I know I promised the Hillbilly camper post and I’ll try to get that up sometime today too. But I need to write this post for me first.
My aunt thankfully passed away at 6AM Mountain time. In September of last year my great grandfather went in to multiple organ failure. The doctors gave him a weekend to survive. The entire family went to Arizona to say our goodbyes. This caused him to rally and defy the odds. By the time we all left on Sunday and Monday he was sitting up wanting to go to a tractor pull. He was still in multiple organ failure. Still dying, but he was going to do it on his terms. He lived another 3 weeks before he passed away. He didn’t go quietly in his sleep. He didn’t get to die at home, he was combative and disoriented and had to be put in the hospital so he could be put in restraints. It was awful. My grandma was there for it all.
Shortly after returning home from that trip my great aunt was diagnosed with liver cancer. She’d been feeling poorly and losing weight but with my grandpa dying she didn’t get to the doctor until she returned to Florida. She told all of us in November. They gave her 3 months to live. The next month my cousin was offered an early promotion from the Armed Forces, two years early to be exact. He had to wait to be pinned but he was given the promotion and title. Pinning was set for September of 2008. My aunt was determined to live that long. She opted out of chemo or radiation which would have made her ill and not been able to do much for her other than “possibly” slow the Cancer down. She did however contact a series of clinics located in New York and Mexico that use body purification and diet to slow cancer. She had to submit hair and blood samples as well as her medical records and wait to see if they would approve her. They didn’t guarantee remission but they do generally have good luck slowing the Cancer down. At that point she figured “why not try”.
The end of December my grandfather became very ill. He’d been struggling with something since August but he wasn’t quite healthy enough to do anything about it. They knew he had Gallstones but he wasn’t stable enough to under-go general anesthesia. When he couldn’t get up off the floor my grandma called the ambulance. They determined his gallbladder HAD to come out. While in surgery they found his gallbladder was horrible. He had stones clear down to his colon, the gallbladder had ruptured and caused him to become septic. They basically had to resection his bowel. However, during this surgery they found his other organs to be in much better shape than they’d anticipated. Originally it was felt he might be in liver failure due to heavy drinking and just an overall rough lifestyle. His liver was shockingly healthy. So they determined his gallbladder was the root of the problems he’d been having for months. He never woke up. He should have, he didn’t. He ended up with pneumonia, we had to put him on a vent to allow his lungs to heal. He was diagnosed with MRSA at some point in this two week nightmare, but he was getting better, his labs were better, his fever broke, and still he never woke up. We sat by his side waiting and watching. The doctors telling us they had no idea why he wasn’t waking up. Experts were consulted who were just as baffled. Mayo clinic was called, no one knows why he didn’t wake up. The doctors were sure he would. After about a week and a half he took a turn for the worse. They thought he’d had a stroke, we opted to forego CT scans and such because at that point it didn’t matter, he was gone. He wasn’t yet brain dead but there was very little brain wave activity and his organs began to fail one after the other. We took him off of the vent, he was on “comfort measures only” until he passed away. What you don’t see in ER and Grey’s Anatomy is when you take someone off of life support, if they’re not already brain dead, it’s not immediate. They can linger for hours, days, weeks, even months. It’s horrible. I can’t even tell you. He lingered for 3 days one organ after another shutting down. Thankfully they tell us with his lack of brain waves his pain receptors were gone. He was on high doses of morphine just in case but he wasn’t there.
My grandma spent a couple of weeks cleaning out the house to put it on the market so she can move here to be closer to us and then headed to Florida to be with my aunt as she was undergoing the holistic treatments. They were horrible. She had to choke down TONS of pureed vegetables and fruits. A specific amount of carrot juice (made from real carrots), beet juice, etc… had to be consumed every 2 hours. No meat, no chicken, no packaged foods of any kind. There is a lot more but you get the gist. It didn’t put her in to remission but we can’t be sure it didn’t slow the Cancer down.
About a month ago she started to go downhill they gave her a maximum of six weeks. My grandma headed back to Florida as did my other aunt. She’s gone downhill since then. Determined to make it to the pinning which the Navy had scheduled for September 1st and knowing she couldn’t make the trip they found a retired admiral in Gainesville who could do the pinning at my aunt’s home. (I didn’t know this until last night). By last week she couldn’t sit up on her own and was completely dependant on my grandma and aunt for all care. Hospice came in several times a day. When she started to go down hill she fell down it. Misery and pain didn’t wait to invade her in every way. On Friday (I didn’t know this until last night either) her doctor told my grandma to call my cousin and tell him she would not survive the weekend or make the pinning ceremony. 2 minutes later he called back and said “nevermind I will call him myself”. He went further, he called my cousin’s C.O. and told him the situation. They put my cousin and his family on a plane on Friday night and did the pinning at my aunt’s home Sunday. They also put my cousin on indefinite leave. Thankfully she passed away last night.
She was brave and wonderful and I typed ALL of this out to show you all the power of love, determination, and the human spirit. We as humans can’t stop death but we can defy it. We can go on our terms on our timeline even when it defies the odds, or we can roll over and let death take us, we can give up and let go.
My family is a wreck, my mom and grandma have been through so much in the last year. I am praying we are done now, but this family is strong, there are immense amounts of love and support offered, so while I am praying we are done. If we’re not we’ll survive and continue to live and die on our terms.