The Journey

Some say that life is a journey.

A journey from birth to death.

Some people’s journeys are very short and others are very long.  For most of us, the journey will be somewhere in-between.

For most of us, life’s journey is made up of many other, shorter journeys.

Babyhood (a journey most of us don’t remember).  The teenage angst years (a journey many of us like to forget).  Young adulthood (mostly exciting with thoughts of a bright future).  Marriage (the bumpy journey or journeys, as the case may be).  Becoming a parent (one of the scariest and happiest journeys).  Aging and retirement (the what, already?! journey).

Some journeys are short.  Some are long.  Some just seem too long or too short.

Some journeys are smooth.  Some are bumpy.  Some start one way and end another.

Some journeys are happy.  Some are sad.  Some are a little of both.

David

My brother-in-law, David, has been on the cancer journey.

In January 2012, he was diagnosed with Stage IV Colorectal Cancer.  Since then, he has gone through radiation and a series of chemotherapy treatments.

I have been blessed to travel on this journey with him and my sister.  I have spent several weeks with them over the past 16 months.  I have even traveled to their home in Minnesota during the Winter months which I swore I would never do when they first moved here!  The lesson I keep learning when I use absolutes like ALWAYS and NEVER is that I should never state anything unequivocably because it ALWAYS comes back to bite me in the rear.

David's First Infusion Therapy cropped

I have been making trips of about a week or so at a time.  I have spent this time taking David to treatments, spending time with him, and helping out around the house. My time here allows my sister to have a break, to be able to go into the office rather than work from home, and lets us spend time together cooking, watching movies, and just sitting together quietly.

David 65 Birthday cake and pineapple 07062012

Many of the people who know I’ve been doing this say to me that my sister and David are lucky to have me.  But, I don’t feel that way at all.  I feel lucky that they are in my life, and I feel blessed to have this opportunity to spend time with them in such a close and intimate way.

David’s journey with cancer changed yesterday.

This is how the week unfolded for us.  David had a scan at the beginning of the week.  It had been about two months since his last scan.  The next day we met with the oncologist to learn the results of this latest scan.

David had a strong premonition that the news would not be good.  When we went back to the Cancer Treatment Center for the follow-up visit, David had blood drawn for his labs,  had his vitals taken, and went over his current drug list, as usual.  We met the new oncology nurse.  After all of this, the doctor came in.  She went through everything again.  My sister took care of some paperwork with her.  Business as usual.

Then the doctor was ready to go over the results of the scan.  The results were not good.  David’s premonitions were true.  The tumors on the liver had grown significantly.  The bottom line is that the last line of cancer drugs were not effective.

During this time, the doctor held David’s hand.  She said, more than once, that she was not trying to be mean by what she was saying.  She apologized for not being able to give him more time.  She never rushed or skipped over anything even when she knew going in what she had to say.  She spent nearly an hour with us.  She answered every question compassionately yet honestly.  She discussed how his next journey would likely unfold.

She had tears in her eyes.  Her job must be very hard.

David 65 Birthday clouds bringing relief from the heat 07062012

David’s journey with cancer and cancer treatments have ended.

We left the Cancer Treatment Center for the last time.  We all received hugs from the doctor and the staff.  It  is really like they become part of your extended family during this time.  In fact, they are more compassionate and helpful than many family members.

David 65 Birthday 07062012

A new journey has begun.  David’s journey with hospice care has started.

It’s not all doom and gloom.  We continue to share books we’ve read, watch movies together, and talk about family and current events.  David has a slightly twisted and dry sense of humor.  He keeps mentioning things, that he hates to do, that he will never have to do again.  He jokes about death.

I cut his hair for him and told him that I look forward to giving him sponge baths.  He’s told me that the area between his waist and his knees is off-limits.  Yes, that is our relationship in a nutshell.

David is mostly worried about my sister.  About how she will manage after he is gone.  He’s worried about the day-to-day stuff.

I don’t think he really realizes that what we will miss most is his physical presence.  His quirky sense of humor.  His philosophical views on life and religion and family.  His obsessive compulsive behaviors which have endeared him to us.  Yes, we’ll even miss those things.

David's feet June 2010

We don’t know how long this next journey with David will be.  We are measuring it in weeks not months, but no one has a crystal ball.  The upside in all of this is that we can make our time together really MEAN something.  That is the one gift in all of this.

Life is a journey.

A journey from life to death.

Make it count.

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16 Responses to The Journey

  1. Marifran Heiligenmann says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with all of you and I will espcially pray for all of yu when I do my hour of adoration on Friday. On a happier note Patti will be here next week for her 5th and FINAL Cancer check-up

  2. Kim v says:

    Heartbreaking. At times, I hate being an adult. Good thoughts to you and you sister and brother-in-law.

    • Mama says:

      Thank you. It is heartbreaking in one way because we all had so many plans after we all retired. The lesson in this is not to put off tomorrow that which you can and should do today.

      Mama

  3. Jana says:

    T- Thank you for blogging such about such an intimate journey you are sharing with D & D. Today’s quote on my desk states: “The most wasted of all our days are those in which we have not laughed.” Sounds like Dave is not wasting his days with you. I appreciate a person with a sense of humor especially in the midst of his stormy journey. I pray for strength for you, D & D.

  4. Nancy Conran says:

    I am so sorry to hear this news. I had this similar journey with our friend Kelly and while it was very painful, I am so thankful to have taken it. I feel it changed me in a positive way forever. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as your BIL’s journey comes to an end. I hope you all find peace.
    Nancy

    • Mama says:

      Nancy,

      One of the reasons I wanted to share this journey is so that others wouldn’t be so afraid to talk about death and dying. We will all get there eventually, and it’s one of those things where you don’t usually have the benefit of experience so sharing helps.

      Mama

  5. Martha says:

    Theresa, I was almost afraid to read this Blog, but I knew that knowing you, you would show the good side of what is going on. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you. I still say they are blessed to have you in their lives. Thanks for including all of us along the journey. In honor of your BIL I will make sure I find more humor in things. Takes care. HUGS to all of you. XO

  6. jane lohman says:

    Hugs

  7. Mary says:

    Theresa thanks for this blog. You are right we will all be there someday. I do hope he does not have to suffer a long time. my thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

  8. Connie Corcoran says:

    This is such a moving post, and as always so honest from your heart that I find it hard to come up with adequate words to reply. I am glad my sister-in-law Jeryl replied. I was honored to be at my brother’s bedside for his last two weeks, within an hour of his last breath. And at my father’s side on his last day. And at my mother’s bedside all of her last day. Nothing makes it easier, but not having been there would have been harder. All of my favorite books seem to be about loss or at least include loss as a catharsis. They help me “process” my emotions (altho I hate that over-used word process). Something I read recently said that the most effective treatment for PTSD is talking about the trauma until it loses its power…maybe that’s why I have to keep reading about loss.
    Love and shared tears to you and Diane–wishing David the most gentle passage.

    • Mama says:

      There are many reasons I wanted to write about this. Yes, it’s cathartic. It is a way to honor my brother-in-law and sister, too. But, mainly I think that we have to not be afraid of the death and dying process. After going through the hospice experience with my father and watching him take his last breaths (which was a fascinating process as he was the first person that I ever saw die), I felt a sense of peace. Like I had given him a gift (one which he did not deserve, but that’s another story), but I had received one also. I am no longer afraid of the process of dying like before and especially when I was young. It is only in the last generation or so that children and people have been shielded from this process.

      I, too, pray for a gentle passage for David and for all of us as we help him and each other on this journey.

      Mama

  9. Susan says:

    My father died in hospice care and I look back at those moments as magical. I wish he were still here but those weeks were filled with love and honesty. It was time when I was not only his daughter but also his friend. The only memories that were important were the good ones, ones filled with love and laughter. It’s strange how the saddest moment in your life can bring the greatest joy.

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