Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dirt in my salad.

His hospital bed whirred. I adjusted it to incline up then handed my uncle his glasses once the doctor came in. The darkness of the hospital room was cleaved as I drew open the curtains a bit.

The view from my uncle's hospital room.....

My aunt sat to my uncle's left, looking like she was about to burst into tears and I was on his right while the three of us took in the news.

"What's my expiration date?" my uncle asked, hands semi-folded with fingers pressed together. The doctor didn't like that phrasing but said my uncle had about 2-3 months left to live.

My uncle was admitted to the hospital (yet again!) this past Tuesday for being dehydrated and extremely weak. He steadily began refusing to eat or drink much of anything these past several weeks, dropping 15 pounds since Memorial Day. He's skin and bones at this point.

The oncologist said the cancer is too far gone and his appetite will never really come back. That my uncle wouldn't be strong enough to receive chemotherapy and we should start looking into hospice options.

The last time my uncle was at the hospital in May, the doctor told me something similar. That he'd become sicker and sicker, begin missing chemo, and eventually die of the cancer. But this time around they gave a targeted timeframe so the news seemed more definite and urgent.

My uncle was given a "banana bag" in his IV to see if that would boost up his nutrition but now he's storing excess fluid in his belly. We were informed a feeding tube wouldn't be much help either. That we'd be prolonging the inevitable. His body is literally shutting down.

On Saturday he was awake for maybe an hour the ENTIRE day and only had about 8 ounces of a shake in the morning. He's extremely tired, desperately wanting to sleep, only waking up when the nurses give him his meds or when the pain is too intense.

The hospice representative told us yesterday that my uncle probably wouldn't make it through the end of the month. After all, once he's back home, he'll simply not eat or drink much and essentially dehydrate and slowly starve to death.

So we went from hearing 2-3 months several days ago, to my uncle just lasting weeks. It's a lot for all of us to take in.

But after another long day visiting at the hospital, I was finally back home and decided to fix myself a late dinner.

The sun was setting as I plucked a few leaves of swiss chard from the garden to add to my side salad. I was so tired and drained by EVERYTHING that I forgot to rinse off the greens! So there ended up being dirt in my salad but I ate it anyway. That's the least of my worries right now.

Now we have to decide does my uncle die at a hospice facility or at home. He's going to want to go back home. I'm just not sure if my aunt and I can properly take care of him even with the help of a visiting hospice nurse.


Anonymous said...

Im so sorry...I was faced with much the same thing with my is never easy...I am sending hugs and prayers your way.

AndyDrewby said...

SO sorry about your uncle.

stanw said...

Dear Dean,

This must be hard to watch and hear, seeing someone deteriorate right before your eyes. Be comforted that you have took good care of him and your Aunt. Be thinking of you in the coming days, stay strong. You are such a good guy, the best.


GayHermit said...

Two positive thoughts first. Like your new red shirt photo. Sending you lots of thoughts of love, strength and hope.

I am so sorry that you and your family have to go through the terminal illness process. It really sucks. (My father had a serious heart condition and lived with it for seven years or so. Terminal illness process. Been there. Done that.) {Sad sarcastic smirk emoticon goes here.} As difficult as it is going to be, please remember to take care of yourself and your Aunt. I believe that you have the strength to get through this, so please keep that in mind.
(Keep up with the counseling, if you can. Some of the emotional issues that you run into with the terminal illness process run counter to conventional thought and can be difficult to express in mainstream situations.)
{Trying not to be my typical blunt, brutally honest self here, so this may seem vague and nebulous.}
{If you do want more detail, let me know and we'll figure out a way to communicate.}

I did have an unconventional thought regarding honoring your uncle. This thought would have to be acted upon soon as it requires your Uncle's participation.
The idea, (depending on your family and his friends sense of humor,) is to have a roast of your Uncle and his life (similar to what they do on Comedy Central). Doesn't have to be formal or anything. Just a get together to remember, honor and laugh while he is still here to enjoy it. (Just wanted to post the idea in case it might be helpful in any way.)

[Guess you may be suprised at just how different a person your blog has attracted.] {Repeat of sad sarcastic smirk emoticon.}

Also, expressing your emotions, whatever they are, does not make you less or weak in any way. It just makes you human. Express them as best you can now so that they don't screw things up later.

(Pausing to write note to self to take own advice more often.) ;)

I hope this at least makes you smirk with a little humor and doesn't make things any worse. (If it does make things worse, I truly apologize for it.) Just wanted to let you know that you and your family and friends are in my thoughts.


Joey said...

Dean -

You know I have got you all in my thoughts and prayers. Wish I could be close by to offer a shoulder to cry on, a kind word of wisdom, or a hug to offer you.

I will be here for you if you need to talk.

Take care,

ricola said...

Quite sorry to hear this . I lost my Gran in a similar situation and it is not an easy thing to deal with.

Dean Grey said...


I know you understand better than anyone.



Thank you!



It's very hard watching him get sicker and be in a lot of pain. Right now we're just trying to keep him comfortable.


Gay Hermit!

Thanks for the thoughtful reply!

Family members have already been joking with him when we can. That's about as close to a roast as we'll get at this point. He's just too tired to carry on a conversation for more than five minutes.

And you can e-mail me anytime! My contact info can be found by clicking on the blog profile link.



You're so sweet, Joey!



I'm sorry to hear about your grandma.


All of your supportive comments are greatly appreciated!


naturgesetz said...

Dean, this is truly sad. When the hope of recovery no longer exists, it gives a whole new feeling to things. And when the probable time remaining is so short, I'm sure you already begin to grieve. But you will always be satisfied that you did what you could for him. I'm sure you have been a great comfort to him and your aunt. May your uncle's final days be as comfortable as possible, and may he pass peacefully to eternal life whenever his time comes. And may God reward you for your goodness.

You eat swiss chard in salad? I always cook it. Do you cut the central ribs out?

Winter said...

hey dean, sorry to hear about your uncle. what you are going through now kinda reminds me of the time before my grandma past away, she's suffering from cancer at multiple major organs and was hospitalised for a long period of time. i think your uncle is ready to depart but your aunt isn't so perhaps it's better to get mentally prepared when he does leave. take care and hugs!

suzanneberry said...

Dear Dean,

Your family is a strong one. You are all being very brave and giving, including your uncle. I cannot express my feelings very well at times like this, so I'll just say how very sorry I am for the pain you are all experiencing. I wish your uncle a gentle sleep and both your aunt and yourself a healing love to guide you.

Mike said...


Mona Diane Conner said...

Very tough news Dean. You are helping so much just by being there. Keeping your family in my prayers.

Mind Of Mine said...

I would never be as presumptious as to say I know how you feel.

I am just sorry that you have to go through this.


bK said...

Ouch! I'm so sorry about your uncle and what your family and yourself are going through. I totally feel for you. As always, you're such an awesome guy.

Paul Benjamin said...

Sorry to hear this. Hang in there, buddy. I realize it's a very tough decision.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dean,
I celebrate your uncle's life. Your descriptions paint him as a special man. Sorry for his painful illness.

As much as you can, hope you can honor his wishes.
Prayers and great strength to you, your aunt and uncle.
"Expiration Date"...what a sense of humor!!!

In between the tears, remember all the good times.

jason said...

I'm praying for him and you all.

Dean Grey said...


Yes, we are already starting to grieve even though he's still alive.

I put swiss chard on my sandwiches as well as adding it to salads. It's a nice change from using lettuce all the time (the ribs are removed!).



You're right! My uncle knows he's going to die but my aunt just isn't ready for him to go yet.



I hope he can have a gentle sleep (and passing) too.



I appreciate the hug! I could use them right now!



I'm doing what I can to help.


Mind of Mine!

Ian, it's hard on all of us right now.



You're an awesome guy yourself!



I'm hanging in there the best I can!


Alex (Anonymous)!

Yeah, my uncle was always one to joke with everybody. All the nurses were sad to see him leave the hospital.



Your prayers are very much appreciated!


Thanks to everyone for the kind words!


Mr. Bluehaunt said...

sending positive thoughts your way...

Dean Grey said...

Mr. Bluehaunt!

I appreciate that!


Mind Of Mine said...

This may be totally inappropiate, but I can't help but think that recent events in my family are because I tested faith.....

Dean Grey said...

Mind of Mine!

Don't think that way, Ian!

All things happen for a reason. Good or bad. I don't think it's anything you did or didn't do.

The recent events in your family may certainly test your faith but I don't think they're happening because you challenged it.


Kelley Carey MacDonald said...

Hospice is the answer, as you now know. And they will be more honest with you and your uncle than the doctor, no matter how well meaning she is. I knew when you described how he was sleeping all the time and was not wanting to eat... less than 2 weeks. My mom was exactly the same. 2 weeks before she passed she insisted on visiting the doctor, to have him explain why her eyes wouldn't stay open all the way, why she was sleeping the day away and why she had no desire for food. He said it was temporary, that she'd rally, and have some good time before she passed. TWO days later she started 'sleeping all the time' (a light coma) and a week later lost the ability to swallow. The hospice people were very honest and kind and helped us deal with the reality.

Dean Grey said...


After all was said and done, I think we made the right choice (as you pointed out).

I just don't think my aunt and I could've properly cared for my uncle at home especially when he was so weak at that point.

The hospice facility allowed us time away from being a caretaker 24/7, which in and of itself was a blessing.


Unknown said...

I relived 1997 with this post. I was still married. My mother-in-law was in a wing of a hospital that was transitional among hospice and home care. My father-in-law and brother-in-law kept begging her to get better so she could come home, even though she was unconscious.

My wife and sister-in-law could not take it anymore and asked to speak with the doctor. He confirmed that my mother-in-law would not get better unless there was some miracle. They decided my wife should be the one to tell her dad and brother that they needed to let my mother-in-law go. They could not do that.

My wife, son, and I had to leave for the ninety minute drive back to our home. As we walked in the front door our phone rang. It was my father-in-law saying he had just given the permission to remove the feeding tube. The doctor estimated she had three to five days remaining based on the level of nutrients in her body.

We turned around and drove the ninety minutes back to the hospital so we could say a final goodbye, even though she was unconscious. We got back home around 2:00 a.m. and tried to sleep a few hours before the start of another work and school week.

She passed away six days later. She was the most Christ-like person I ever knew.

Dean Grey said...


Death is never easy for the actual person or the ones left behind, but at least your mother-in-law is at peace now.