Monday, March 03, 2008

End Game

Spoke to a few doctors today. Stage IV metastasized colon cancer. The recommendation was for hospice care.

So I met with a nurse who works for the hospice agency recommended to me by the hospital. It turns out that we went to high school together and were even lab partners in AP Biology together. (She did much better in AP Biology than I did. If that wasn't the case, I'd be pretty concerned, right?)

An editorial note: go the hospice route. Hospice is the best thing to have happened in the past twenty years bar none. Hospice is amazing. Hospice is all providing people with the resources to die with dignity. They minister both to the person who is dying and to the people around that person. They take care of everything, so you can just focus on making the most of the limited time you have. If'n you're faced with a similar situation and you don't go with hospice, you're a nutjob.


Hospice nurse and I met and talked. She discussed perhaps a transitional place for my father, a nursing home or something, to give me time to get my brother up from Florida for more than a few days to help out and to get the house ready for him.

Then we went in to see my father.

She explained to him that they were all about getting him out of the hospital, making sure he was comfortable, and getting him home.

"Okay," said my father, "because there's nothing else they can do for me."

It broke my heart to hear him say that.

After talking to my father, hospice nurse and I met again.

"When was the last time your father ate anything?" she asked.

I considered.

I guess it would be the pancakes I made him the night he fell and broke his hip, I answered.

She explained that a natural part of the dying process was to stop eating. The person has no appetite, because at that point, the body no longer needs or wants food. In my mind, I imagined a big building, and a lone night watchman making his way through the building, floor by floor, turning out the lights. As the body shuts down, less and less energy and fuel is needed. Food becomes beside the point. And it gets to the point that digesting food takes up too much energy.

Hospice nurse explained that based on that information, and seeing my father and talking to him, his weakness and affect, my father has a couple of weeks at most.

Deep. Breath.

Now, the way I deal with a crisis is to figure out what needs to be done, and set about doing it. Focus on the tasks at hand. Get the job done. Prioritize. Take care of business.

After everything is taken care of, then my feelings will burble up to the surface. Till then, I keep going like the proverbial Energizer bunny.

First order of business: Ho(t)me(n) Depot.

Hospice requires that someone be with my father 24/7. So once he's home although they'll be able to provide somebody to pinch hit when I run out for grocery shopping or church or whatever, working five nine hour shifts (with an hour for lunch) a week is out of the question. I don't want to quit Ho(t)me(n) Depot. I just want to drop down to part-time or take a leave of absence or something. Ho(t)me(n) Depot seemed fine with that, although I'll have to talk to the Human Resources Manager tomorrow morning to work out a deal. Hospice nurse observed that Ho(t)me(n) Depot, in her experience, is not family friendly. But we'll see.

Not that I'm liking the idea of leaving Ho(t)me(n) Depot. I went there in person to talk it through, and as I was leaving, didn't I just see two smokin' hot men surveying their options in the toilet aisle.

Ouch! That hurt!

But we'll see how it goes.

Oh. And kudos to Way Hot Man!

I had called and asked how things were going and see if we could get together sometime soon. I gave him the rundown. And he was great. And then he said, "Listen. If you want, just give me a call and if I can, I'll run up there, make you dinner, bring a couple of DVDs.

"With explosions and car chases and a good torture scene?" I asked.

Of course, he said. Good escapist stuff. Just what the doctor ordered.

And kudos to my softball team. The manager called me to check in yesterday. I brought him up to speed. He's putting me on the roster. They're waiving the league fees and the umpire fees I'd have to play. If and when I can show up for a game this season, I'll play. If that's one game or all the games or somewhere in between, cool.

We're in the last leg of the journey. The weeks and/or days to come won't be easy. But I'll come through.

I took a quick break at Starbucks in Doylestown this afternoon, in between visits to the hospital. I tried writing in my journal about all this, but it was disjointed at best. No focus. Just the facts ma'am. I paused, distracted by some hot boy hanging out on the porch. I looked down, reading what I had just written, and was surprised with a final sentence that I don't remember writing: this is the best thing I've ever done.

Huh. No argument there.


Master K's itslave said...

Drew.. yes hospice care is better than lingering in a nursing facility. my partner of 27 years, John, was in hospice care since Nov, and died on Feb 23. A couple of words of caution: In mid Nov two urologists gave him "10 days". As that deadline passed, I, on several occasions, thought the the end was just around the corner. Yes hospice provides support for the families also (counseling, a man (or woman) of the cloth; volunteers to sit with your dad a couple hours every week (to give caregiver a much needed break); they should also send out a home health aide for an hour or so every day to bath and change the patient, and change the linens, etc. Of course you will clean and change him as needed, but I found it much easier to do the extensive bathing and linen changing with two people (i was lucky that we had enough resources to have our own private health aide for 10 or so hours a day.
Of course all companies are different (we used Jefferson's hospice). The weak link in the chain was the equipment company (also owned by Jefferson). A couple items John needed took several days to be delivered, and they have their own delivery trucks.
Hospice is all about managing the pain, yet a natural reaction is to try to make it better; I struggled with my decision for hospice several times, thinking I was not doing enought, etc etc. That's where the counsueling helped out. I don't regret my decision now because I am so grateful John died at home with me and his two kids at his side (and also our health aide who was wonderful with him.
You are making the right decision. jim

matt said...

Drew - I can't remember exactly when you started at Ho(t)me(n) Depot, but that's the only possible blockade I see to them really not having much of a choice in giving you time off to take care of your father. If you've been around long enough to have racked up 1200 hours or so, you should be ok under the Family Medical Leave Act.

Anonymous said...

Hey Drew -
My heart and positive energy from the West Coast goes out to you be strong and do whatever you need to do to get through this. Everyone handles death and dying differently. There is no one "right" way.

Thomas said...

Drew, you and your father are securely in my prayers. You're clearly an amazing man, and you're going to come out of this okay. I know it as certainly as anything. Much love.

T.E.W. said...

Sorry to hear about this situation. Wish you God speed and the resources to see you through this dificul time in your life.

Anonymous said...

The commenter above is correct with the Family Medical Leave Act information....look into it. And as for Hospice care, it is a tremendously valuable tool to utilize for end care. They will go a long way to make your father comfortable and be able to help provide support to you and your brother when he has passed.

beaver4 said...

I know that words alone can't be much comfort. But I want to let you know that I wish you the best that can be during this trying time.