Last night I heard from E. She was hospitalized with severe pain, which turned out to be an inoperable bowel obstruction. Her cancer has spread so far into her abdomen that it can't be removed. She hoped to be discharged to hospice at home today. E., you may recall, is something like a daughter and something like a sister to me. She is just 30, married with two young children.
I am overwhelmed at how she is handling her imminent death. She is making calls to gather her friends and family. Picture her lying on the hospital bed, her favorite Bluetooth earpiece glued to her ear, talking on her cell phone. People are coming in from all over to say goodbye. Whether she has a week or just a few days left, E. will be surrounded by people who love her and who she loves. And on top of all the visits she is writing special cards to give to her children on future significant moments she will miss (elementary school, high school, graduations, weddings, grandchildren).
Then there's L. from my support group. L. has been coming to group for about a year. She too has metastatic breast cancer and is maybe one year older than I am, has been living with mets one more year than I have. We've commiserated over her forced retirement from her beloved career, how to live on ongoing chemo for many years, planning her own funeral so that her partner won't have to guess what she wants.
L.'s brain mets took a turn for the worse last week and her oncologist sent her home to hospice, saying that he had nothing further in the way of treatment to offer her. Often when people get this news, they decide that it's time to stop struggling and relax to the inevitable. That's what L. has done. Between one week and the next, she grew progressively less and less responsive. When she wasn't at group on Tuesday, we knew something was wrong. Her partner tells me she coudl die any day. He's talking with her sister to make sure that they all follow L.'s wishes.
Theirs are 21st century deaths from cancer.