Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hospice Care for Grandfather

My grandfather finally got the results of the needle biopsy back yesterday: lung cancer. And yesterday finally got the tumors on his elbow/arm biopsied: metastasized lung cancer. He'd had x-rays, sono, all kinds of stuff, and had been told those additional tumors were just hematomas from sitting in his chair. I don't think so--his elbow had been double its normal size, and he doesn't sit that still. I think we've all known where this was headed when he started coughing up blood and had a spot on his lung. He's already developed a new spot on his head.

So he's been told he has about two months to live. He's been told he will have to move into a nursing home because of the care required, but none of us, not one, want that to happen and are trying to find out more information about getting hospice care at home. A lot can be done by all of us in shifts, though we can't administer IV medication when that time comes and stronger family members will have to help with restroom needs.

I don't like any of this and am in a probably immature "why do people have to die?" frame of mind. My dad disowned me when I was in college; he was so violent that I had to call the police and was afraid he would kill me. My grandparents acted as my parents for many years, and I feel very close to them. They gave me a lot of support, came to visit me in college and graduate school, gave me a lot of encouragement, invited me over for to visit them during the holidays when my own parents wouldn't, celebrated my birthday when no one else did, welcomed my daughter--on my grandmother's birthday, no less. I don't know what else to say except I am not sure how I would have continued living at times without their support.

I'm trying to shore up for what's to come. And realizing that I've got to keep things as normal as possible while balancing that with not shielding my children or making them afraid. My son has 2 grades that are 89's on his progress report, but I think that would have been higher without all the shuttling around after school and me being gone some in the evenings or weekends. This is quite a different problem from first grade, where he was failing classes. I had been tutoring him in math, and his average is now a 99 there. He's picked up violin this year too at school but it's hard to get him to practice when something is unfamiliar. At first the positioning and plucking were difficult but he practiced readily once he got that down; now he's working with the bow rather than just plucking. I think he's such a perfectionist he doesn't like mistake after mistake as he learns. It is neat to see him master this, though, getting better after 15 minutes of trying.

I am feeling sick at my stomach about the job issue. The interviews did not pan out, though it really looked like one would. He was told they would call back for one more interview, and that one had gone well--but they never did. Now there are very few jobs for him to apply to, though there was a wave of them about six to eight weeks ago.

I hope everything improves soon.


yanub said...

Oh, Frida, I am so sorry that your grandfather has such bad medical news, and was obviously the victim of bad medical practice before. It's that old story where the health concerns of the elderly and the disabled are dismissed as trivial because, after all, such lives can be of no importance. Except that your grandparents' rescue of you when you were on the cusp of adulthood and their continued support of you and your family throughout your life put the lie to any such prejudices. What wonderful people! How sad for the world that such a good, noble man will be gone forever within a few weeks! I hope that he receives at last the quality of care he should have received earlier so that, at least, he will be able to spend his last days passing the torch of his life to a new generation. I daresay your son will be a proud inheritor of your grandfather's concern for others, of his passion, of his generous spirit, of his strength.

How is Grace in all of this? She's more a young woman now than a little girl (that awkward age!). She must be feeling that there is something she should do, even though she doesn't have the life experience to step up yet.

Here's hoping that the job situation will improve. The Dallas area seems to be having a much worse time of it than further south in the state. But then, the Dallas economy was white-hot during the boom, so maybe it is relative.

FridaWrites said...

Thanks for your very kind words, Yanub--that means a lot. I think his COPD masked the lung cancer for a long time--which meant he's pretty end stage by the time they caught it.

Grace is OSM's and my scooter, but Bird (the nickname I've used here) is doing well with it, holding his hand. She was able to go back in ICU (she's old enough) and has taken it all in stride, though she cried a lot at first. She and I also made a blanket together for him and took it to the hospital--I think showing her comfort measures that she can do for someone helps a lot. She's also a strong person--I guess has learned to be with me. I'd meant to write about her reactions too last night but got sidetracked.

This morning I was told my aunt had misunderstood--that he has two weeks, not two months. He already has a new spot in his groin that shows it's attacked his lymph nodes (the nurse said).

Yes, I dunno, only that I'm encouraging him to apply everywhere. I think there are more job openings per capita in Austin, Denver, Seattle, some other major cities than here right now.

I feel like I'm on autopilot.

yanub said...

I can't believe I got your daughter's pseudonym mixed up with your scooter! I apologize for that. Bird sounds like she is stepping up beautifully. Of course, she has a great mom to show her how to handle these kinds of crises in the best way. Making a blanket is a great idea. You are very on-top of what needs to be done. It takes being expert to shift into auto-pilot. I hope you get to process your feelings during this time and not only be the emotional support for everyone else.

Two weeks? Oh, dear. Well, it does explain a lot. I'm glad that you all are still in the area so you can make proper farewells. And then, I hope you won't have to move too far away from your grandmother and aunts and uncles when that job finally does come through.

One Sick Mother said...


I am so sorry for all your family is going through right now. That is so very hard.

I don't have any sage advice, except to just take things task by task, (or hour by hour if need be) and let others carry you if you need it. My aunt died three months before my Dad, and I remember my uncle, whose own grief was so very fresh, was the rock on which I leaned (while everyone else leaned on me).

On the job front, they say to network and mine your connections. Online tools like LinkedIn and Facebook may help to put him in touch with a guy who knows a guy. Often jobs are not advertised in this type of economic climate, so it might be worth doing. Can't hurt!


FridaWrites said...

Thanks, yanub--I feel like I keep processing in small bits--like I'll start crying for a bit and then get distracted with something that needs to be done. Then I'll start crying at random times out of the blue.

Yes, I'm glad we're here for this right now. Two weeks is not long, heartbreakingly short.

OSM, I'm trying to be strong so much for others right now that it feels a bit alien to rely on someone else, though I think I'll need to.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry about your grandfather.

I wish I had helpful advice on the job front. But maybe remember that job hunting is always miserable, but it will eventually work out. I'm sure it feels like it's gone on forever already.
spotted elephant

FridaWrites said...

Thank you so much, bipolar view.

I do think something will come through with a job--just it's not as soon as my impatient self would like. :) Thanks for the encouragement.

e said...

Hi Frida,

I also had a grandfather who died from metasticized lung cancer; he received hospice care and the workers, nurses and volunteers were wonderful. I definately recommend that if you can get it, because that enabled all who could to spend time or plan visits. The time I spent with him at end of life is still precious to me.

I think you and your family will appreciate that, and not shielding your kids will give them a chance to see that providing comfort and time together outweigh the fear of illness.

Best of luck with the continued job search as well.

E AKA full tilt

FridaWrites said...

Thank you, Full Tilt. He is on hospice at home now and seems to like being there a lot. My son went straight in yesterday, sat down in the chair next to him, and held his hand for a long time; my daughter's done the same. While there's a lot they/we can't do for him (like completely take away the pain), I do like to show them what they can do that will help.

Thanks for the good wishes with the job situation--I really wish one of those he had interviewed for came through. Maybe another will soon.