I shared some family issues a few weeks ago and thought I’d give you an update.
I mentioned Jim’s surgery on the last Friday’s Fave Five, but in case you missed it, we got the pathology report back on his kidney, and the mass definitely was cancerous. The good news was that there is no sign of it in the lymph nodes or lymphatic system, so that is excellent, and he won’t have to have chemotherapy or radiation as they are not effective for this type of cancer anyway. We’re told that kidney cancer, if it spreads, usually goes to the liver, lungs, brain, or bone. His liver looked fine on the original CAT scan, and his chest x-ray was clear. He has an appointment with an oncologist this week to determine if he should have scans to see if everything is ok with bones and brain just to be sure. He has a follow-up appointment with the urologist who did the surgery at the end of the month, and if everything is ok on all those fronts, I think we’ll be able to close this chapter. He is still a little tender in the surgical area and can still get tired after a while. They say it usually takes about 6 weeks to completely recover from surgery.
I had written in the last “family news” that my mother-in-law was in the hospital and would have to be moved to a nursing home when she was released. She was in the hospital about a week. The building of the nursing home is a little depressing, but the people there are just excellent. We had had some problems with her care at her last assisted living place, and it is such a balm to know those taking care of her now have the same concerns we do and to see that they treat her gently and kindly. They have been doing physical and occupational therapy with her to see if they can help her regain some strength and muscle tone — we weren’t sure how much of what she lost had to do with the aging process and how much had to do with having been sick. However, it looks like she is not really regaining anything, so the different therapies will probably come to a stop soon.
Sadly, we have seen an even further decline in her condition. She had not been wanting to eat as much as usual over the last several weeks even before getting sick, except when she really, really liked something, like a couple of Mexican dishes we would have here at home. But since she was sick she doesn’t have much interest in food at all and is having trouble swallowing and speaking. They began pureeing her food so she could swallow it better, but of course that makes it even less appetizing. One day while I was chauffeuring Jim back and forth to see her after his surgery, he was helping her eat, and there were three blobs of brown food that all looked like various shades of refried beans. We looked on the menu for the day, and baked beans were listed, but the entree was hot dogs. Can you imagine pureed hot dogs? But they do have some “real” soft foods, too, like applesauce, mashed potatoes, pudding, and ice cream. She doesn’t usually want more than 5 bites or so of food, and they supplement with Ensure.
The problems with eating and lack of appetite have led to discussion of feeding tubes. We’re not there yet, but we’ve been gathering information in order to make an informed decision. At that age and stage of life, it’s more merciful to avoid some life-saving measures that would be employed under other circumstances: CPR compressions, for instance, could result in broken bones and massive complications in the elderly. And many people do not want to be put on a ventilator at that age and stage. She did sign DNR papers for those kinds of things years ago. But we hadn’t considered a feeding tube as a part of that situation: we had seen it in the same light as the IV fluids and antibiotics she received in the hospital. Letting someone die a natural death is one thing: making it happen is another, and withholding food would certainly make it happen. If someone were in a coma with no hope of recovery, it would make sense to us not to disturb them with medical procedures and just let them go. But when someone is still “there” as a person, can interact and communicate to some degree and make their needs known to a degree, can even laugh and tease, then to us it seems inhumane to say that once you can’t swallow any more, sorry, that’s it, no more food for you. One friend said that a feeding tube is “unnatural.” I don’t know — where do you cross the line over “unnatural” medical intervention? Food through a tube? Fluids and antibiotics through an IV? Insulin for a diabetic?
As my husband told a family member who was very upset over the whole issue, it’s important not to judge anyone else’s decision. It’s a complicated situation, and good people are on either side of it at various stages. I’d just encourage people to study it out so you can make an informed decision for yourself and your loved ones. We’re reading up and discussing it with our medical professionals and a couple of friends in the medical field.
The other issue we’re wrestling with is whether or not to bring her home to our house. There are pros and cons either way. As my husband said, we have this romantic notion about bringing someone home to die, but would she even realize where she was, and would she consider this home, or does “home” for her mean Idaho, where she came from? And we have this vision of being with her when she passes, holding her hand and hearing her ask if we can see the angels — but who knows if it will happen like that. We would be able to be with her more, so that would be a big plus. We wouldn’t have medical help at the push of a button any more, and that would be scary. The social worker there at the nursing home is going to give us some information about hospice, home health care agencies, etc., so we have some reading and fact-finding and thinking to do.
And finally, I had requested prayer for a niece’s fiance with multiple tumors. He’s going into the hospital today for the next to the last round. He’s gotten extremely sick with some rounds and his white blood cell count has gone way low, so this time they decided to just admit him to the hospital to keep an eye on him while he undergoes this treatment. The last scan a few weeks ago showed that some of the tumors were gone and others had shrunk, so everything is working, thank the Lord. I’d appreciate prayer for them, as you feel led, for not only the physical but also the spiritual needs. And while you’re at it, you might pray for another nephew struggling with drug addiction.
Thank you so much for your concern and prayers. I never dreamed when I started a blog several years ago that I would find such dear blog friends along the way.