This is one of several essays from my private cancer journal. It is not intended as anything than a record of my states of mind as I struggled with the disease and the effects of the treatment.
From Kubla-Ross to Barney
Last night we watched an HBO cable TV show about hospices. We caught it a half hour into the 90 minute show. It followed three people who were dying. All were bed-ridden.
There was an older man with a brain tumor.
A woman with cancer.
A young boy - perhaps 12 - with a disease that wasn't referred to while we were watching it. He was in a coma from the drugs.
I watched them and the people around them and thought, I don't want it to be that way. It wasn't so much their being in the beds and growing weaker, it was their attitude and the attitude of others around them.
The man reminded me of my dad, when he was in the hospital with the stroke. He wouldn't talk about his feelings either.
The woman with was buoyant, until the doctor told her that he felt a growing mass in the neck and it spreading. Then went silent, clearly stricken by the news. Then she prayed for help. After that, her demeanor was very subdued.
The boy did nothing. He was unconscious. I don't know if he was awake in the earlier portion of the show.
Around each of them, you could see how people react to dying. There were the "oh, you'll be better" remarks as well as conversations that had nothing to do with anything. The only ones who talked about the actual situations were the hospice personnel. There were scenes of them sitting around tables or talking to interns (I suppose they were) about what these people were going through. They had a grasp of it perhaps because they had seen so many go.
One director remarked how "doors" opened for some residents, that they had a clarity on their lives but others would not accept it their condition. I suppose that is the way it is with most. The two people certainly expressed none on camera.
And then, a few days before, we caught the end of another show on dying. (I find these showing up now to be interesting.) It had Kubla-Ross. I had never seen her. She was quite old. Her voice is weak but she talked about how she looked forward to dying. It is not that she wants to die but that when it comes, she will embrace that last journey. She wants there to be a party and for people to sing and dance and love. "And then they can go home and cry," she said. I liked her attitude, but then she has made the subject her life study.
It isn't easy to lose a friend or a family member. But what about those of us who are leaving? Isn't there a way for us to tell them something? If so, what do we say? We can say goodbye. We can say how much we enjoyed their companionship. We can thank them for all that they gave us. But isn't there something to pass BACK to them. Being at that portal can give some of us a perspective but what is it? What can we send back as we stand in the door, ready to leave?
Almost every day I look around me and see something that I will leave behind and know that it will be a reminder to another. I want them to be good reminders. Maybe that is what my Web site is, something that will last, or at least the message that it gives. One message is that dying doesn't mean giving up.
It is such an irony that I have found something that so captivates and motivates me. It is only because I have cancer and am dying that it gives me that drive.
I found some great pages to put up. I am able to work more than I thought. But I can feel the cancer moving and growing through the back.
I met my new oncologist last Thursday. I finally have someone I can talk to. He's pleased with my condition, everything considered, meaning that the pain is tolerable. I seldom have to take the codeine. Usually just a few Tylenol works. He took some blood work so I can see where my PSA is. He's also looking for liver problems. I might also get a bone density scan, to check for osteoporosis. But I don't think I'll last long enough to worry about that. I just want to last long enough to finish this site and to do with it what I plan.
So much to do. I also have to do the birthday invitations for my granddaughter's party and get them off. I hope to finish them today. I did a good job on them. They have that ridiculous purple dinosaur Barney on the front, inviting everyone to her party. She loves Barney.
I lead a very strange life.
Speaking of which, I better get to work.