Thank you all so very much for all of the support in the passing of my aunt. She was a wonderful woman and she is going to be dearly missed. I am so thankful that I was able to get up there in time to talk to her while she still knew I was there, and to help her be comfortable in her final days.
Those that have been following my blog for a while know that she has been battling uterine cancer for a while. She had a total hysterectomy early last spring for a non specific abnormality (my cousin doesn’t know what it was), then late last summer she had severe abd. A large mass was discovered on her abd. wall, biopsied and was cancer. Chemo x3 courses followed- the last being at Christmas The follow up tests showed that the treatments didn’t work, and that was when they gave the dreaded 3-6 months expiration date. (okay- I always have a bit of humor….even in darkk moments)
Friday before last I got the email from my cousin that my aunt took a turn for the worse, and she was refusing to go to the hospital- didn’t want life extending treatments. Just wanted to pass in comfort. My grandmother and father (her mom and dad) both had prolonged deaths, and it was hard on all the kids. My grandmother died at 40 of breast cancer and was in bed for weeks and weeks, and suffered a lot. My grandfather had “Bright’s Disease” and died in the early 60s. This was a nonspecific term encompassing all reasons resulting of Kidney Failure. He was sick for a while- as dialysis wasn’t around until shortly after he died. Both of these deaths left an emotional impression on all three sisters (my mom, and my two aunts)- they have a very strong will to not “hang around”.
I got the email in AM and immediately called my boss in panic at 6am to call out of work for the weekend- I was hysterical and she couldn’t understand me. She ended up sending me text messages b/c she couldn’t understand me. I called one of my friends and she said that she would work for me- so that was awesome, and I owe her BIG time! My boss was understanding on the surface- but honestly….not really. She didn’t try too hard to find someone to work for me (I called my friend directly to see if she would work for me), and text’d back to ask me to work until noon on saturday- I informed her that I found someone to work for me, and she text’d back “I wish I would have known”
Whatever. Family is family- I will gladly give up any job for that.
I had to drive 4.5 hours to get to my Aunt’s house- luckily it was a Saturday morning, and most of the traffic was going towards my home since it is spring break- so it was an easy drive.
My Aunt was aware when I got there and only taking ice chips. My cousins, brothers, mom took turns giving her ice chips and sitting by her side. She didn’t like to be alone- so we never left her side. We sat around told stories and laughed. We all spent time alone with her to talk to her.
I told her how she helped my mom and us kids from going hungry at times, my aunts helped pay our power bills when the power got cut off, they kept laughter in our life, and hugs were always mandatory.
As the only medical person in my family, I was unofficially in charge of her medical care. She was on hospice care, and they were able to get her morphine pump late that week. The hospital bed came the end of the week. They in home care was supposed to start on the day she passed away. Hospice never had a chance to get the diapers to the house- we were still having to pull regular Depends on her. I had the bright idea one time to tear the sides and try put on like a regular diaper and tape them together….LOL!!! yeah- the tape isn’t stong enough to hold that crazy elastic. 🙂
Late Saturday evening my sweet Aunt asked me “How much longer?” My heart just broke. I told her that I couldn’t say for sure- but if she was ready to go, it is okay. The body is strong- but her will is strong too….I also told her to not be scared of the morphine PCA. 🙂 From that point on that button was tightly grasped in her hand. Up until then she was very timid about hitting it. She was on a very very low dose- a basal rate 1mg and hour and 1 mg every 15 minutes via PCA. Anyways- she hit the button a few times after that and rested better. She was also very very worried that we would think she was gone, but she wouldn’t be. I promised her that I would make sure she was. I think the fact that I was a nurse helped calm her down and helped her pass with more peacefulness. She was a woman of STRONG faith, but even with that- she was still scared of what could go wrong in this world.
FUNNY- The hospice nurse came in Sunday morning at around 7am- out of the blue. One cousin was getting ready for church, one eating breakfast, one watching TV, one sitting my aunt, and I was asleep (I had the night shift b/c I have insomnia anyways. LOL!). The nurse gave everyone funny looks, but walked on in. When she got into my aunt’s room she looked at my cousin( who was doing something mundane like folding clothes) she got a weird look on her face, and said “Well, she finally gave it up, huh?”
To this- my aunt ROLLED OVER and said “No- I am feeling just fine” (we have since realized this was her LAST FULL SENTENCE-which makes this even more funny)
The hospice nurse almost had a heart attack. My cousin is the only that witnessed it, and she said the nurse’s face went pale, she clutched at her chest, and was totally fish mouthed. LOL!!!
Apparently she had another patient with the same last name, and a name that was ONE letter off on the first name. One major difference though- she was black, and my aunt is white. 🙂 I guess in the last few months when this nurse was off, fill in nurses have come to the wrong house- and have given my aunt really strange looks b/c she was obviously not black. Too funny.
The nurse finally said “um, you didn’t call me this morning?” no “everything is okay” yes “ohmygodihavetogo” She realized that her OTHER patient had died..on the other side of town. ooops.
My aunt passed away Monday morning around 4am- (more on that in a minute) so when the hospice nurse came after we called- my cousin hugged her and said “You came to the right house this morning”
LOL!!!! I can only imagine what she thought Sunday when she first walked in and everyone was just “business as usual” when she thought our aunt was dead. HA HA HA. At least on Monday AM we were crying. 😉
Okay- here is the last thing. My aunt didn’t want to be alone- so we all took turns staying awake and by her side. Sunday night we bathed her, got her smelling good, sheets changed, and got her turned and positioned in a great side lying position with lots of pillows on her pressure points. (yeah for my Neuro ICU time!!) At this point she did little more than smile and raise and furrow her eyebrows, and squeeze our hands- but I am sure she heard every word we said. We stayed up until around 2:30am talking, laughing, joking, etc. Two cousins took their shifts. Two cousins decided to go to their own houses for the night (they had been staying at my aunt’s house) to wash clothes, pay bills, etc.
So- at around 4am….one cousin that was at home woke up feeling something amiss. She felt a presence….another cousin’s husband (who had been staying at the house also) was on his way to work at the same time and there was some crazy random rain shower and flash of light….the two cousins that were in the room with my aunt fell asleep. One fell asleep sitting straight up with a glass of water in her hand…..another smaller cousin woke up and thought he saw a “boogey man” at the foot of his bed- he said something was just standing there and he screamed waking up his mom….who woke up and thought SHE saw something and got freaked out.
Okay- understand all the people in the above that saw stuff DIDN’T know my Aunt had passed at that time. My cousins at the bedside fell asleep for maybe a few minutes and during that time my aunt died. I think something (??) eased my bedside cousins into sleep b/c my aunt didn’t want them to her take her last breath. Then I think she went and checked on the people who weren’t in the house with her before she left the earth all the way.
My bedside cousin came and got me b/c they didn’t see my aunt breathing and they wanted me to confirm it. I immediately grabbed my glasses on the bedside table and made my way down the stairs into her room- and I asked my cousin for a watch with a second hand (um- okay, like I couldn’t just LOOK and see if she was breathing… but work with me- I was working on 2 hours sleep for three days in a row!!) I got to the room and tried my damnedest, but I couldn’t focus on her chest to see if there was a rise or fall!!! I kept blinking, etc.
Turns out I grabbed my cousin’s glasses and I was all blind as a bat. LOL!!!
This was when she passed. It was hard on my cousin that was at the bedside- but I helped her realize that my aunt would understand…and probably wanted her to go to sleep and not have the memory of seeing her Grandmother take her last breath.
The rest of the week was sad, but honestly good. I have reconnected with all of my cousins in a way that sadness and tough times only can. It SUX that it takes something like this to make you realize that. I also found out that my cousin (um, I know- LOTS of cousins, huh?) has been trying to get pregnant since October. 😦 I am praying hard for her- and I gave her my Clearblue Fertility Monitor Kit since I will never have to use it. It is worth a lot of money, and it is just sitting there….She wanted desperately to be able to tell her grandmother that she was pregnant before she passed-I wished she could have.
I wished my kids could have known her….I will keep her memory alive.
It was fitting that she was buried on St. Patty’s day…and the color for uterine cancer is a green color. I will wear green with pride in her memory. 🙂