Bad News

(Dictated By Dru to Art on Oct. 11)

 

What do you do when the news is bad? You’re having a day that began in a fairly normal way: Juice, pills, cottage cheese. Then you get into a car and are driven to see your oncologist. Somehow you felt the bad news was coming. It was the prickle of hairs on the back of your neck, a tightness of breathing that you can’t explain. The news is only slightly less difficult to hear when it’s from your favorite doctor.

 

So this doctor looks me straight in the eye, as he did the first time we met, the time he told me I had cancer and that it was terminal. “I’m so sorry about the current situation,” he says, his voice faltering. When I first told you about the six-to-twelve months survival range, I was quoting statistics about the general population. When I said that treatment should extend your survival time by weeks or months I was again speaking about stage-four lung cancer in general.

 

“But now we must unfortunately conclude that two things I also told you that day have cut through those statistics: Every cancer works in a unique way, and every patient’s body reacts in a unique way.

“As to the first, when we discovered your cancer it wasn’t at the start or middle of stage four, but was far advanced.  It had already metastasized to your spine, pelvis, and possibly your brain.  As to the second, cancer in your body is so strong it’s resisted both radiation and chemo-therapy.  That’s why I’m so sorry.  The bottom line, is we were not able to extend your life as we had first hoped.”

 

This nearly knocked me from my chair. On one level my Celtic twilight had prepared me ever since I first realized death was a possibility. But I’m not like Emily Dickenson, “half in love with death.”  Indeed I have a zest for life that few who know me would question. I’ve sometimes carried this to extremes under the banner “If a little is good, more is better, and most is best.”

 

But now, with the compliance of my various doctors, I’ve ceased all medical treatments and consigned myself to the hands of hospice.

 

I absolutely insist on dying at home, not in a hospital.  My two sons and husband have fixed up a room I chose in Crickety (the name of our home, which used to have singing crickets.)  I’ve got a hospital-type bed from which I can watch our neighborhood goings-on, with another bed snugged next to mine for Art.

 

Like hearing of my original cancer diagnosis, once again the novel of my life has been suddenly slammed into a new chapter.  “End-of-life,” I believe is its title.  I need oxygen pumped in my nostrils twenty-four-seven, and can only leave my bed by using a walker with a person beside me in case I fall.

 

Not only the cancer itself but the pain-reducing morphine that’s fogging my brain and balance increases my risk of falling. If I break a major bone, I’d land back in a hospital, where I’ll die.

 

I confess that today I feel completely deflated. It seems I was doomed to lose this struggle before I even began. But nobody told me until now.

 

I welcome the friends and relatives— my extended “kin”–  who visit each day to share sadness and love.  But my energy is quickly exhausted. Cancer wears you out. Not a fatigue from having done something but… it’s in my spine now; the back hurts all the time. The cough hurts on and off. Those times I prefer to sleep and sleep and sleep.

 

But the prospect of endless night… well, I’m increasingly aware of its double meaning. Perhaps my dread of it shows there’s part of my spirit that still wants to live in each moment for as long as I can.

Filed under Cancer, Life Matters, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,


12 Responses to “Bad News”

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  1. Lisa Wood says:

    My love to all of you. So so very hard to say goodbye to someone so bright and wonderful.

  2. Sending my love. I first met Dru when I was a child, and she’d come to my dad’s house for writer’s meetings on Monday nights. I never really got to know her, but she’s Dru Campbell, a part of my past, a part of my growing up, a part of my extended family through the writer’s group.

    I told my dad (Chet Cunningham) that she passed away today, and for a moment he couldn’t speak. Then he said that she was such a fun person, and a good writer. She will be missed.

  3. Betsy Marro says:

    Holding your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  4. Sending you love, Art, you are an amazing person! Thank you from all of us for helping Dru keep up her writing and sharing with us all till the end. She leaves a void that we will only know as we try to go on without her.

  5. Jim Taylor says:

    Once in a writing class at the old Writing Center in Hillcrest Dru asked for a volunteer to join her in an improv experience to demonstrate true dialogue. On her lead we argued like an unhappy couple as we stepped outside the comfort box. We went on and on for several minutes stepping all over each other while acting out a bit like The War of the Roses. I’ll never forget you Dru…RIP.

  6. B. S. Manoj says:

    Very sad to hear this news. We miss you, Dru. As an instructor, you inspired many at SDWI. My deepest sympathies to the immediate family and friends at SDWI.

    bsmanoj

  7. Kay Etheridge says:

    I am in shock that Dru has passed on. We have lost someone who truly made the world a better place.
    I have so many fond memories. All my love to Art, Matt, Rocky, Margaret, and “mom”.

  8. I am so very sorry for your loss of a wonderful, kind and inspiring human being. Wishing you eventual peace with the memory and warmth and legacy that is Dru.

  9. […] Update: Dru died Friday 24 October 2014. Read her last blog post here. […]

  10. Roger Browne says:

    What can I say?

    Desperately sad at losing the fun, welcoming, and loving cousin who was Dru.

    Art, Rocky, Matt, and Auntie Pat: My thoughts are with you and yours.

  11. Sherry and Steven Hartwell says:

    Art, Rocky, Matt, and Margaret,
    Steven and I just learned that Dru was ill with cancer and then only a few minutes later because of the blog that Dru had died. Elena Melissa, our daughter, said she heard that Dru was ill with cancer. And I went online. Dru has been in my thoughts over the past few days, thinking it has been so long and we did not see her for her usual birthday party. I was planning to call her. We will miss her. It is true that her spirit will live on in us, but I will miss being with her. You are so much in our thoughts. I cannot express how sorry I am for your loss of your wife mom, and sister. Sherry

  12. steve hartwell says:

    my condolences to matt and rocky, sister margaret and especially to my friend art. she was fabulous, such an extraordinary person.

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