Eyre Affairs

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Thursday, September 04, 2008


"And to be in danger of dying..." ~ Jane Eyre

About a month ago I posted the eulogy I gave at my grandfather's funeral years ago. Although my focus was on his life, I am taking a moment to speak of his death. He died a slow and painful death of sarcoma in his left arm. It was two years of suffering, both for him and for his family. In the end the decision was made to bring him to Calvary Hospice, where cancer patients go to die here in New York. They say its a hospital where terminally ill cancer patients can die in dignity. As wonderful as the doctors, staff, and facility was, there was nothing dignified about it. I drove two hours after work to the Bronx three times a week during his last days, in a haze of despair and grief.

He was incoherent soon after he was brought there, feverish and hallucinating. Eventually more morphine was given to him and I barely was able to get him to open his eyes, wondering if he even recognized me as I sat in the quiet room, as he sat on the brink of death from cancer, never getting used to his violent shakes from the morphine dripping into his body. His arm was triple in size, and the cancer attacked his heart.

It attacked my heart as well.

In the end, watching my grandfather die was not the most traumatic aspect of having to be in Calvary Hospital. There were waiting rooms where patients who were not on their last breaths could go with family, and I will never forget a man in his thirties in a wheelchair, thin and gaunt, being wheeled around the floor by his two parents to get him out of his room for a small while.

A parent should never have to bury his or her child. That is all that kept going through my head as I watched the sad and depressed faces try and muster courage for the sake of their son. I, too, became depressed.

And I am depressed tonight...my sister's voice filled with tears on the phone earlier make me morose tonight. Her roommate from college died - a woman with a PhD, a big heart, and a gentle nature - of sarcoma of the leg at age 33.

Cancer does not discriminate...it can attack anyone at any time at any age, and I am so grateful for the unity this Friday evening: http://su2c.standup2cancer.org/ Donations can be made on the website or during the program. Although a wonderful place to donate is, indeed, right here (please make a gift if you can):
http://www.calvaryhospital.org/site/pp.asp?c=ktJUJ9MPIsE&b=3226167

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Mary said...

Hi Amy,

I'm so sorry about your grandfather. I had osteosarcoma (in my arm too) at the age of 29, and recently a friend of mine who was only 36 died of Ewing's sarcoma. I fear the death that you describe. But for now, I try to live and live large!

I volunteer with the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative. The difficult thing about the large cancer movements like Stand Up To Cancer is that very little of that money will be used for sarcoma. It is a rare and aggressive cancer that tends to strike young people. But because it is rare, there is not much funding for it, and it will be hard for sarcoma researchers to form the "dream teams" required to get the money. Still, they soldier on, and we will too, to try and better understand sarcoma and help those affected.

Keep your eyes peeled for a Team Sarcoma event in your area next year, or maybe you will plan one. It is a very hopeful movement to join. It kinda feels like fighting for the underdogs together...all over the world! :-)

6:55 AM  
Anonymous scaramouche jones said...

Hard going - for all. Nothing I can say will seem sufficient, so.. that's all I'll say.

9:13 AM  
Blogger ThursdayNext said...

Mary ~ God bless you and your courage, strength, and work that makes a difference. One of the questions I have for my new job is will they match gifts; I will certainly pursue working an event for Team Sarcoma as well. Please feel free to use my email at any time to let me know about particular assistance I can give to the organization you volunteer with.

Jones ~ Its hard knowing what to say...just knowing you read it is beyond sufficient.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Shannon said...

Thank you for sharing. Your eloquence reminds me that there is beauty in each moment we have with those we love. My heart feels sad for you and your sister right now. Sending you love and support through the miles.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Charlie Mc said...

sorry to hear the awful news.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Pearl said...

Dear Mary,
We have a mutual blogging friend...
Hliza.
This is how I managed to come across this touching post.
My heart goes out to you. My mind is filled with memories of my late husband's cancer (I lost him at age 31) and my mother's cancer (she died just two years ago at the age of 84).
How many times I wanted to get in bed and just take over their pain for them. I would have rather endured it all for them than watch how they were treated by the professionals.
I just lost my father two months ago and I was there every step of the way. I made sure his dignity was totally a priority.
I believe that doctors and nurses want to do a good job but most homes with hospice are understaffed.
The sadness I saw in the hallway was just too much for me to handle on my way to his room each day and night.
So many of the elderly do not have someone checking on them and are seriously overlooked.
Since I lost my father I haved returned with my puppy to walk the halls and just try to bring a smile or two. It is so therapeutic for me. They have so much to give me.

Hold tight to your happy moments with your grandfather. This is what he would want you to be thinking of for sure.

My prayers are with you because I know it isn't easy.

Take care,

8:45 PM  
Blogger foam said...

it's so sad to end a long life in pain like that.
and, yes, you are right ..
parent's should not bury their children. the grief of the parent is unbearable. i know because my mother buried my brother who died at 34...
i am so sorry for the parents, your sister .. you ..
and for this unknown young woman .. may she rest in peace.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Mayden' s Voyage said...

Friend-
You are in my thoughts.
Cancer has brought heart-ache and grief into my life too- for which I have almost no words to describe, and no balm to share in order to ease the pain of a heart marked by it's presence. And yet- the silence of a friend who understands, a hug from one whose walked the same bitter path, and the squeeze of a hand from another who has felt the same pain~ perhaps that is the rare gift which lifts our burden, if only for a moment.
So- I send a hug, and read in silence...somehow covering a distance I can not manage, with care and understanding, in the hope it will ease your ache- if only for a heart beat.

My best to you- as always~

10:24 PM  
Blogger Tales from the Edge said...

Dear Amy,
I am so sorry to read about your grandfather. There is nothing that I can say that can ease this pain. There is nothing I can offer that can wipe the memories of watching others go through the same thing.

I too lost my mother to cancer. She also spent her last days at Calvary. We sat with her for over three months as she slowley deteriorated. Cancer is a thief that robs us of our friends and families and robs the patient of their dignity.

-Anne Marie

4:13 PM  

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