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Balancing Life and Death

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

As some of you may know, Nov 2012 my sister was diagnosed with Small Cell Lung Cancer and given a very poor prognosis. This changed many things for her and her adult girls and for me and my family. We became the primary supports for Debi and her daughters. Gramie and I and our daughter Rose became the doers when things needed to be done. Debi when through Chemo and initially things improved some.

The initial scan following her first Chemo showed great improvement, however, while this was expected it was clear to me that this would be short lived. The Oncologist had said that if she responded well we would see some quick improvement and Debi should feel better until the Cancer returned. He said when it returned we would see what we could do then. His voice tone and body language implied there would not be much we could do.

Debi had a good Christmas and she and the girls had largely allowed themselves to believe that the Chemo was a cure. This lasted until the doctor’s note supporting her application for disability indicated that Debi would never return to work. At this point it was almost like getting the original diagnosis again. I noted to Gramie that the illusion got them through Christmas without much concern about the disease.

Debi complete her Chemo and we had a party to celebrate on Feb 10 2013. This was organized by Debi and the girls and turned out to be a very good thing.

Debi had quite a lot of pain and we took her into the hospital Mar 3 2013 the scan showed the Cancer had spread into her spine and resulted in a spinal fracture and had also continued to develop in her kidneys the Liver still looked good, but the liver functioning turned out to be way off. She was sent home but returned Wed night and was admitted. By Thursday night her condition had worsened and we were informed she might not make it through the night. By and large, they have been able to keep her comfortable but, she has become progressively less responsive, often not showing any awareness of our presence nor response to our voice or touch.

I have shifted my focus to organizing the many things that need to be organized to settle her estate. While she was well enough I did relaxation and pain management work with her. This helped or at least appeared to. I do believe it made her most difficult time somewhat easier. She has not died, but has left us. We go in and sit with her, read to her, talk to her, sing at her and so on, day by day the little responses we got last week have become less and less.

Yesterday afternoon I spent making final arrangements and organizing money to deal with bridging from the time she dies until the house can be sorted out and sold. We plan to have a break after she dies and do a scattering of her ashes in the summer at lake where we spent our summers as kids, this was one of the place she like best and one of the happiest times of her life. Debi was the keeper of my grandparents ashes and it seem appropriate that we will also cast their ashes with hers (they had a cottage on the same lake for many years).

Gramie and I have continued to focus taking care of ourselves. I have mostly maintained my Taiji and Qigong, but have not documented here at sparks in the Tai Chi team goals. One has to balance the time available and the many things that have to be done.

We are coming to the end of this phase. Sometime in the near future I will get a call from the hospital informing me that Deborah Doris McCaffrey passed out of this life. I will call the cremation service and they will manage the necessary details. I will inform my sibling and Debi’s daughters and we will deal with the fact that Debi has passed out of this life.

We mostly feel like we have accepted the fact, Debi is no longer able to respond in ways that we can detect, however, I know that when she actually dies, this fact will be different, and will make a difference. It is not easy to know how each of us will respond to the lost which is Debi can not respond to us, and the lost that Debi is no longer available to us physically.

This is all part of the cycle of living and dying. It is a reminder to me to live each day, to say and do the things you want to say and do, and do not put things off.

Edited at 8;20

Today at 3:30 p.m Deborah Doris McCaffrey died quietly with her daughter reading to her.

The cycle has completed for her.

Let the Chi Flow. May she rest in peace and find a place in the kingdom of God.

Edited Mar 20 2:53 p.m.

I had to share that Merrisa was reading a book given to her by her mom. Her mom was given the book by Alethia Debi's oldest daughter and Merrisa's big sister. Something very comforting in that .

Edited Mar 29 8;00 p.m. I have posted another blog that outlines some of the things I was able to do to help Debi be more comfortable this may be of some interested to some of you.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I'm very sorry. At least she knew she was loved.
    1695 days ago
    I hope things have progressed smoothly since your sister's passing. Thank you for posting this blog. We lost my sister-in-law to Small Cell lung cancer 5 years ago and it brought back many memories of the our last year together.
    1746 days ago
    so sorry for your loss lost my only sibling to stomach cancer 4 years back cant get over her loss prayers & hugs for the family
    1768 days ago
  • 223DAISY
    Beautiful and inspiring... I lost my mother to cancer two years ago this past December. I spent the last two months of her life preparing, planning and enjoying our moments together. I'm still dealing with the pain of her being gone but your story brings me peace.

    Thanks for sharing
    1781 days ago
    So sorry to hear of your loss.
    1781 days ago
    Sorry for your loss. I lost my Grandmother to brain cancer.
    1808 days ago
  • TREE57
    My condolences to you and your family. You are a dear brother and wonderful to step up and take care of things, to keep a level head and to let your sister know how much you and the family loved her during her final days upon this earth.

    1808 days ago
    So sorry for your loss. She knew she was loved, and passed with that knowledge intact. God bless you. and your family.
    1817 days ago
    1818 days ago
  • KITTY43351
    My condolences to you and your family. I'm sure your memories of your sister will help you through this difficult time.
    1818 days ago
    I'm so sorry for your family's loss. I have a close friend who has been battling cancer for 2 years - she is fortunate to be in a clinical study which has extended her life, but the prognosis is not good. Reading your post has helped me come to terms (to an extent) with this situation. I am so sorry your sister has passed, but I thank you for posting.
    1818 days ago
    I am so sorry for your family's loss.
    1820 days ago
    I am so sorry. I will keep you all in my prayers.
    1822 days ago
    This blog literally takes my breath away as I anticipate going through this with my own very dear husband at some point. It scares me so much and makes me so very sad. Condolences to your whole family from someone who truly shares your pain.
    1822 days ago
  • SANDIK9806
    My friend, as I sit and type this with tears streaming down my face, know that you are in my thoughts and that your beautifully written blog means a lot. We are dealing with my mother in law nearing the end stages of her battle with cancer and, like you, are very aware of what is coming and are taking steps to make the transition easier.

    Many condolences.
    1823 days ago
    My condolences to you and your family. emoticon
    1823 days ago
  • KATHLEEN0222
    I hope everyone can be at peace, knowing Debi finally is. Thoughts and prayers go out to you and the family.
    1823 days ago
    What a beautiful blog and my sympathies to you and your family. To be able to spend that time with a loved one is one of life's greatest gifts. Cancer is a very ugly disease and having lost both of my parents to very rare forms of cancer I well know the pain.
    1823 days ago
    As an Emergency nurse I see pain and suffering every single day...I am always awed by families like yours that rally around the sick or dying person in such a beautiful way.....I am so sorry for your loss but I hope that people that are reading this they will find a way to do this for THEIR loved ones when the time comes....God bless you and your family!
    1824 days ago
    I'm crying reading your blog. I. So sorry for your are a great brother taking care of everything that to have.

    Big hugs to you and your family!

    1824 days ago
    Thank you for your beautiful blog. What a gift you were to your sister. I lost my identical twin sister a year ago on March 5th. My brother-in-law, her husband of 50 years took such good care of her as she was dying. I was in rehab from a broken hip then total hip surgery 4 months later so I could go to Texas to be with her. My 85 yrs. old sister & niece & I planned a trip to go visit her on Friday but she died on Monday before we got there. We were able to be there for the funeral & support her husband, kids & their families. It is really hard to lose your sibling.
    God bless you as your go thru your grieving process.
    1824 days ago
    My condolences to you and your family and friends.

    I am fairly active on another "social media" site, but there is nowhere near as much sharing of the everyday things of life (births, deaths, serious illnesses, marriages, divorces, or any of the other major and minor bits of life that happen).

    In discussions with friends who are active on other sites, none have indicated that the other members care for or support some one who is brave enough to share. It's almost like they are embarrassed one of the members has even mentioned something so intimate.

    It sounds as if you have found a way in your life to remember the happier times, but don't forget that you to need to go through all the stages of grief, also.

    May God Bless your sister, you, your family and friends.

    1824 days ago
    I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like you and your family are very close and very strong and supportive of each other. May God keep you in his arms and give you peace and comfort.

    1824 days ago
    May God's peace be with you and your family. I now you were a blessing to Debi and will continue to be a blessing to her family. Gentle hugs. LindaLee
    1825 days ago
  • MILLIE5522
    I am so sorry for your loss. May you and your family find peace emoticon
    1825 days ago
  • FISHER011
    Peace be with you & your family...I'm sorry for your loss. You are a blessing...I felt your heartfelt caring & compassion in your blog...I pray that you have comfort knowing your sister is no longer in pain & is with our Lord & Savior.
    1825 days ago
    So very sorry to hear of your family's loss. Praying for you all during this difficult time.
    1825 days ago
    So sorry to hear that your sister has passed on. My prayers for her daughters, you and the rest of the family.

    1825 days ago
  • JRM54100
    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
    I'm so sorry for your loss.
    1825 days ago
  • LESLIE2561
    My prayers go out for you and your family. I lost my Father to cancer 5 months ago and my Mother to cancer 28 months ago, which is one of the reasons I'm here on Sparkpeople trying to get as healthy as possible. I know being healthy is no guarantee that I won't get cancer, but at least I will know that I did everything I could to prevent it. I'm glad your sister's last hours were relatively pain free. My Mother's last 24 hours were unbearably painful for both her and myself since I had to watch her go through it and wasn't able to do anything to help. emoticon
    1825 days ago
    I am so sorry. I lost my only brother 7 years ago. It has gotten easier, but there is still an emptiness. God bless you and the family. The cycle of life is complete for her, and the rest of us remain to complete ours.
    1825 days ago
    All our thoughts and prayers to you and your family. Also, thank you for sharing. You can't imagine how much you help others, going through similar situations, by sharing your story. And it may help you with coping, as well, by sharing. emoticon
    1825 days ago
  • CARM1401
    So sorry for your loss and that all your loved ones find comfort and peace.
    1825 days ago
  • DOTTY7267
    My condolences to you and your family in the loss of your sister.
    1825 days ago
  • AMBER461
    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. May you find comfort in knowing that God only takes the best. And you are going to miss her but it is better for you, her daughter and your family not having to see her in that unconcious situation for too long. I also loss my sister last June so I can be in simpathy with you, you are a loving and caring bother. May the angels guard you for the rest of your life.

    1825 days ago
    My sincere sympathy to you and your family. You were the best brother anyone could have. I am very impressed with your love and devotion to her. You are an inspiration to me. I just hope that I can be as caring and compassionate as you have been when I encounter the same.
    Peace be with you! emoticon
    1825 days ago
    May the love of family and friends give you comfort.

    May the love of God give you peace.

    1826 days ago
    I am so sorry.

    1826 days ago
    I am so sorry for your loss......cancer is hideous.....I am sorry that your family had to endure this pain.....
    1826 days ago
    May you find peace and comfort in the knowledge that your sister is at peace and has made her journey here complete. She will never leave your side. Her memories are yours. May God surround your and your family with love and compassion at this time. emoticon
    1826 days ago
    1826 days ago
    I have a dear friend with cancer. It is such a dreadful disease that affects soooooooooooooooo many. May you find some peace of knowing even those who do not know you, care.
    1826 days ago
    Dealing with the loss of one who is precious to us is a very personal, difficult time. Thank you for letting us in to share this time with you. Blessings to you and your family.
    1826 days ago
    I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. Thoughts and prayers for you and your family as you deal with your grief! (((HUGS)))
    1826 days ago
    My sympathy to you and your family. Wishing you peace.
    1826 days ago
    You are all blessed to have been able to take the time to spend with Debi and make her last days peaceful. She was a lucky woman. My condolences to your entire family.
    It is always a reminder how short live is when a loved one leaves this earth. My losses have prompted me to better myself. emoticon
    1826 days ago
  • AJB121299
    Sorry for your loss. May you bbe comforted by loved ones
    1826 days ago
    I just lost my mom in January. We went through much the same process. Mom entered hospice by her own choice and passed away four days later. No cancer, it was heart and kidney diseases. but very gradual losses over a couple of years: no more driving, then no more visits to our house (steps), then loss of hearing and vision (especially difficult since Mom was an artist), then loss of movement (severe and painful arthritis), then difficulty talking. Mom said life wasn't fun any more and opted to end it. We supported her all the way through this. She was 90 and for that reason we were much better able to accept her passing, but I think when it's your sister, it has got to be so much more difficult for everyone. I am so sorry for your loss, PapaMikie.
    1826 days ago
    As I read your message my heart aches for you and your family. I tell my close friends all the time that I often miss being a child when life is so carefree. It is difficult being an adult and facing things like this. I am sending prayers up for you and sending hugs and love your way. It is so beautiful that your family has had this time with her. Love and Blessings you.
    1826 days ago
  • JERICHO1991
    I hope writing this blog helped with healing your pain from loss. My mother just died Jan. 29th. I took care of her in my home since Feb. 2008. You correctly identified life as a circle. I found it comforting for me to be able to provide comfort to her during her final days.
    1826 days ago
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