Saturday, May 7, 2016


Don't read this.
It's not funny, it's not pretty, it's not even sarcastic.

But since you're reading anyway....

There's no good or pleasant way to say this: we're watching someone die.

John was puttering along, as he did. At some point recently, something appeared on his face and grew quickly. Reluctantly he went to the emergency room, where they said cancer of lung and brain. See an oncologist quickly.

John has no insurance. This is no problem at hospitals, as they can get a claim for Assistance put through and paid. This IS a problem for anything else, medically speaking.  John went to the doctor, with my wife's assistance, and waited two hours, only to be told he needed to get 'into the system' before he could be seen. Into the system involves a kind of impossible to navigate maze that's akin to fighting City Hall. Go here, go there, that line, no this line, you have to see her but she's not in this week, etc.... Finally they managed to find one sweet, kind lady who gave them some tips, but it could still take two weeks.

Meanwhile, my wife snuck John into the office of a big local oncologist. He agreed totally with the diagnosis but couldn't get anything done because his hospital wouldn't do tests without insurance.

FOUR WEEKS LATER John was In The System and got an appointment with an oncologist, who said he had to go to a primary doctor first. The man has cancer. How the hell does anybody get treated for anything in PA? The primary eventually saw him and sent him to the oncologist. Everyone agreed: lung cancer, spreading to brain and one other area.  The prognosis was "Not fixable but treatable."

When the doctor said "Not fixable but treatable", his wife heard "treatable." Someone needed to hammer home the "Not fixable" part.  John seemed to know.

His dog, fifteen and not well, would get up frequently to check on him while he slept. Someone joked that they were both waiting to see who would go first.

First chemotherapy went well. The thing on his head shrunk. But he had good days and bad days. Most of the time he was incoherent or screaming at his wife. People had to stand on each side of him to get him to appointments. Unfortunately these people were largely his wife and my wife, with her cane. Although his wife swore he wouldn't get sent to a facility, it looked like it needed to happen.

Fast forward to the second primary doctor visit. No one could get John off the bed, no less to the car. My wife, who quietly said she'd be surprised if he lasted another few weeks, revised her estimate to the weekend.

I worked with a guy who passed out and went to the hospital, where they discovered brain cancer. They were doing chemotherapy but he died within a week or two. Sad as we were, it was a blessing. He did not suffer, which was the most important thing. I'm hoping John isn't suffering. We can't ask him.


This afternoon we got word John was rushed to the hospital. Dropping everything, we went to keep them company. In the midst of horror there was humor: sadly, emergency rooms have metal detectors and my wife couldn't get through because of her copious amount of bracelets. Since they couldn't all come off, she was relegated to the outdoors.

I sat with his wife and noticed John was being bagged (manually breathed for) by a nurse. He had stopped functioning and they were trying to restart him. He needed to be transferred to another hospital with an Intensive Care Unit. Nobody thought this was a good idea but nobody had much of a choice. He failed twice on the ride over.

In the ICU, with plenty of pain medicine, it took about two hours until John left us.
I hope he didn't suffer too much. I hope we served him well.

They said the cancer was extremely aggressive. There was no way it could have been caught in time. It was not pretty.

The dog was put down because he was suffering and not eating. I guess he knew.

No comments:

Post a Comment