Aug 15, 2008 - 12:10 am
First offPlease bear with me this is my first time on this site (or any like it) and my first time dealing with anything like this. I know I go a little off topic, but I wanted the story out there for you all to understand. Along with that, I feel like Im just whining and have almost not posted this for a few days but really just need to get it out and share. Thanks for reading.
My friend was just recently diagnosed with lung cancer. I work with him, he is 55, and Ive known him for about 2 years. Weve only been good friends the last year or so. He has always kind of been a loner and Im rather new to the area so dont really know many people my own age (Im 27) so we used to have dinner together and hang out playing cards and talking about life. He lived a crazy life and we shared some great stories!
Hes a great guy with a great heart, but he has made many very bad decisions in his life. Who hasnt?? But he had a drinking problem, drugs, etc. Most of this was many years ago, but recently he has started drinking again occasionally. Along with that, hes had chronic back problems, a few surgeries and some severe depression. Needless to say, to begin with, he wasnt an incredibly health person. His PCP seems to think that medication is the best resource and he abuses it, yet she keeps giving him stronger medicine. It doesnt make any sense to me. (And Im sorry for going off topic, but this is all how it started 3 weeks ago)
I got a call on a Friday that he was in ICU at a local hospital. He had overdosed on Oxycontin. It was very scary and I immediately went up there. I knew that it was going to happen. I had seen him earlier in the week and he was doing horribly. Looked terrible, had lost even more weight (he lost 60 lbs over the last yearanother thing his doctor didnt seem concerned about), was not really coherent or at all with it. But neither I, nor the owner of my work knew what to do---how to handle it. (I should also point out that I work for a small family owned business and he has worked there for 30 years .everyone sticks together and our bosses are amazing people that treat employees like family) After being in ICU and numerous tests, x-rays, etc they found something that appeared to be a lump on his lung and without even having the proper tools to do full testing they were saying cancer. He then got transferred to a bigger, move advanced hospital where they did proper testing and found Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer. He has a large tumor on the upper quarter of his lung and also another large tumor on one of his adrenal glands, and another that is not as big on his other adrenal gland. Needless to say, the prognosis is not good. After days in the hospital they came up with a care plan. They gave him his first chemo treatment last Wednesday, more to keep him comfortable than anything. When they finally released him from the hospital he had 13 prescriptions and it was a lot to keep straight. He lives alone, has never been married, has no kids, and really only one other close friend. Along with that, he has one brother that he hadnt spoken with in many, many years. During this ordeal I ended up calling his brother, not knowing the whole story, but figuring its family and they only have each other so he should at least know what was going on. His brother has since visited a few times, called a few times, but really isnt involved in his care.
So how do I play into all of this? I know what it feels like to not really have anybody and I didnt want him to feel like he was alone. So every single day since that first day in the hospital I make sure I go see him, even on the days when after work all I want is bed .or to go see my friends and have a drink. I call him numerous times a day and have become his health care proxy. When he came home, I got him all sorted out, cleaned his bachelor pad of a house that hadnt been cleaned for years, sorted his meds, and I try to make sure he eats and is taking care of himself. Along with that, Ive been printing him info on his cancer that he requested and other resources that he may find helpful since he doesnt have a computer and we dont really have any support groups close by. I also am the source of information for the people I work with, so while Im working all day I give people little updates and answer all their questions, etc. And truly, I am getting overwhelmed. VERY OVERWHELMED. I am exhausted everyday. I just want to get some sleep, but Im not able to sleep well. My back, shoulders and neck are killing me and I dont know what to do. A few people at work have brought some food by his house, which I thought was very sweet, but overall very few have gone to visit or even called him, yet they go on and on about how worried they are. Its becoming bothersome to me because they call me daily asking to know everything, and I just wonder .is it because you like the freakin gossip?? If you really care so much, STOP BY! Its a short drive. I understand everyone has their own lives, their own issues, and their own priorities but come on people. I try to treat people how I would hope they would treat me, and is that what they would want? Its weird because Im trying my hardest to understand. I know that some people dont like hospitals, but when he came home, they could have visited. He has nobody, and everyone knows that. Along with that, (and I know Im being selfish, which I feel terrible about) but if someone would say they were stopping by to check in on him and make sure hes eaten, spend some time, etc . I could get a night off! I dont at all think hes a burden (and I truly mean that, I love him hes a great person) .but I also know that if I burnout it is not going to help either of us. People have said that maybe coworkers dont know what to say in this situation and are uncomfortable, but GUESS WHAT??? Neither do I! Ive never dealt with anything even remotely close to this, and Im just making it up as I go along hoping Im doing the right thing. Its very difficult, but its not like we sit and talk about him dying everyday. He actually is, for the most part, in good spirits. He is realistic about what is happening and hes not miserable everyday. I sit and talk to him like I did everyday before he got this diagnosis.
We are also working on all the final wishes and such which Im trying to help him sort out. There are many things I should know as his health care proxy and Im fine with that, overall its going ok, a bit stressful, but hes taking it well, and we are moving along. As sad as it is, it needs to be done and we both understand the importance. It is a little difficult going over things like his will, where his money will go (if there even is any after all the medical costs), his car, etc because his answer is I want you to have it, you are the only one that really cares about me which makes me feel uncomfortable. Im only bringing it up so that everything that is supposed to be answered is answered. I think I may try to get some help in that area because I dont want him (or anyone else) to ever think Im doing this to get something out of it. I know that he knows it, but I still feel awkward asking him all those questions. And I also dont want there to be an issue of why he named whomever he did.
Lastly, he ended up in the hospital again last night. He had a follow up chemo appt, and besides him being incredibly tired & oftentimes constipated, along with a very low appetite he has handled the chemo well so far. But apparently at the doctor they found a blood clot in his lung and his heart rate went up to 160. Although it went down again, they kept him overnight in CCU and hes staying again tonight so they can monitor him. He really just wants to be home and tonight I felt he gave me a little attitude when I left because he was lonely and I was so exhausted I really couldnt stay for long. I explained its a 35 minute drive and I worked all day and was just exhausted, but I wanted to at least see him and bring him his Fixodent! I know that the attitude wasnt really directed at me, but it made me feel like a terrible person for not staying.
The thought of him living alone also scares me, but there is nothing I can do to help him. He does have a visiting nurse two days a week but I also worry about his depression kicking in and all those meds surrounding him. I mean, what if? Although he didnt TRY to kill himself when he overdosed, who knows if he ever would. He sometimes is in so much pain that he just keeps taking pills until it goes away, or something worse happens, which is what happened last time. (Although honestly, I think Im over thinking this too much today just because he was not in a good mood today) And also, how is he going to LIVE pay rent, get food, etc?? Never mind his medications .Its all too much. We set up a fund for him at work and hopefully the employees and great customers will help out. That is one benefit to a small towneveryone knows everyone, and has for long enough that they truly care. But I just dont know if it will all work. He tried for Social Security and Disability but they said hed get a check in February ..not very promising when you have a far progressed form of a terminal cancer.
Ok so that is my rant/getting it all out. I just needed to share some of this and its hard because most of the people I know around here are people I work with and Im not trying to badmouth them, but lately I feel a bit of stress and I wish they would just HELP! Its driving me a little crazy!
Anybody have anything to say or any questions please let me know .hopefully this rant helps me or someone else. From what I understand its just as crazy and overwhelming for everyone so here is my story so far---its only been 3 weeks. I know I need to look out for me too, but I just cant imagine him not having a visitor for one whole day so I make myself do it. I know that Ill get better and move on ..and the fact that he wont ever have that opportunity is what drives me to be there for him now.