30
Apr

Why I Stopped Writing…

crying woman

Warning! Grab 2 of your favorite beverages first. And maybe a box of tissues.

Have you missed me? I’ve missed you! It’s time to get back to what fuels “my fire” and to once again, do “self-therapy” through writing. Honestly, that pretty much sums up the majority of what I write—my way of trying to fight through the “darkness” that life can sometimes bring and still come out on the other side to find joy and blessing.

So, what kept me from writing for so long? On December 11th of last year, just as I was getting over not having to give myself stomach shots anymore and not having to let the vampires suck me dry for blood tests, my older brother sent me a text message. We are not what I would call “frequent texters” even though we live a mere two hours from each other. So, imagine my shock when my normally very healthy brother sent me this: “Apparently, it’s my turn now. Being admitted to hospital. Will need a transfusion and they’re trying to figure out why. Probably related to stomach problems. Tell you more as I learn more. Looks like a one day stay at this point.”

At Thanksgiving, my brother had complained that, for the last few months, he was having to eat more slowly and avoid “thicker” foods. He wasn’t complaining because he was losing weight—something he had been struggling to do for several years. We just thought it was an “aging problem.” My brother lives alone and has no family of his own, so since I am his closest relative, I knew my assistance might be needed if he didn’t get out of the hospital after 1 day.

The next day I got an even more shocking text: “They found cancer; cut some out and sent for biopsy; chest & stomach CT scan this PM; oncologist on board & will see me tomorrow with a game plan.” Noooooooooooooooo. This can’t be happening—my brother was just pronounced absolutely healthy by his doctor in late summer.

My life changed instantly. It went from amateur-aspiring-writer-mom-volunteer to caretaker. It also changed for our oldest brother, who had recently retired in Louisiana, and also had no family of his own. We knew we were my brother’s only “back-up” crew. We flew into action as our family typically does. My children helped when they could, despite really busy schedules. The world seemed to pray for him.

The next few months were cram-filled with a myriad of doctor’s consultations (so many that I lost track of all the doctors he saw), tests, nurses (such a new fixture in his life that I became good friends with a fair number of them), technicians, drugs (so potent that special kits and gowns are packaged with them to prevent them from getting anywhere other than where they needed to go), and…sheer and utter panic.

My researcher nature and past history with other cancer-afflicted friends has taught me where to go to find reliable information on the various kinds of cancer. My brother was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, one of the few cancers that still has a high “death rate.” Even if my brother fought valiantly and managed to survive the treatment (no small feat—trust me!), he probably was not going to live to see 70 (He was already 63.). The panic physically surfaced with this realization and I had to up my dosages on several of my heart medications, as a result.

After a series of complications (and I have the most detail-oriented, instruction-following brother on the planet) beyond my brother’s control and ridiculous amounts of pain and discomfort, the brother who fought with everything within him finally said, “I’m done” in late February. I found this out through my other brother in a tearful phone call. Again, I was shocked. This can’t be over this fast. My eldest brother asked me to come back to the hospital the next day and help him with making arrangements for hospice care. I did so and became extremely angry with the doctors caring for him. It was so obvious to me that my brother couldn’t fight this anymore and was extremely fatigued and yet, doctor after doctor insisted on trying to talk him out of his decision. While I didn’t want to lose my brother, I also didn’t want to see him suffer any more than was absolutely necessary. They were prolonging his misery! Despite his fatigue and pain, he asked intelligent questions to rule out any possible avenue that could lead to a faster, fairly positive result. But, each time he posed a different scenario than what the doctors had already proposed in December, he was told that wasn’t possible. So, he kept insisting that his decision to quit treatment was final. At one point he said, “It’s time for me and my family to move on.” While he waged a verbal war with them, my eldest brother and I visited two hospice facilities on nearly opposite sides of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in a matter of a few hours, despite rush hour traffic and a wide array of DFW highway construction zones.

The first place did not impress us at all—it was dirty, had an annoying alarm on the entrance door every time it opened and was housed in an assisted living facility. The second was housed in an older section of a very clean hospital. The staff there were friendly, patient and quiet as they showed us around. There was a gentleman quietly playing acoustic guitar in the hallway. Since our brother used to dispel his stress levels with playing acoustic guitar and was quite entertaining to hear when he brought said guitar to family events and get-togethers, we knew this was God telling us where he was supposed to spend his final days on earth.

Within a matter of 24 hours, he was there. Hallelujah! The hospice staff quickly addressed all of his discomfort and he finally was able to rest many hours of the day without incessant interruptions from doctors, nurses, vampires, technicians, custodial staff and nutrition personnel. Being the executor for our parents and one of our aunts, my weak brother, the eternal accountant, began dictating how to get into his computer and personal files so that my eldest brother could pay his household bills and take care of settling the estate, giving numerous pointers along the way, to save us time, money and headaches as we did so. As part of his “dictation,” he had decided to sell his car to my husband and me to use as a car for our youngest son. I hesitated to bring him the title to sign over, thinking it was barbaric on my part and so, I reiterated that if he didn’t want to do it, it was okay.

He quietly reached for the title, reached for the pen in my hand, and shakily signed the title without any hesitation. When I wondered if he was really coherent enough (from all of the painkillers) to make such a decision, he quickly asked, “Did you find the folder in my office with all of the information about the car?” I nodded and then he drifted off to sleep again. Then I shook my head—only my brother would think to ask about whether or not I had found the folder with every auto-related transaction neatly and orderly filed, along with instruction manuals and warranties for said car. His question was my confirmation that he knew exactly what he was doing.

As friend after friend called to check on him (He asked for no visitors.), I was greeted by loud, never-ending sobs at the other end of the phone. But, I wasn’t surprised. What my brother had done for my youngest son was just one of many examples of what he did for others on a regular basis in his life.

A few days later, his tongue swollen, he barely whispered, “I’m trying to do this fast.” My brother and I reassured him he was “doing it” just fine. He nodded his head. A few days after that, his gaze no longer showed that he recognized my brother and me. But yet, he kept looking at us with his enormous blue eyes. One night as he stared at me with those eyes, I managed to eke out, “If you want to go, it’s okay. We will be okay. Just go towards the light, or the angels you see, or Mom and Dad, and go. We’ll be all right.” I nearly choked on the words, but knew, based on watching my dad die, that those might be the words he needed to end his suffering. What happened next scared the tar out of my brother and me. He didn’t take a breath for another 10 seconds. How do I know? I counted. It scared me that much. He kept doing that and my brother reiterated what I had said. But, even though we lingered by his bedside for quite a while, he kept breathing just enough to keep himself alive. We finally told him good night and left.

The next day the phone rang at my brother’s house around noon. My oldest brother answered it and I could tell it wasn’t good news. He hung up the phone and said, “He’s gone.”

The time from that moment until now, has been one long, continuous blur of cleaning out his house, sending back medical equipment that went unused, writing a eulogy of his life, meeting with family and friends, crying and settling his affairs. It often feels as if I am existing in a very surreal fog. The fog will, hopefully, clear after this coming Monday when my brother closes on our brother’s home. But, having walked down this path too many times in recent years, I know it probably won’t. It may cease and desist for a few moments or even days or even weeks, but it will still be there. For a long time.

And that’s what made it difficult to write for the past few months. And why, even though I have missed you, dear readers, I still find it difficult. So, I hope you will allow me to “wallow” in the fog for a little while–once again, doing my “self-therapy” through this blog. You are most likely going to hear about the facts regarding esophageal cancer and other cancers that have an awful prognosis for its victims and why.

You are going to hear about the funny moments (Because my family handles stress best by poking fun at it!) and yes, there were plenty of those. And if requested (and only if requested through your comments below), my eulogy, in its entirety. I’ve done three now, so I’m starting to become an expert on writing and delivering them (Some family members have already booked me for theirs….I guess that means I’m good at it???). Can you put “professional eulogist” on a resume??? Hmmm…

But, have no fear, my normal brand of insanity and silliness will be back before long. Because…there is still joy and blessing in my life. I love you, big brother! See you on “the flip side.”

Friday’s Post: We’re still losing this war…

You might also like: So, Where Are My Posts?; Lessons Learned from Heart Attacks 3 & 4; and A Real Scare

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 at 10:50 am and is filed under Miscellaneous. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

comments

8
  1. April 30th, 2014 | Chelsea says:

    This is heartbreaking. I am so sorry for you and your family, MaryAnn. Please wallow in the fog for as long as you would like. I have missed your blog but am glad that you were able to spend time with your brother. I would love to read the eulogy. I am sure that it is a wonderful, eloquent tribute to your brother. Prayers!

  2. April 30th, 2014 | maryann says:

    Thanks, Chelsea. I can always use more prayers! Hope that you and yours are doing well. 🙂

  3. April 30th, 2014 | Gary says:

    Wallow away, MaryAnn. It helps. Please consider this my request to read your eulogy for Alan. I, too, have become the family eulogist, so I can always use tips from another professional.

  4. April 30th, 2014 | maryann says:

    Thanks, Gary! Appreciate the support!

  5. April 30th, 2014 | Leta French says:

    MaryAnn, Alan was so blessed to have you and Charlie to help and support him in his final journey. A planner he was indeed. I know your story was hard to write but you nailed it. We will all miss Alan, but we all have some great memories. I would love to read the eulogy. I will pray every day for continued strength for you and your family. God bless you.

  6. April 30th, 2014 | maryann says:

    Leta:

    We felt so blessed to have him! Thanks so much for the kind words and for the prayers! We can use them. 🙂

  7. May 1st, 2014 | Liesa says:

    Love you mom! And the eulogy for him was your best yet. I think you should post it.

  8. May 2nd, 2014 | maryann says:

    Love you, too, Ms. Graduate! Since you’ve heard all 3 of the eulogies, that is very high praise. Thank you! It’s sounding like it’s going to be posted, hunh?

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