the house. He is a very sweet guy, much like my friend. He lost his wife to cancer eight years ago, now his baby girl is losing the battle.

My friend was pretty much out of it last Sunday. Between the cancer and the morphine, she was nodding out most of the time. I started to leave, thinking she may welcome some alone time before her dad arrived. My movement alerted her and she asked me to stay. I did. A doctor came in and began talking about discharge and treatment decisions vs. "comfort care". He would return when her parents arrived.

Monday
Word from friend's dad was the doctors were talking hospice, but my friend wanted to try one more chemo. She'd only had two treatments at this point. They said they had to discharge her and would have to do next chemo outpatient. She needs 24/7 care though. Her edema is so bad, her legs and feet triple normal size.

Tuesday
Making discharge plans. Her dad calls asking if I can stay with her, that we'd all pull together for round the clock care since she wanted to go home.

Wednesday
Her regular oncologist returned from out of town. The doctors then decide they will keep her at the hospital, do another round of chemo and one more time drain fluid from the pericardium (around her heart).

Thursday
I took the chance and called my friend. She had not answered phone or a single text in a couple weeks. Too out of it. She answered the phone and in perky voice asked if I was coming. YES! I got an hour in before her dad arrived. We talked a lot! Was best she'd been able to do in weeks (since she had struggle for breath to talk). She said, "something has changed. It feels different. I can do a full cough." Before she could only manage a partial hack. Could it be that the chemo is shrinking the tumors? YES!

She was alert all morning. She asked if I could come stay with her....that she would need help up and down, into wheelchair, etc. The physical therapist came. She wanted to walk further than the therapist wanted her too. The therapist showed me exercises to help decrease the edema to do when she gets home. I head to cafeteria for lunch and she asks me to check out the deserts so I can report back. WOW. This was a miracle. She was joking. I asked if her mashed potatoes were real. She gave one of her looks and picked up the only remaining green bean on her plate like only she can do, and said, "this is real."

At 2:00 P.M. I went to her house to gather bills. organize mail and get her checkbook--she wanted to pay some bills. I told her dad I would stay at the house until 6 p.m. so I could feed the dog and they could head home earlier to beat rush hour traffic. When I arrived back at the hospital, she was out of it again. I asked the nurse if she had had any pain meds or tranqs but no; she had refuse. She must just be sleeping after all she had a very busy morning/afternoon. I waited an hour thinking she might stir from her nap. I watched her breathing, her respirations more a normal rate, but she was looking very pale again. Her chest rose and fell with a jerk. It reminded me of both mom and my mother-in-law. I had this background fear that her slower respirations (previously triple the rate in past 3 months) maybe was not so good. I pushed that thought under. I returned the bills and checkbook to her house and drove home.

Friday
Got a text she got the chemo Friday. Talked to her stepmom at 6 p.m. and she said that my friend had been out of it all day again. They were on there way home. I just knew in my gut this was very bad. I grabbed a pillow, phone and charger and headed there. When I arrived at 10 pm she was sitting straight up, her head nodding and jerking, her chest convulsing with each breath. The nurse tried to make her comfortable to keep her head from jerking. She'd relax for awhile then sit up panting gasping for air. I held her hand. She was aware I was at times. I told her her sister would be there in 12 hours (from CA). She smiled. I talked about some of the good times we had, she smiled. Mostly, I just sat there. She calmed some after I asked them to give her some ativan. I napped on the bench. The doctor arrived at 5:45 and said they will reevaluate her Monday for surgery to remove fluid. At 6:45 she began yelling for someone to take her pulse ox, she tried to get out of bed. The bed alarm sent four nurses to the room. The pulse ox was very low. They called the doctor. They called her brother who has POA. Dr. asked if she wanted to be intubated. "No." They did x-rays.  She was semi-lucid until after the x-rays. I think laying her flat was just too much for her. Her brother arrived, doctor explained situation and her brother signed the DNR and they started IV morphine drip. The doctor said he thought she will not last more than 24/48 hours. The tumors were compressing her heart. I managed to stay composed until her brother sat with her and started telling her that she gave it a good fight and that it was time to relax. I had to leave the room.

After her dad and stepmom arrived, I decided to give the family time alone with her. I went to her house and played with her dog until I could compose myself enough to hit the 40-minute drive on the expressway. At 7:30 p.m. a text from her sister said she's peaceful but still hanging on.

Saturday Morning
Waiting.

__________________

I've read about "rallies" shortly before death. Thursday was just amazing. I'm grateful for Thursday.