Above is a photo of my cat Shyna that I shot when we temporary moved to Reinfeld to support my uncle who got a brain tumor diagnosis. The photo reminds me of moments when my uncle smiled, because Shyna did apart from me of course, only trust my uncle. In other words, only me and my uncle were allowed to cuddle with her. My uncle always had dogs and never cats, but even if there was this shitty diagnosis, my cat managed it to make him smile, and maybe forget for a moment what the doctors just told us all. I think that’s what people mean when they speak about the healing power of pets. It might be that they can’t do magic and make a tumor disappear, but they can spend comfort in bad times.
Now we’ve been back to Lübeck since quite some time and even if my uncle had to go through lots of different tumor therapies, he somehow managed it to keep going. There were problems and all kind of new symptoms, but overall everyday life was going on. In fact we did now had a quite long period without hospitalization if you don’t count the regular therapies and tests in. That however sadly changed two days ago. He’s back in the hospital since two days and my mother said he did even talk yesterday. Today grandma, grandpa, my mother and me visited him and were a bit shocked how sleepy and unresponsive he was. Over the last weeks there have been signs that it might go downhill, he was most of the day sleepy, not as hungry as usual and so on. But today he looked much worse.
We have never seen him in the condition like today and we asked a nurse if they did give him any type of meds that could affect his state of consciousness, but apart from the regular meds they gave him nothing new. Grandma and grandpa thought he was just really tired, but I knew there was something wrong. At the floor we tried to talk to a doctor but the nurse said nobody would have time. Back at home, grandpa got a phone call from the hospital and a doctor had no good news. They want to talk with us tomorrow. They said that he could go back home but that it would not be good for the family. They will most likely tomorrow talk with us about a nursing home or hospice, because that’s what they hinted at, but they want to talk with us in person tomorrow.
My grandpa cried, because they did not only hint at this, they also told him that the tumor doubled in size and they will not suggest to continue any type of therapies. Until new year everything was kinda fine with him, but over the last 17 days it absolutely went downhill. When I saw him today in the hospital, it was extremely different compared to the days before. He had this empty expression, it was difficult to talk to him or make him wake up. When he woke up, he seemed to look through us and when we asked questions, he seemed to blink to say “yes”. He only started to smile when we did hold his hand and when we talked to him. But it was a very different way to communicate. After the hospital visit, before grandpa got the phone call, I talked with my mother and we both were sure it looks like he’s entering the final period of his life. We also thought that grandma and grandpa did not see it the same way, but with the phone call this got a bit more real for them.
I am not sure how much time there is still left for him, I am just sure that the closest family tried the best to give him a remaining good time. Sometimes to the point that we forgot ourselves. As hard as it sounds, but I made my peace with it, he will leave us and I think it might happen very soon. That doesn’t mean that I won’t have difficulties, in fact I found it very difficult to see him in this condition today. But it’s already real for me, and I don’t want to dream anymore. We all knew it since we heard the diagnosis at the beginning of 2016. And he was strong, so strong that he went through all the therapies like a warrior. Ironically it’s been a good time, he said it as well because especially 2017 worked well under the circumstances and he felt somewhat good even during the interval chemotherapy. It was almost so good that everyone forgot the name of his disease. But somewhere in the background, we all had it in our mind, the name is Glioblastoma IV and it’ll kill him. It sounds hard, but when I saw him today, I’d be surprised if he gets back to the point how I remember him from December for example.
The pace sadly increased over the last weeks. The doctor told my grandpa on the phone that we need to talk a lot with my uncle, and that we should touch his hands for example when we talk with him. This would be the only way how he will recognize us, and it will make him feel good. That’s basically what we did today, and it was really a way to communicate with him, and as said, to make him smile. He did spend me comfort when he smiled, because I felt helpless. I want to help but I can’t make the tumor disappear. It was difficult, but when I touched his hands and told him some things, and when he started to smile, even if he seemed to look through me, my fear went away. Maybe I can’t heal him, but I can accompany him. But it might not be a long way anymore.
Tomorrow will be a very difficult day. I think we noticed and heard today what is going on, but when they talk to us in person tomorrow, me and my mother must take care about my grandma and grandpa. I am afraid they might not be able to handle it. I am afraid grandma or grandpa could faint. Even if grandpa heard the suggestions today, it’ll be more real when they hear it in person. I am happy that we could still communicate with my uncle, even if it was on a different way. I am also happy that the doctors said he has no pain.
For the regular readers of my blog, just in case you don’t find new posts on my blog for a while, you do now know why. When things get tougher, I will take care about my family.
11 thoughts on “Things Are Now Tougher”
I sat with my mother when she died, and my husband and I tended my mother in law in her last weeks. You hold their hands, touch them, let them know you’re there. They dictate the conditions, when they can, and all you can do is let them go as gently as possible. And as strange as it sounds, being there for them eases it for you. Take care, Dennis.
I never made this experience, but at the moment I feel prepared, but I am probably not. I don’t know. At the moment I am probably in a protective mode, trying to be strong to make all others be able to stay strong as well. My mother felt the same way. But I feel helpless, it’s hard to accept the things how they are, but you know you have to. When I did hold his hands and he smiled, he basically helped me too. It’s as you said, it seems being there is not only good for the suffering person, it’s also good for you. I definitely noticed this today too.
I am very sorry to hear this news Dennis. I’ll be thinking of you and your family during this very difficult time.
Thank you Vanda. I hope he will find his peace very soon. I know he is a fighter, but as hard as it sound, if this condition remains, I hope he stops fighting to let go. No matter how long it will take, we will be on his side. Thanks for your thoughts, it’ll be a difficult time. When his time has come, I’m not just losing an uncle, I’m losing a very good friend.
He has fought a good fight for two years but if it is time to let go then I’m sure you will tell him it is OK.
I am sorry that your uncle is not well. When my father died he acted very confused during his last two days. I hope if the end is near than it will at least be peaceful for him.
That’s exactly how my uncle looked like yesterday, unresponsive and confused. I think it will be peaceful because the doctors said he still has no pain, and I hope that will be the case when his time has come. I think he might just fall asleep since he sleeps most of the time during the day now.
I hope so.
I am so sorry very to hear that.
Your thoughts shared reflects a very caring nephew. They are fortunate to have you as part of their family.
May the tough times ahead go as gentle as one can hope, for all of you. It will not be easy, but one somehow manages to find the strength to go on, hold their breath, and at some point, we begin to grasp what has happened, and begin to understand.
I’ll think of you. All the best.
Thank you very much. Until now I am still surprised how well I can deal with all of this, but that doesn’t mean that it is easy. When the day comes it might be very different I don’t know. At the moment it’s probably a protective mode, everyone tries to be strong so that he gets no fear. It would be the first time I see someone dying, and he was both my uncle and a very good friend. As you said, I will probably start to understand later, at the moment I don’t. Thanks for your thoughts!