Waning moments

My uncle is dying. We can't say when other to say that we hope, for his sake and ours, that its soon. If you wish to pass with dignity, pray you avoid brain cancer.

Its hard to watch someone die. Its harder when its someone that challenges you so very much. My uncle wasn't a nice guy. In fact, although he'd not lay a hand on anyone, he could be downright abusive - emotionally and verbally. In addition to every thing else, he grew-up been burdened by the influence of my Grandmother. At her knee he learned to lie. He learned to hate others for what they had. He learned to be spiteful and to be judgmental. He learned how to bad-mouth those he loved.

Yet he's still my uncle. He was generally good to me and regardless of that, we loved him because he was family.

Just over a week ago the kids and I went to visit him at his new apartment. The one my mom moved him into last month so he'd be nearby because it was clear he couldn't be totally on his own any longer. He was his usual self. He was complaining to me how he had talked poorly about my mother and it got back to her. The problem, to him, wasn't that he had called her a list of bad things or was seemingly ungrateful that she was the only one around that gave a damn what happened to him - no the problem, as he saw it, was that the people he talked to told her. He was making his own lunch. He was walking around on his own, although it was clear by the way he sometimes had to stop and catch his balance on something that he should have been using the walker he was told he should use every thing he was standing up!

Four days later I was taking a day off of work at the last minute as my mom rushed to meet his ambulance at the hospital. He had fallen several times during the night. He was loosing use of his left side. As of Friday, and another ER trip because he fell, its clear that he's completely paralyzed on the left. He now exists in a rented hospital bed back in his apartment under the care of a full-time nurses aid until hospice can get him moved into a nursing home.

Although in retrospect we'd still be where we are today if he had stayed in bed Thursday night, its still hard not to be angry that he required that trip to the ER. He got up when he was told repeatedly NOT to get up and he fell. Maybe he did get out of bed because he couldn't remember not to - the tumors are impacting his memory. But, having known him for all my nearly-32 years, it also crosses my mind that maybe he got out of bed because that's just like him. If he had broken his leg 10 years ago before the tumors were an issue and you told him to not get out of bed without help, he'd get out of bed with the attitude of "Screw you. I can do it. I'll show you. No one is going to tell me what to do." So that makes it hard, you know, to blame this on his cancer, because all the cancer has done is intensify his bad attitude. It makes it hard to not be mad at him for falling again because its easy to think that perhaps his getting up was a spiteful, stubborn thing and not a memory thing.

So now, we're watching someone that we've loved in spite of himself die without dignity. I saw him on Saturday and it was terrible. He's praying for death. He's pleading for it to come. And that's a good thing because in the past he was set on denying he even had cancer. If you dared refer to his tumors in his presences he'd bite your head off "I don't have that. I don't have tumors. I don't have cancer. I'm going to beat this." Except of course unless it got him sympathy or something then he'd practically introduce himself by saying "I'm M and I have tumors in my head."

You also watch him cry - a lot. He cries over every thing and I can understand it, its just hard to see. He had such low comprehension skills to start and now its just worse. My mom referred to the spiritual counselor Hospice was sending over to see him and he broke down in tears. I can only think that he's associating the visit with administration of last rites - and he's not ever set foot in a Catholic church. All I can think of is that his last girlfriend was fiercely Catholic so he at least had some exposure to its practices/beliefs.

Now we sit and we wait to see what the cancer will take from him next. He's otherwise healthy and that, in and of itself, is a bit scary. He could linger for months where he is now - without ability to feed himself or even roll over on his own. We are here, he is here, waiting for the brain to shut down something vital to his existence. Until the tumors find the switch to his kidney's or his heart we just sit and watch and wait.

Pray that it comes soon. He wants it. He needs it. We all do.


Cath said...

I totally relate to this. My mom dies of brain cancer 12 yrs ago and it's the hardest thing to watch as it effects them so much. I pray that he doesnt suffer for long. In my thoughts!
If you want to talk about it feel free to mail me - yorkshirecath2004@yahoo.co.uk

Zee said...

My thoughts are with you, Sandy, sending positive energy and strength your way.

Mandy said...

I will be praying.

Lexa said...


I read this a couple days ago and have been struggling with what to say. Mostly I'm so overwhelmed by the sadness of your uncle's story, and not just the cancer part. I'm so sorry that this is what your family is facing. You are all in my prayers.