The only things certain in a terminal cancer patient’s life are the taxes of cancer treatments, both emotional and physical…and then some. Talking about death and/or even making final arrangements with the patient/loved one’s input is not a certainty. It’s tough. Awkward. Uncomfortable. Besides, if we talk about it, doesn’t that mean we have given up hope?
Been there. Just did that. Still doing it, actually.
My Mom, Leslie Lehrman, called me earlier this month and said, “I just think you should make sure all of my plans are taken care of.” My Mom has been valiantly battling lung cancer for seven years. (No, she never smoked. You don’t have to smoke to get lung cancer). I was a bit shocked by her call, but not completely. The urgency in her voice is what really got to me.
So, SMAC! monkeys (Sock Monkeys Against Cancer) NoMo and Phoenix and I went to Arizona over the July 4th holiday to help start making arrangements with my Mom. I was nervous. I mean, what do you do, just walk in the door and say, “Hi Mom, we’re here. OK, let’s talk about your funeral?” Of course not…but how in the heck do you segue into this heavy stuff?
I thought I would share with you how everything unfolded during my visit. Here is my series of initial updates I posted on the WTF? Facebook page. As you’ll see, it was difficult, but, man, was it ever a blessing.
Yay. I made it to Phoenix. Hi WTF–ers. We love you.
Update on Mom: It was so great finally getting to Phoenix. However, while I was in flight, Mom went to the ER yesterday. She had a sudden severe pain in her neck and throat and couldn’t breathe due to the pain. They went to the nearest hospital where, long story short, they gave her a shot of morphine and she came home.
Thankfully, her radiation oncologist at Mayo is going to check her out today before her radiation treatment. We need to get this figured out PRONTO.
After all of this, Pastor Linda will come to Mom’s house to go over arrangements and bring her communion. I have to admit, it does feel good to get arrangements finalized and out of the way to be put into action when needed. Hard stuff, but great to do together – the way Mom wants it. Heck, I’m thinking I should just get my own arrangements organized now!!
So, Mom was a little “drugged-up” when we got here (my brother and his family too), but we still had a great time. Thanks for all your awesome well-wishes and incredible messages. More updates to come.
I did Mom’s hair..but messed around when she fell asleep. Ha.
Much different tone just a few hours later. Just keeping it real. The start of funeral arrangement planning off to a rocky start.
Ok, things are much better now. Talking about death and planning for it – whenever it may be – is not easy. Some people can’t bear to talk about it, others want to. So, this can make for pretty interesting situations, as you can imagine. But, they happen. It’s just life. Real life stuff. Tension is gone.
Pastor Linda came over. She is wonderful and a cancer survivor herself. Man, I love calm people. We talked about songs, scriptures, and other wishes my Mom has. No, my Mom isn’t on her death-bed right now – thank God – but some day, all of these plans will need to be put into action. I am thankful we are doing it with HER input…a blessing, really. She brought Mom communion, which was wonderful, too. I have a video I will post of that soon. I was soooo hoping for real wine. Nope, just grape juice. Presbyterians!!!!
I want to encourage everyone to talk to your family members with cancer or any terminal illness – whether they want to make arrangements now or not – just have a nice, deep conversation. It is sooooo worth it. Very revealing. Very fulfilling in so many ways.
Haven’t had a chance to read all of your comments from my previous post, but can see there are many. I soooooo appreciate your love and support. All is well here…really. Time for dinner and a dip in the pool. Hugzzzzzz.
I just have to say that Pastor Linda ROCKETHS. She came by the house today. We chatted about songs, scriptures and she even brought communion. She is a cancer survivor herself and brought a lot of peace to us today. Here is a video of Mom and Pastor Linda talking about death and faith. This may not be your kind of thing to watch. If not, I completely understand. This is tough stuff, but it’s just real stuff. Real. Icky. Stuff. But, then again, not so icky. The whole process is actually quite beautiful. Those feelings flip-flop a lot right now, but that’s to be expected.
I so hope that by sharing our journey, it can bring more peace to yours. I know I am learning a whole heckuva lot about my Mom, myself, our relationship…and then some. Onward we march, WTF-ers!
In Part II of this series, I’ll continue to chronicle our journey as it happened. Mom also recorded a very raw and heart-filled video on how important it is for her to be part of planning her end-of-life celebration.
So, what’s my point in all of this death chat stuff? Mom and I received so many messages of “thanks” for sharing our journey and tackling the issue of openly talking about death and making final arrangements. I don’t know how many more times I can say it’s not easy, but, once you get past ignoring that HUGE elephant in the room and finally approach it, amazing experiences take place.
I so hope more of you can experience these meaningful conversations and moments. We continue to plan and consider this time a beautiful opportunity.
Are you in a similar situation? How have you handled end-of-life planning for yourself or a loved one? Or were you (or a loved one) not able to talk openly about death and final arrangements?