Yes, death can be beautiful, as one of the Home Care Nurses told me. Home death care can be rewarding, as one of the books that they brought teach me. Can be peaceful, as our good friend Peter reminded me.
In September 2012, during one of Ian’s soccer classes, Ricardo told me that he was tired. The symptoms of the cancer was back, the pain and the discomfort. His mind was restless, even more than during this whole ordeal. Hard for him to focus on positive when all he could hear from the doctors were that this cancer was going to kill him.
In October, he agreed in doing a new scan, after 7 months of the last one! And there you go: the cancer had spread to four organs, and growing. October 21st he stopped working for the first time since all this started. My brave brave Ricardo spent the last two years, since he was diagnosed, working full-time…
He started chemo again, doing one session in the last day of October. What followed was certainly not fun – a good example on how this disease is horrible. An acute pain ended up taking him to the hospital for one of the worst nights of all this. He said that the pain he felt was excruciating! Nothing got fixed and they moved him to the Foothills, in Calgary, once again. By ambulance. (No wonder Ian decided he will be an ‘ambliance’ driver!)
He spent a week in Calgary, new scan was done and, just after a month of the last scan, the cancer were now in 6 organs, including a blockage in one of his kidneys, hence the pain. They put a nephrostomy and started controlling his pain. At this point, I had already decided to move him back home to take care of him. And he had already decided that he had enough.
This was just two months ago but it seems a life. We still went for a visit with his oncologists, both insisting in keep going with palliative chemo, but Ricardo had decided to have the bit of life reserved to him without the hassles of such aggressive treatment. Not necessary to repeat that it was ‘palliative’ treatment – cure was never an option.
He ended up not seeing the naturopath anymore, as driving (or even going with me) to Calgary was getting too difficult. At the same time all this was going on, Nick was moving in as well, to help me with everything, the house, Ian. If I could just imagine that this decision was going to be the best one early down the road…
November was a very busy month for me, working in a different fair each weekend and being away most of the time. His two nieces, Carolina and Juliana, came for a weekend (they both live in US). Beginning of December, Ricardo had the only visit from Brazil, his sister Liane came for just over a week. Ricardo decided that he didn’t want visits this time and he allowed pretty much two or three people to come see him.
I decided to do the hardest thing I did in my life: accept his wishes. No visits. No chemo. No natural treatments. That was it. As I heard him talking to the oncologists: ‘I just want to go’. And I decided to help him the best I could, but following his wishes. We always chatted about all this openly, and it was not different now. I learned what he wanted to do with his body (or ashes, as he wants to be cremated), I discussed all the documents, and we had time to finalize and organize everything.
Ian was always part of everything and we discussed the cancer and what it was going to happen to daddy as open as we could. The Home Care Nurses were contacted and started a weekly visit to check on his nephrostomy. The family doctor started seeing him – just four months ago she became our neighbor! So, home visit is just a couple of stairs away and she is doing such an amazing job, keeping us informed and prepared to what we will have to endure.
One of the nurses, at the very beginning of their home visits, mentioned that we should discuss and decide if home death was an option, adding that she was a great fan of home death. Innocently, I said that I couldn’t see any other option and I would prefer a home death over a hospital without even thinking about it!
(Now, with a bit more awareness of what this means, I know I was right and I would still choose a home death over a hospital!)
So we all started preparing for a home death. Palliative care means that everything will be done to give Ricardo comfort through this time, but nothing should be done to prolong life – that was his wishes, discussed with nurses and family doctor and wrote down on a paper signed by the doctor.
His sister, Liane, left just three weeks ago and so much happened since then! He started receiving fluids through the IV and morphine through a sub-cutaneous line. I started giving him some medications and the nurses started coming here every day to change his nephrostomy dressing as he had a bacterial infection, treated with antibiotics. Ian started to get used to all the nurses and asked all the questions he had to.
I knew he was going to hold for Christmas, as his family planned to get everyone together but they ended up missing Ricardo and Ian. A Skype meeting happened on Christmas Eve and Ricardo said that he had ‘a very good Christmas’. His changes the past week was noticeable and he is now very confused and sleeping most of the time.
He is comfortable and our goal is being achieved. He is not in pain. And I heard him complaining maybe once or twice – and not a ‘big’ complaint! He is filling my days with his care and I am getting used to this routine. The house is calm, even when the boys are around, and peaceful. Harmonious, I should say. For the last week, I sponge bathe him and massage his puffy feet with a moisturizer, while playing some soothing music.
His room is an oasis of tranquility. And I hope we will all be successful in helping him in his passage. As a friend sent to me: My wishes and prayers for gentle endings and new beginnings.
I love you, Ricardo. And you will always be in our hearts and our minds. Be free.