Friday, November 2, 2012

Its that time again. From the heart.

Yup, that time where I  go off on a wild ramble that says a lot but amounts to nothing, kinda anyway.
I spoke to my aunt Joan's carer today, Chris, just to get an update on the situation with Joan's arm and shoulder. Last week when we spoke, the doctor was due to come out early this week to assess how the pain relief was working, and to see if the dose needed adjusting. Well the doctor decided that they were indeed having the desired effect, but a stronger dose would probably be better.

At this point I'm not sure what patches she is using, but do know the dose has risen from the initial 10mg to 25mg now, and as time goes on, use is returning to the arm. Not that Joan is willing to accept that they are working. In typical fashion she is a little against medication and modern medical practises, so she is standing her ground that its still causing a great deal of pain. HOWEVER.... Chris has noticed that Joan has returned to doing her crosswords, and is carrying out other functions which had previously become too painful to do.
So however you look at it, Joan is managing the pain and discomfort pretty well, hopefully its because the medication is taking it away. The doctor certainly feels this is the case.

Before my aunt was diagnosed with cancer I had never met her neighbour and now carer Chris. While visiting her to tell her mums secret of having breast cancer for a year back in 2008/2009, my aunt dropped her own bombshell by saying she too had found a lump, and just like mum she was reluctant to seek help for it. Feeling it was a foregone conclusion of what it was and how it would go, they both initially felt they would just go with the flow. Needless to say this was NOT to be the case.
After the diagnosis and speaking to Joan I heard that Chris, her long time trusted neighbour, had agreed to care for her in an official capacity.

The first time I visited after hearing this, I went to visit Chris and her husband who live just over the road from my aunt, and at this point I guess you can say we both formally interviewed each other, trying to make sense of the others intention in the situation. I think it is fair to say that by the end of it we had built a lot of trust and respect for each other, so we were in a happy place to move forwards in Joan's best interests.
As time has gone on, the conversations between myself and Chris have become increasingly open and blunt, discussing mortality, relatives, and care regularly and without holding back.

I received a call from Chris about a week ago, late one evening, and this is when I first learned of the current issues Joan is having with her shoulder. Chris has been great from day 1 keeping me up to date with appointments, and anything going on in Joan's life that she felt I should know about, including any changes in Joan's condition and moods. We spoke again tonight and she updated me on the situation with doctors comments and opinions, and how things were going. The doctor saying she still feels the pain is caused mainly by arthritis and a frozen shoulder, and not primarily a spread or progression of the cancer.

However she went on to say that Joan's appetite is slowly dropping away to nothing, and that she is losing a fair bit of weight now. Saying that I would notice a chance the next time I see her. This of course is not great news, but at the same time mum did go on and off her food from time to time, so it is in no way any sort of life force indicator that suggests the end is nigh or anything else so sinister.

So, all these facts, but no personal comments from me yet, strange or what, Well here goes.
I wont say its an easy thing. I do know what lays ahead, and if the truth be known I feel like after many childhood and adolescent years, I am finally getting to know my aunt. A long time in the making, and the timing kinda sucks really. But at the same time I am in a position both mentally and in life where I feel comfortable with the conversations we have. I feel educated enough to engage in long meaningful conversations, and we have fun. We laugh, we talk about serious matters, but most importantly we connect. I have spent hours with some people, days and weeks even at times, and really not clicked. However with Joan its just there. Not a family thing, just a level that we are both on.

I don't know how else to explain it, maybe its my mind playing trickery with me, and separating family and friendship to make the whole matter easier to work through. Either way, at this point in my life I feel like I have bonded with a great friend, and in doing so I have opened myself up for them. Whenever we spend time together I feel like I have brought her some strength and happiness, and leave her a little more revitalised than she was when I arrived. I know when I leave there, I certainly feel that way. Always with a smile, and always with a deep warm feeling in my heart. Am I ready to let that go, of course not. And I wish, just like with mum that I could do something to extend their time. The whole situation was the same with mum, visiting her at the hospital, hospice or home, I always felt that regardless of time spent there, 15 mins of 5 hours, it was always time well spent, and I felt I was doing not only what was morally right, but what was good for both parties too.

As it becomes more obvious that we are about to lose a loved one, as their time with us begins to fade, regardless of our relationship with the person, no matter how long we have known them, there are certain things that really make coping with a persons passing a little easier, for me at least.
When it was clear from what he was telling me that Graeme didnt have much time left, I made a point of visiting him, spending some quality time with him, and just relaxing. Letting both conversation and silence flow when it felt natural, and making sure that we both had the opportunities to say our peace. Not our goodbyes, that would be far too sombre, and would be accepting THE END.But instead allowing closure on certain aspects of our lives, and to make sure we share common grounds on our last page in life together.

The same was true with mum, having had quite a strange relationship with her for many years, and sometimes lacking a little respect. It was important for me to restore that respect, and make sure that she knew deep within her heart that I loved and respected her every day of my life, and that I was grateful for the gift of life she had given me. Now as another close loved one clocks up their last few miles, I have made it my mission to give back. For all the kindness she has given from so far away for so long now. Just like my other aunts, offering financial assistance where possible, and making sure we never went without, it is my turn to repay the gift, and to make sure I am there to support and assist her whenever and however I can.

In the next week or two I will take a trip up there, before there is any cause to, so to speak. I don't want my next visit to be because I have got word that she has declined, or is feeling worse in any way.  I guess in reality I cant actually control that, and that at some point before one of my visits, I will get a call that suggests  I go sooner rather than later. But if I can beat it this time around, that's one more time we won, and didn't allow life to dictate to us what our next action should be. 'We' as in me and Joan.

So, that's the starts of what's in my head right now. I would love for one more Xmas together with my aunt, in a condition where she can enjoy it, and who knows maybe even another birthday for her too. I won't go setting time scales here as no one knows what's around the corner. But I would be lying if I said its not reached the stage of playing on my mind, and appearing in my thoughts and dreams at night now. I really don't want that day to come, but know that when it does, she has been cared for in every way possible til the end. I also know that she is receiving the best possible care, and I am eternally grateful to Chris for all the long hours she puts in taking care of Joan, so sincerely, thank you Chris, from the bottom of my heart.

So I shall leave it there now, the dogs need feeding, my back is aching and my mind is dangerously close to getting moody.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. More will follow for sure.

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