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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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