Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Bit Of A Downer

Practicality paid off again this week.

My grandfather, well into his eighties, was diagnosed with liver cancer about a month ago. The doctor told him he could hope for a year. More practically, my father and I estimated no more than a few months.

For reasons far too complicated to enumerate here, this is a difficult death. I’ve dealt with a lot of death and most of it has been difficult in it’s own ways but this, in particular will be hard. Not because my father is losing his father or because I am losing my first grandparent, having grown up with not only two complete sets but also two great grandmother’s as well – it’s complicated because, for my father’s relatively small side of the family, there are a lot of rifts and divisions. For the most part, the only reason we’ve stayed in touch has been my grandfather. Knowing that his lifestyle would catch up with him eventually, we’ve hung closer than we would have liked to my grandmother, my aunt…. People that, for the most part, we would all rather be rid of than anything else.

Yesterday, my dad called to bring me up to speed with the most recent medical developments. The doctor that gave him a year took him off of the chemo and installed a shunt to allow for more rapid and less painful drainage of the abdominal fluids that accumulate when your liver has failed. Now the prognosis is down to three months, if he’s lucky.

I wasn’t surprised. For his part, I think my father knew it was coming as well. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck – no matter how much you know something is coming, you can still hope for the best and certainly our hopes were dashed but at least we were already prepared. From the sounds of it, my aunt wasn’t. She seemed to think that he would be fine. She got him an appointment with The Cancer Treatment Centers of America and thought that they would work miracles. Now they won’t even see him. She’s devastated.

As for my grandfather? We’re not sure if it’s the anesthetic or the pain killers or the mad-cow, but he’s floating in and out of lucidity and, at this point, we’re not sure if he knows he’s dying or not. We’re not even certain he knows they’ve taken him off of the chemo. We are sure that, given my particular families particular dose of crazy, he can’t go home so we’re forced to find a hospice facility will take him. In my experience, taking people out of their homes is the fastest way to kill their spirits and that makes me sad, particularly in light of the fact that he doesn’t have any real grip on what’s happening.

At the end of the day this experience is reminding me how being honest with yourself about the outcome can keep you from being hurt, but it’s also reminded me that I’m not who I am because I have a negative outlook on life, I am who I’ve become because reality has necessitated it.

It may bum people out, but at least I’m honest.

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