tonight

October 22, 2012 at 2:30 am (dying, family, how does it feel to die, moving forward, shackelford ponies, the dr. says) (, , )

has been a tough night.  for some reason my feelings have been as they say “on my sleeve.”  we did watch a movie that turned out to be a bit more sad than we expected.  i noticed the tears and took his hand, it seemed better to let him have his moment and take my cue from him.  we spent the next couple of hours just relaxing.  when he was ready to go to bed he asked “how are you?”  my response to this question has become so automatic with barely any thought, “i’m fine.”  a beat or two go by and then “if being exhausted and in pain all the time is fine.”  what came next made me walk away. “i should stop asking.”  it wasn’t his intent to sound like he didn’t care, i know that.  this was my first clue that i was being overly sensitive.

next i was looking at facebook, which i still don’t know why i am on, and saw some pics that had been posted.  this isn’t the first time i have felt a bit sad when looking at pictures being posted.  facebook has been a great way to keep up with my friends and loved ones, it has made bad days bearable.  seeing the family photos, fun in the sun, and of course the adorable babies (furries included).  tonight seeing all the love and fun that i am not a part of anymore was like ice water and a white hot knife all at once.  to realize that these are people i thought would always be a part of my life and now i question if they ever were.

what is my part in this?  whenever patients would talk about problems with other people, whether it was work, friends or family; my question was “what part do you think you played in this?”  if you can say, honestly, that you did everything possible then move forward.  if all my friends had moved on it would be obvious that the ball is in my court.  that is not the case here.

many people with long-term illness or long-term terminal illness relate to what is happening in my life.  in other blogs it is a familiar story.  from spouses to parents, the question is why. why do these people stop making the effort? the caretakers want to understand and know what they can do. sadly there is nothing the caretaker or even the person who is ill can do.

tomorrow i will have my feelings under better control. tomorrow i will be fine. i will leave it as fine and not be whiny.  tomorrow my sister will be here.  this time next week we will be on our way to the coast.  it may be time to evaluate if facebook is a good thing for me.  if you have people or  things  in your life that are not making you happy maybe it is time to ask yourself the hard questions.  what does it say about them? why would i even care about being friends with someone who is so shallow? who drops a friend because they can’t be as entertaining or spend as much time running around?  i want to spend my last days with people whom i respect and know what they are made of and where i stand with them.

tonight is now early morning and my sister is coming today.  next sunday we leave for the coast.  we will laze at the beach, watch the wild ponies, visit the lighthouse or just be together at the beach.

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ebbing tide

October 10, 2012 at 11:12 pm (choice, death with dignity, dying, end stage congestive heart failure, heart failure and exhaustion, how does it feel to die, living with dying, moving forward, shackelford ponies, the dr. says) (, , , , , , , )

for a few weeks now it has been more and more obvious that this adventure is progressing.  there are some things that people can sympathize with but not having experienced them that is as far as it goes.  the constant pain is one of those things, the exhaustion is another.  when with other people i can easily be left behind.  it is so annoying that i move at a crawl, if i try to go faster i start coughing and have trouble breathing.  going faster is just not an option.  other people don’t think  about slowing down until they realize i am not there beside them. that happened today, he is taller and a great walker.  he can walk as fast as most people jog.  there we were with him almost out the restaurant door while i was still not quite in the lobby.  those moments are perfect pictures of what is happening.

as others continue to move ahead and therefore away, the days ahead are illustrated.  some days while sitting in the recliner, though my love is at my side, i am aware of feeling the life going out like the tide.  it is a gentle ebb and flow, it is the life light flowing from my being.  the tide has been a slow one but make no mistake the tide is going out.  we are going to the seashore in a couple of weeks.  my hopes are high for this trip.  my love of the ocean pulls me and it is a blessing to be able to go.  my energy level is almost non-existent yet my will is strong and i am counting on this will to get me there and to afford me the joy i believe awaits.

in the past i have been able to see myself at the next event or holiday. now things are a bit foggier.  the time to make some choices is closer.  of this i am sure and feel no doubt.  i will not let my husband suffer more than i feel i can bear.  my family is my greatest love and i have a great life.  when the time comes  to go i will pack lightly and will not worry about security checks not allowing more than 3 oz of fluid!

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Decisions to make when dying

January 16, 2012 at 8:05 pm (choice, death, dying, end stage, hope, how does it feel to die, moving forward) (, , , , , , , )

decisions to make when you are dying are somewhat different from the ones being made every day by healthier people.  some are exactly the same of course, what to eat, where to go, what to read ….  our lives are made of all our decisions great and small whether they were the best or not.  in general it is my pleasure to say decisions made by me have been the best to my ability at the time.  putting decisions in perspective is a gift we can give to our selves and others.  it is not your mother’s fault if you made a poor decision at 30.  too often people fall back on how it was in the day.  who screwed them up and how it is not their fault as the teacher in 3rd grade broke their spirit.  not that our past does not have a huge impact on who we become, that is a valid point to be made.  however, it is in our own best interest to say that was then and this is now.  no one is making my day-to-day decisions for me unless given the power to do so. 

we have the ability to choose peace of mind and heart.  my heart is at peace by choice.  recently I have read a lot about how someone dying is supposed to be feeling. of course these are not written by someone actually dying.  there are some common physical symptoms as we reach closer to the bear (death).  food is not as important since the body is shutting down and we are not as active.  other physiological changes are beyond our choice.  the level of energy experienced is diminished naturally, a lot of focus goes into just breathing.  for the last few months I feel myself going through some changes physically, they are markers of the disease and quite expected.  when you enter end stage it is crossing a threshold(doorway) that you will not be leaving.  it is not a bad place to be and if you are psychologically ready it can be recognized for what it is and even appreciated.  knowing where you are going is somehow comforting.  at this point I know where I am in my progress.  what comes now is the mystery.  so I am going to keep writing as long as I can.  this is part of my legacy to others.  this is how it felt for me to die. 

so far, even with the fatigue, my life is better than I could have ever imagined 20 yrs ago.  in May it will be 20 yrs since I first laid eyes on the man who would become my best friend, my love and my husband.  as a more practical person the whole idea of love at first sight seemed romantic fantasy.  today I would tell you it happens.  the thought that was mine at that moment was, if I can spend even one day with that man my life will be better.  there is no reason why I would think that except for love at first sight. 

for the past few days I have been working on a project to make a difference for him later.  it is another decision that to some is insignificant and maybe it really is.  there are still things of mine that can be let go to make sure his things are all around him.  he is comforted by his things.  one of the reasons I love him is his love of books and we have more than most would think reasonable but this is our home and our choice.  the room we use as an office has both of our desks and our guest room has been crowded with books on the floor.  my decision has been to move my desk out of here, give him a large bookcase that has been for my use and in general try to arrange things so when I am not here he can come in here and feel comfortable.  knowing how he is my stuff would be still sitting here yrs after I am gone. yesterday he did make the remark he did not understand why I would want to give my desk away when I use it.  as I gave one reason or excuse after another, seeing he wasn’t convinced, I stated it directly.  my desk is just a desk, yours is a special piece passed down by your mother, it makes no sense to get rid of yours.  he of course made the offer to do something with his so I had to be frank and get him to admit when I am gone he is going to want his desk in there and not mine.  it makes sense to take care of this now.  one thing I know about him is when the time comes he may be paralyzed to the point of not being able to get rid of my things and I love that he would want to keep reminders. my concern is he won’t be able to let anything go and it will be too much for him.  he has shared with me his fear of not being able to go on without me.  many long talks later we both know that he is going to need time but he will go on without me.  he knows we both want him to continue to have a social life and to be the best father and grandfather he can be.

other decisions are going to be made over the next few weeks.  it has been 4 yrs of my 5 yrs to live.  all I can say is it has gone by quickly and been so great!  I am not giving up at all, that spark of hope lives on.  the hope is just changing. now my hope is to go peacefully in my sleep, my hope is  to make the event as easy on my loved ones as possible. my hope to live on in the memories of those I love.  so much hope and so much to be grateful for!!  tomorrow a friend will come to help move the desk, it is going to another friend and that makes me happy.  I hope she will like it as much as I have.  I hope she thinks of me and is inspired. 

it has been 4 good yrs and may be more to come, who knows for sure?  I will try to make the coming decisions to the best of my ability.

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Mourning for Christina Symanski: Better Off Dead?

December 14, 2011 at 2:15 am (assisted suicide, choice, coping, death, death with dignity, family, hope, how to die in oregon, life is random, moving forward, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

anyone watching “how to die in oregon” could come away with several thought-provoking ideas.  one that, in my opinion, was fundamental to the documentary is the choice/ability to change ones mind.  if you opt for assisted suicide or ending your life with “dignity” there will not be a chance for that very basic tenet.  until recently I have held firm that it is the right of the individual to make that decision for themselves.  in my mind there are qualifiers, you must be terminal, in your opinion( and not the opinion of others) your life has ceased to have meaning or dignity.  it is still my belief that one person can not understand the full gravity of another humans suffering….

that is until I became aware of Christina Symanski.  if you are upset easily with what may seem to some as a harsh interpretation then I ask that you not read further. if you do please keep in mind that it is one persons opinion, mine, and that is the only one I can voice here with real understanding and honesty.  initially the reaction to her decision was the standard not for me to judge. it is not my intention here to judge her as a human only the decision and what it was based upon.  she truly suffered, in the blink of an eye she made a rash decision and paid for it dearly.  in 2005 this young woman was at a party, she became frustrated that others were not going for a swim and so she dove into a pool that was not to capacity.  as a result her life as she knew it was ending, it could have been a beginning and for some that is what it would have been.  only another quad would be able to have more than a cursory knowledge of this way of life.  yes I said way of life, it was different from what  she had experienced so far. to some it would have been a change in lifestyle, to her it was the end of life as she knew it.  on a smaller scale my own experience took me from extremely athletic to sedentary.  this was not by choice and certainly took adjustment.  while not on the same scale it gives me a glimpse some may not have.

on the outside Christina appears to have so many reasons to value her life, yet she made the decision to end her most precious gift.  having a mother with a serious disability gave me a different understanding of how to cope with obstacles.  even now with numerous health problems and post-polio syndrome marie does not consider( to my knowledge) ending her life.   the question that seemed to repeat itself throughout her blog was why me?  it has been my choice to ask why not me?  the what if game can lead to crazy making thinking.  it is my belief we are where we are supposed to be at any given time so it would stand the what if does not have a place in my life.  certainly that does not preclude learning from mistakes.  there have been many along the road and I anticipate making many more.  it gave me a chuckle, and I hope I can be forgiven here, to read about a man with Parkinson’s who fell trying to something he wanted to do and yet most certainly knew it would not come out well in the end.  I laughed and laughed, not at him but at myself and how we give up such ideas only when faced with very real danger.  at times my physical being is so weak that I trip and fall quite easily.  last year while my husband was away it was my belief that I could go down the few stairs in front without holding on. what was I some invalid?  out I go and down I go, very hard it should be added.  over the front and into some hedges, as I lay thinking of my humiliation it occurred to me that the neighbors could not see me due to the hedge.  so taking my time I eventually made my way to a sitting position, drug myself to the stairs and in time back to the house.  a few days later, hubby still gone, it seemed reasonable to try again. of course I had learned my lesson and was prepared mentally if not physically.  was I none the wiser? well yes and no.  as I began to fall it occurred to me that the army training would be valuable about now.  so I looked to the side of the porch and pitched my body that way as it would be a softer landing.  it was farther down but it was softer.  the farther down part made it a bit more difficult to maneuver back to the porch, however being in one piece gave me spirit of heart.  until his return the garage became my exit and entry as it was easier and safer.  

 laughter seemed to be missing from her writing.  it is not that she didn’t experience laughter it just occurred to me it was absent in a way I can not explain.  although she was involved with good works, was able to continue as an artist and had time on her side, she must have been so sad.  not sad  in the common way we may feel sad but down in your heart and soul sad.    the kind too many are not able to recover from.  

this one time I will allow myself the what if question, what if this young woman had been able to wait, and our system of healthcare could have given her another option?  was she just destined to this end? that is one possibility, there is no hope in that answer. no hope is really what killed this young woman.  she will be remembered by many, for as many different reasons as there are people.  she will be remembered here in this house and her death has given me more  questions  than answers.  a life gone too soon. her choice.  I will respect it was her decision.  like every decision we make it will continue to affect others.  those that live are those that live with our decisions.

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waiting and wondering

June 1, 2011 at 10:35 pm (living, moving forward, waiting)

this morning I have been thinking about how much of our time is spent waiting for something or someone. in the army we lived by the phrase “hurry up and wait.” it was the norm to get up at pre-dawn hours just to wait for the word to come down through the ranks to move ahead. most of us understood this was what to expect and we would be prepared to wait. watching how some people dealt with this was one of the more interesting pass-times during our wait. now it is at the drs. office, after rushing to be 15 minutes early as directed, we sit and wait. some things never change! most people just read, watch t.v. or talk, but there are those who like my army days are not prepared for this wait. you can hear them complain a little too loudly or watch them go to the receptionist repeatedly wanting to know where they are on the list, as though they were waiting for a table at a restaurant.

this morning I am waiting to feel better. I can remember, barely, the days where I was ready to face the day and looked forward to whatever challenges lay ahead. now I wake up, wait for the nausea to pass and possible pain, then convince myself it is a good idea. I make my way to the recliner in our living room and sit and wait to catch my breath. I wait to feel together enough to have a conversation with my husband. we wait to see if I will be able to participate in any activity or will I be going back to lie down. after showering I wait again to get the strength to do whatever is next. I really don’t mind any of this since I know I might have a good 4 hrs coming my way. that is what makes it all worth the effort.

after my appt last friday I am now waiting for the ct scan this friday, then I will wait for my dr. to get the results and find out what is next. another way to look at this is I am looking forward to hearing some good news. as I wait and look forward to those few hours each day it is somehow different from just waiting for someone else to give the okay to move forward. I make that decision, it is up to me when I move forward and as soon as possible I do just that. moving ahead, getting on with my mission is more freedom than if I am waiting for someone or something else to let me move.

in the documentary I wrote about last time one woman talked about waiting to die. too many people are waiting to live, waiting for some reward in after life, I want to live now and wish others that they too could stop waiting and start looking forward to whatever brings meaning to their life. one way I cope with the waiting is to plan things to look forward to. they don’t have to be big things at all, even something here at home can be gratifying. this week I am looking forward to lunch with girlfriends, next week a visit from family in Charleston and the week after that my sister will be visiting for a week. I look forward to hearing the results of my scan, whether it is good news or not it will be more information and let us know what we have to look forward to.

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