Chat About Care-taking: H is for Hospice

I wasn’t ready for the H word.

At her ninetieth birthday party Aunt Edie was the perfect picture of my hopes for the future.  Surrounded by hundreds people who adored her, she looked at least twenty years younger than her age and could have been modeling for a fashion magazine, rather than presiding over a milestone birthday party.  Six weeks later she complained she wasn’t feeling like herself – but, at ninety, we could all understand her slowing down a bit.  What we didn’t know, was that an uninvited guest, kidney cancer, had also been at the party.

It took about a year for us to recognize our enemy, but by then, he was too entrenched to unseat.  The doctors said chemotherapy might lengthen her life by weeks or months, but the side effects sounded as dreadful as the disease.  We couldn’t know exactly what the cancer would do or when, but chemotherapy promised to make her miserable immediately.  After much prayer and consideration, she decided to put herself in God’s hands without introducing chemotherapy.

I began to call daily to check on her.  Her situation certainly debilitated, but she held on to her great attitude.  Three weeks ago I went for a visit to celebrate my birthday.  She filled up a table at the Stagecoach Inn in Salado with good friends for the occasion.  She seemed to be holding her own.

Then I got a call from her friend, Marilyn.  Marilyn and her husband, Steve,  had gone to a doctor’s appointment with Aunt Edie and the news was not good.  Marilyn suggested I should come down for the next oncologist’s appointment which was a couple of weeks away.  I hadn’t planned on going.   My dad had an important doctor’s appointment of his own the following day, very early in the morning, so Cousin Brenda and Marilyn were going with Aunt Edie.  (Thank God for Brenda, Marilyn, Steve and all the people who are standing in line to help us through this.)  I called Aunt Edie to let her know I’d changed my mind.  Her relief was evident, even over the phone line.

On Saturday she told me she planned to attend church Sunday morning and would be hiding a key for me to let myself in with, since I wasn’t sure exactly what time I’d leave Dallas.  Sunday I called her at about 10 AM to let her know I was on my way.  She didn’t sound 100 percent, but she didn’t say anything about feeling bad.

At the Temple city limit sign, I called to say I was minutes away.  Church was over and I thought she’d be waiting for me to go to lunch with her over in her retirement center’s dining room.  Instead, she said she hadn’t gone to church.  Marilyn and Steve were with her.  When I arrived I saw what a difference three weeks could make to a stage four cancer patient.

Monday afternoon, Brenda and I escorted Aunt Edie to the oncologist.  There was no beating around the bush.  It was time to start hospice.  I don’t have words to put with my emotions, yet.  We’ve scheduled an appointment with the hospice nurse for next week.  I wasn’t ready for the H word.

I know there are many people dealing with this situation.  I’d like to hear your story and your advice.

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