As the falls increased, and the hallucinations began, I suggested to my sister that the best thing would be to have 24 hour care for him. She talked to her mother in law, with whom she was staying to help with his care, and it was agreed that as both of in laws were in their early 80’s, the ability to look after each other was severely diminished.
He was carefully transported to a nursing facility, and made comfortable in the room. A catheter was inserted and a prescription made to counteract the unremitting pain in his upper body. We visited yesterday. The son, the grand daughter and me.
He did not look the same man. in 4 weeks he had lost 48% of his body weight, was gaunt and facially different. His mind drifted in and out of clarity. The son was visibly shocked at the change in him. He struggled with his emotions for a few seconds, and then we sat with him and talked the best we could to a man struggling to remain alive so he could make his good byes. We were in and out the room constantly as he was dealing with a dehabilitating constipation of which the urging to pass a motion was ever present, and nothing to pass except liquid.
I went to the front door of the facility to wait for the grand daughter. As she came through the door, she looked at me with lost and frightened eyes. I put my arm around her and whispered in her ear ” Your Grandad is still your grandad, waiting to see you, he isnt able to speak clearly, and the illness has changed his appearance a bit, but he is still your grandad and he wants to tell you things he cant find the words to say. Just be yourself and it will be ok sweetie.” She clung to me for a few seconds, and then braced herself. We walked to the room, the door was open, she saw him and stood still. His back was half turned so he didnt see her. Her eyes filled with tears and she didnt know what to do. Her mother waved her hand and the girl came out of the room and sobbed for a bit. I waited there until she gained control. She then entered the room and went in. His face softened and a smile came across his lips. She bent and kissed his cheek.
He didnt have much strength for talking. Sometime lucid, sometimes vague. He was a man of a gentle humour, always something direct yet witty to say. he loved good funny comments given or take.
As the pattern of in and out the room continued due to the need to sit on the commode, family chat was made, and the realisation came over that the time was short. I was in the room alone for a brief moment, and he said, “my bollocks hurt” and pulled at them to get comfortable.. the nurse was informed and they changed the position of the catheter to try and ease the pressure.
The son had a private time with his dad. His dad knew his time was short. His opening line was a shrug of the shoulders and the comment “..its just life boy”, told his son to look after his mother and a few father son things which belong between a close father/son relationship. grand daughter spent a couple of minutes with him, just holding hands and words of love with tears.
When I went in, he was distracted and in pain. I went to hold his arm, and his hands went down to try and relieve the pain in his testicles. I stood there for a moment, and as his spasm passed, I said “I think I might pass on shaking your hand….”. A smile crept over his face and that was all that we needed to speak.
His wife of 60 some years leaned over him and kissed him and they hugged. He looked her straight in the eyes with unspoken words. A life time of companionship and closeness.
We traveled home that night the 130 miles. at 7:30 this morning, the phone call came that he had fallen asleep in death peacefully during the night.
This was a man who suffered no illness all his life. In 2006 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and given what I can only assume with a lack of specific knowledge, a mixture of hormone treatment and radiotherapy. In 2012, he complained of pain in his shoulder and back. Advanced stage cancer was in his back abdomen and liver. It was relatively quick.
He was 81. His aged system was not able to deal with health issues as it once was. He succumbed to illness. Was the treatment for cancer he received in 2006 suppressive? Im not sure that giving hormones and radiotherapy is anything else but suppressive, and yet there is nothing else offered to sick people. Would he have lived longer with another therapy? I dont know. I have seen other patients have better results with homoeopathy, but it wasnt him and he never took that path. I do know that the world accepts without question that cancer is best treated with drugs and radiation and fancy machines in a sterile environment. You will NEVER get true figures for survival of cancer patients, or the realities of treatment protocols. You will always get scorn heaped on alternative treatments, and by alternative I mean treatments not pharmaceutically endorsed.
Somehow, it does not seem fair.
Its done, and another life has run its course. We have his memory and his legacy in his children and grandchildren.