I lost my brother-in-law to lung cancer Sunday. I cried for him, for family and selfishly for me. At least it felt selfish. My brother in law put up a good fight, a great fight, a valiant fight against his cancer. I followed his journey, he was a great pen-pal and I appreciated his insight, feedback, advice and experience as I started this path of unknowns of my own. He let me know, quite frankly, what was coming and helped me prepare for the next challenge in this process. He didn’t sugar coat things. I can’t tell you how important that is when everyone around you wants to tell you that things are OK, and you will be fine, and not to worry. You don’t stop them, because you know they are using words to soothe themselves as much as you. Truth is, once you get this diagnosis all you do is worry. You are thankful for the brief reprieve you get on occasion when you have a task that requires so much focus that you find freedom from the thoughts about the diagnosis.
We both knew this day was inevitable for him.
After his passing, I can’t help but wonder if it is inevitable for me as well. Friends and family tell you that you are different and not to listen to the data. How do you ignore it? I know right now, one friend who is a survivor is telling me not to even entertain such thoughts (in fact she is probably writing me an email this moment…). I promise not to linger here, but I also can’t rob myself of the experience and the emotions and the fear. They are real, they need to be felt and they need to be processed.
One of the last things Sam wrote:
“For those of you who don’t know—I’m getting tired of starting sentences like that—since August 7th, I’ve been living in hospice home, supposedly one of the better ones in Seattle. It’s kind of a hellish existence in many ways. They seem to be concerned mainly with my pain level—when I call for help, they ask me about my pain level. All day I sit in a room, watching my brain get eaten up by pain pills and losing more of my physical ability. When I came in here I could use both legs and one arm. Since then, I have lost use of both legs and my right arm, so I’ve lost the ability to get out of bed and to be transferred into a wheelchair.
Pretty much, I’m stuck in this room. What’s saving my sanity are people coming to visit, and crazy postcards that crazier friends are sending to me. This truthfully, sucks. It’s not at all what I expected when I thought of how cancer would finally get me. We put a hold on friends because I was getting so overwhelmed—it was so sweet, but exhausting. I couldn’t sustain all of those conversations when those require so much energy. I’m really not complaining—just stating the facts. The facts are that I’m losing more and more ability to use my arms and legs every day. I’m starting to lose my ability to talk. My cognitive skills are out of the window. I forget how to use my phone all the time—I’ve pretty much given up staying current on Facebook, so you shouldn’t expect a lot of postings from me, but on a good day I love seeing what you guys are up to.
This will just proceed on the path it’s chosen to take—the path sucks. The visits from friends cheer me up and wear me out at the same time—and oxymoron in my life right now. Everyone has made adjustments in their schedules, to bring food, to help take care of everything. Not to be morbid, but I’ve started going to sleep wondering if I’ll wake up the next day. The next thought in the morning is always, “Holy shit! It’s morning and I woke up again.” It’s a pleasant thought, not a negative one.
That’s it, folks—I’ll be stalking you on Facebook. Your friendships mean a lot and are really sustaining me right now. Love you all very much—Sam.”
Until we meet again Sam. You truly made the world a brighter place.