This week I have been staying with my friend, whom we’ll call Katie. Katie was diagnosed with lung cancer almost 4 years ago and given approximately 18 months to live. Needless to say, she has beaten those odds again and again. She has now, however, come to that point where the cancer is just being kept at bay. It is uncomfortable, it is no longer invisible, forcing itself to be known and acknowledged through skin metastases on her chest, and in the muscle in her neck. Breathing is harder and her right arm is nearly useless due to nerve compression in her neck. It sucks.
It is Katie’s idea that I write about her process in this blog.
So, we are talking and asking questions about the hard stuff; when does she consider hospice (right now chemo is still effective so hospice is not an option); where will she live when the end is closer, a dear friend has offered his home but that means she needs to find a home for her dog (probably mine!); will we know in time for her to receive last rites. Yesterday we saw her doc and had him sign the Do Not Resuscitate order which now hangs on her refrigerator, a neon pink reminder of the inevitability of all of our deaths.
And, what will her Celebration of Life look like? Katie has chosen her funeral home and wishes to be cremated. She does not want visiting hours nor a religious ceremony. She wants meat and potatoes served with her signature rum and cokes. We have talked about whether her beloved grandnephews should attend. I say a resounding yes. She is so important to them and for them to experience the love of their Kate-Kate by all her friends and family can only be a good thing. Plus, the funeral will be outside at the aforementioned dear friend’s home which means lots of running around, balm for a child’s loss. Ultimately, that decision will be up to Katie and her niece.
This kind of a conversation with friends and family makes the worst time in a family’s life easier to handle. Knowing what their beloved person would like for their end of life care and then the celebration of their life is such a gift to those who have loved them and now lost them.
Per Katie’s request, I will keep you posted on her thoughts as she nears her death. In the meantime, if you are inclined to, send her your love and light.