A year ago, I wrote this piece. It was not an easy one and it took me a long time to bring myself to read it, as it was a reality I was experiencing. The said patient and their family went through trials and learnt lessons. My cancer patient passed on peacefully at a hospice on the first full week of January 2016, with his wife beside him.
I do not know about your experience with cancer but I can tell you about mine. When someone close to you has it. You grieve. Go through stages of sadness, anger and finally resolve. You experience a conflict between faith and reality. Your faith dictates that as long as you are in prayer– a miracle will happen and they shall defeat the disease. On the other hand, you watch a person full of life’s health deteriorating day by day. From being able to walk around, to being confined to a room. From being able to go to relieve yourself, to not being able to control your bodily functions. From enjoying reading books to becoming blind due to the side effects of the heavy medicine. From being healthy and strong, to being frail and weak. From being relieved the patient is finally getting some sleep from the pain, to panicking and finding out if they are alive.
Each message you get from the patient’s number, makes you jump and panic, before you actually open to read it.
Thoughts of ‘This may be the last time we….’ From having long conversations on the phone, to hearing a weak frail voice that breaks your heart. Of course one can hang on to faith, but there is a realistic aspect to it too. Miracles do happen, but if one’s life chapter is meant to end– it will eventually.
Their pain hurts you, because you can not do anything. Their spirit fills you with hope as they bare the illness bravely. That moment when you know, they won’t make it–fills you with deep sorrow. At the same time, you are filled with relief as they won’t suffer anymore.
When the time finally comes, you are besides yourself and feel at loss. When you wake up the following day, you realize for the first time in several months, you are not thinking of them suffering. The moments of grief are replaced with good memories of the times spent together. What they said, what they liked to do and you slowly start to smile.
On the other hand, reality can be harsh. People tend to capitalize on one’s pain. Before the patient passed, their doctor had insisted on making them go through radiotherapy and some tests. They were not given a follow-up appointment, which in my opinion meant that the doctor knew the patient was dying. The widow was not given the option of palliative care and had to look for palliative care themselves. Thanks to Faraja they found a hospice not too far from their area.
Despite all the drama that ensued in between, I am eternally grateful that I managed to spend their last year with them. I have little regrets except one that the magnitude of the condition should have been relayed earlier to prepare the family for what was ahead.
One thing I have learnt from this experience is, you never know how strong you are until all you have left is to be strong. I will dearly miss my cancer patient but they will always be a hero in my eyes.
This was in their funeral program and I see it fit to share as life indeed is a journey.
” When it comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death,
So when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home”
Chief Aupumut, Mohican
Rest in Power
If you are going through grief or in the process of losing someone. Hang in there, cherish the memories if you still have time create memories. In the end we all will leave someday, so we have to make it count.