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12/22/2004
To What End
 

31 Days

Rita's doctor appointment yesterday didn't deliver good news; the doctor thinks her main tumor may have grown, though he wants to check with radiology to be sure. If it has, they're changing her chemotherapy treatment to a new, more experimental, probably much nastier regimen. By nasty, I mean that it's a short treatment, very infrequently; Eric and I both take that to mean that whatever they'll be putting in her will be some bad stuff, indeed.

I am weirdly encouraged by the fact that this makes the second Christmas in a row that I'm writing about Rita's cancer treatments. This, about a woman with only one lung in her body and tumors large enough that last year the doctors were amazed that she could breathe at all, astounds me. Eric feels that the length of time she has left will be greatly dependent on her will to fight, and right now her will is strong. There's no doubt that the cancer will probably beat her this time, but she intends to fight the good fight and grasp as much time her on earth as she can.

Yesterday she made mention of a time in the future when she'll put a hospital bed in the living room - when she "gets bad." Hearing that felt like having a foot firmly placed in my solar plexus. Knowing intellectually that a person is dying is not the same thing as picturing them in the act, and I guess I'd been doing my best to block off the latter. Bryan has said that it will come down to either the cancer or an inability to breathe that will take her in the end - a wasting from the disease or a slow smothering from the blocked airways. Both sound excruciating, and I can't imagine what it will be like, truly.

Until a couple of years ago, I'd never actually knowingly been in the presence of somebody who was dying. Eric's family seems to have a morbid streak of having loved ones die over the holidays; I don't think there's been a holiday season yet, since I've been with him, that somebody hasn't died. (True to form, Rita's cousin Lou passed away this morning, and the viewing will be on Christmas Eve.) A few years ago, the dying loved one was Eric's great-aunt, who had cancer in, among other places, her pancreas. It was a slow, painful death, and when we visited her in her house near the end, she lay in a hospital bed in her bedroom, attended by hospice workers. She was barely aware of our presence; she moaned and sobbed from the agony, and I didn't know what to do or say. Eric was close to her, and it was a difficult time for everybody; losing her was hard, but seeing her in misery was harder.

If I were Rita, I'd be scared out of my mind right now. I don't know that she isn't, of course, but I'd have a hard time uncurling from a little quaking ball of terror. I'm not a believer in suicide at all, but at a time like that, I'd have to say that euthanasia would be looking pretty tempting to me, at least as I felt death approaching. To know that your end is near, and it will be an ugly end...how can one be expected to face that with dignity? How can one be strong, when it's clear that being strong will change nothing about the final events? What's the point, anyway?

Eric's brother is changing career paths away from private practice, and he's moving to a different city. Linda's already there in the new house. I hate the thought that now Rita doesn't even have them in the same town anymore, when she needs them most, though of course there's no way to know just how much longer she has. Eric wishes he could quit his job and move back home to be with her until the end, but that's not possible. There just doesn't seem to be any good way to go about this; we can't even help her very much with our presences.

I wonder if this will be our last Christmas together.


Gabe has what seem to me to be very large, meaty feet. We all got good chuckles this evening watching me play with them; he loves to have them be bare and tickled by someone. It's the little things that lighten each day.

previous one year ago:
He's a fairly - well, very - independent little boy, but I'm reluctant to take advantage of that too much.
two years ago:
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: NINE STINKY EXPERIENCES...
three years ago:
Sometimes I wonder whether the scent of evergreen acts upon the little ones the way catnip does on those of the feline persuasion.
four years ago:
Finally she reached the very top of my uterus, an inch or so to the left of my navel, and we heard it: Thump, thump, thump.
five years ago:
This morning, I witnessed a four-year-old girl getting her very first paper cut.
next
In the ears:
Dead silence

On the Bookshelf:
A Wizard of Earthsea

Kid pictures:

Probably not until we get back, but I'm taking plenty



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