27 April 2012

War...and Peace, Part 3

It is incredibly painful to watch someone you care about suffer, especially when you know there's nothing you can do to stop the suffering. I've been there, and I'm sure many of you reading this have been there as well, so you know just as much as I do that it's not fun at all. It sucks, and there's really no nicer way to say it.

I won't go into a lot of detail about my brother's post-surgery or the majority of his hospital stays, because I don't have first-hand information from a lot of those incidents because I live 175 miles away from my parents and the hospital he was treated at is even further away than that. I went to visit on weekends, but I wasn't able to be there every day like I would have wanted to be, so a lot of the details are fuzzy to me because I'm relying on second-hand information. But, I will hit on the major points and the stuff that I know, which in this story should be good enough because while the minutiae of his ordeal would be great, the major plot points will suffice.

After my brother's surgery he went through the typical recovery process that everyone goes through where he was miserable for about a week after the fact, with the worst part being that he was confined to a hospital bed knowing he couldn't go anywhere or do anything that he loved to do. Add in the discomfort of having hoses and cords coming from every other direction - including a colostomy bag and catheter - and it makes the experience even more not-fun. But, my brother took it in stride. He always took everything in stride. No matter what effect it would have on him, he was the same calm person on the outside.

After suffering through the post-op discomfort for about a week, he was able to finally go home. But, that didn't last very long, and he was back in the hospital after a near-death experience when his catheter stopped functioning properly. One of the worst feelings in the world is that phone call late at night from home that contains the words "ambulance" and "emergency room". Add in "almost died" and "barely made it" to the equation, and it's a phone call that will certainly scare the hell out of any normal person.

He endured several scares similar to that one over the next few weeks, and also endured the bad news that the number of tumors in his liver had grown, as well as the amount of tumors in his lung. The big bombshell came shortly after that, when the doctors told him that the tumor they had removed not only returned, but came back larger than before. So, a new round of treatment was planned, even though he secretly thought it wouldn't do any good. (He never admitted this, but I could tell it was how he felt about the situation.)

He did everything he could to enjoy life. People tend to do that when they know there's a clock ticking and it's going to stop soon. He didn't know how much time he had (the doctors told him about a year), but he knew that he was going to enjoy the time as much as he could. He made a bucket list and started doing things that he'd never done but always wanted to. (I think all of us would love to have this luxury.)

He made one final trip to Hawaii to see his fiancée before his treatment was scheduled to begin, and that's when things began to turn for the worst. I'm not going to go into a lot of details about what happened in Hawaii because 1) I don't know all the details, and 2) it's really none of my business. All I'm going to say is this: he found out that she wasn't being honest with him while they were apart, and the engagement was cancelled before he returned home.

It was his deathblow. He lost everything that he had left to fight for, and when he came home he decided to not take the chemotherapy because he wanted to enjoy the rest of the time he could instead of being sick from the treatments and only buying himself an extra six months of life. His thinking was "I'd rather enjoy six months than be miserable for a year if I'm going to end up dead either way". I can't say that I blame him.

After the Hawaii fiasco he started crossing items off his bucket list. He got body piercings and tattoos (and even paid for me to get one with him), and he started enjoying every single moment of life he had left. He came to visit me more so he could spend more time with me, The Wife, and our kids. We stayed up until 2 AM most nights he was there, and even though it made getting up the next morning very difficult, it was some of the best time we spent together because it was so real, and to him - it was a chance to escape.

Each time he would come visit he would stay for several days to a week, and I noticed that he was getting progressively worse each time he came. I could tell his time was near, and I could tell that it wouldn't be too much longer until he wasn't able to come visit any more, and unfortunately, I was right.

The last time he was able to come visit was in July of last year. He came for my birthday, and he was able to stay for a week even though he was sick most of the time he was with us. He would stay up all night because he was so sick, and he would only get a few hours of sleep during the day if he was lucky. It didn't change the way he interacted with us though, as he would still talk and goof off as if nothing was even wrong with him. (To this day I'm still amazed that he was able to do this. I know I couldn't have done it.)

One of the things I'll always remember about his final week at my house was the late night conversation I had with him when he started telling me things that he had done while overseas. I won't go into detail here because it's not my place to do so, but I will say that he did a whole lot more than just sit at a desk and type on a computer all day, which is what he led most of us to believe. The one thing that will always stick in my brain as long as I have one is the image of him looking me square in the eye and saying "If I would have known it would come to this, I would have jumped on a grenade when I had the chance."

That's some powerful stuff. If you hear that, it will send chills down your spine, I don't care who you are. (It certainly did for me.) It's one of the last images I have of him, because shortly after he left our house and returned home, things took a turn for the worst.

To be continued...

No comments

Post a Comment