Alex Trebek died and I can officially say that in a single week of November, way too much news and chaotic stuff has happened. All jokes asside, I'm glad he brought up awareness for early screening for Pancreatic cancer and brought so much joy to people in his life.
Wednesday was my first time giving a cancer diagnosis.
The patient came to us because he turned yellow. No other symptoms besides some loss of appetite and fatigue, but only when I pressed him about it.
That's almost a diagnosis in and of itself, but we did an ultrasound. Sure enough, suspected cancer in the head of the pancreas. No healthcare worker is surprised when a jaundiced patient with an extensive history of smoking is diagnosed with cancer. We see it all the time. But he, he hadn't expected this.
I pulled the patient aside. He was 74. Very thin, startlingly yellow. I looked him in the eyes, and explained that, based on our findings, there is a strong suspicion of cancer. I made sure to use the word. He was a bit shell-shocked. Didn't really know what to say. I asked him if he had any questions. His only question was how much longer he'd have to wait in the ED before being transferred to internal med, so I answered and asked him if he had any other questions.
"No," he said. He smiled sadly. "Thank you." I walked away, tears in my eyes.
My father felt sick about 5 weeks ago and went to the doctor. At the time, we could never have imagined that he had three different forms of stage 4 cancer. They told us our time was measured in weeks.. and it took another week for reality to set in.
The following week he was admitted to the hospital. The process felt cold and lonely. Due to covid, no family could be with him. Surgery after surgery. We thought it would help. It did not. There is nothing more they can do, they say. So they send him home to die. We thought chemo sounded like an option. Some method to fight this fate. I take him to one appointment, having to carry him in. The look the doctor gives tells me that this will not help.
He is conscious another week. He is still my father, and I talk to him. He tells me he is proud of me, that I have done everything he could have wanted. He lays in bed while I drain fluid from his body. It is red with blood. He tries to eat and drink, but it does not stay down. Nothing moves through him. I hope he is not scared. We decorate his room with hearts and love. He will be missing valentines day. My mother weeps.
The next week he sleeps. He sleeps, and sleeps, only to rise enough to express pain and be medicated back to sleep. His body shrinks in on itself, only his stomach remaining large. That's where the cancer is. I can see its ugly symmetry outlined in his skin. His eyes are not the eyes my father had anymore. They are half closed, sunken in-between mountains of cheek bones newly exposed, and searching for something. I spend every night of this week watching him. Every moment of pause between breaths causes me to hold my breath as well. My sister tells him that it is okay to let go. I cannot say the words, there is something lodged in my throat.
This week he cries out suddenly, the first word I have heard in days, "help". We try our best to soothe his pain. He reaches out, searching for something. I am there. The medication works and he withdraws. His breathing now slows. I shakily hold his hand while he takes his final breath. I do not realize he has passed until I measure his heart beat and find none. I collapse in agony on the floor and scream.
I cannot process his absence. The room is suddenly so small and so quiet. I sit in the same spot I have sat for the past few weeks, but he is no longer laying there and I no longer have a father. My life has crumbled in a matter of weeks.
I have always promised since the day I lost my friend Stefán that I would take on as many challenges to raise funds for any Pancreatic Cancer charity and cause that I can in the hopes of raising awareness, raising funds and, eventually, finding better ways to treat sufferers.
Pancreatic cancer is a tough one. Tough to diagnose, tough to treat, and tough to survive. Together, we can change that.
I am taking part in The Big Step Forward to take steps to transform the future for everyone affected by pancreatic cancer. Please support me and my fundraising.
Research breakthroughs give us hope and will save lives. The funds I raise will have the power to make that possible. Every step will support world-class researchers to speed up diagnosis and improve treatments. By walking together, we can create change to save lives.
We may all know someone suffering, or affected by Cancer. But pancreatic cancer is one that is particularly horrific.
Join the team, help raise funds and challenge yourself at TEAM STEFAN: https://www.thebigstepforward.org.uk/fundraisers/TeamStefan
And it feels like a lifetime.
I miss you every single day, and would trade everything that I have right now for one more conversation with you - even if it only lasted fifteen seconds.
I can’t think of Vegas or the Bahamas or Browns games or french onion soup or gambling without thinking of you - but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
There is something very humbling about helping someone to have a good death. Mom came home to start hospice this past Monday and here on Sunday we’re counting down the final hours. I was told to expect up to two weeks before she took the final turn, but she apparently decided not to wait. Last night she started having the “death rattle” in her throat and the hospice nurse told us this morning that within 24 hours, it would be over.
This has been, without question, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I’ve had to hold my mothers hand and reassure here when she was confused or in pain. I had to clean her after she soiled herself, and put diapers under her so that she wouldn’t be embarrassed. I had to make sure that she got her medications, coaxing her to swallow. I had to ignore when she cried when I moved her in bed in order to make sure that she didn’t get sores. And I’ve had to keep my father from completely losing it because while I may be losing my mother, he is losing his chosen life partner.
I’ve probably slept a grand total of four hours this entire week and I’m barely able to think, let alone function at times. And I’ve cried more the past few days than I ever have in my whole life put together. I know more about the stages of death than I ever wanted to, and watching one of the most important people in my life slowly wind down has been mentally and physically excruciating. Part of me is glad that Mom’s illness progressed so quickly and that the amount of time she suffered is limited. I’ve seen so many cancer patients spent months and years in agony before passing and while I’m heartbroken that I won’t have my Mom for much longer, I’m glad that her suffering was so brief and is nearly at an end.
Less stressed. I need to quit worrying about things that I have absolutely no control over.
And quit looking up things on the interwebs. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but WebMD is just plain torture.
I’ve (28f) made this account to let out some emotions. Or whatever..? My husband (30m) is dying. And I feel there’s no point in talking to friends about it because they already know what’s wrong. Which is, my husband is going to die. Of cancer. He has as much as two years if we’re lucky. Or at least that’s what every doctor we've spoken with (5) has said. Anyway, I made an account to have a place to vent. Anyways, that’s all for now.
I came to the realization, at 3 am this morning, that my dad will pass away from his cancer before I graduate with my PhD in 2 years. It seems odd to me that this is the thought I that I fixated on and can't sleep over. Out of all the other things to grieve.
We only learned this past three weeks that he was even sick. When my mother called to tell me that he has three different cancers, all of them advanced, and only four to six weeks left to live.. I just thought how cruel it seemed that this was happening so fast.
My dad is actually my step dad. When my biological father failed me, he was there. He was an archeologist. He was a historian. He was a conservationist. He sent me to my first environmental camp that introduced me to aquatics. He gave me the connections that got me an internship with the fish and wildlife service. I decided to get my BS, MS, and PhD in Environmental Science. He always told me that I would. He always believed in me.
And now, at 3 am, I realize he will not be there when I do. It hurts.
Yes indeedy! The time has come for yet another fundraising walk. I will be doing the usual 24 miles this November all in aid of raising funds for Pancreatic Cancer UK.
Feel free to donate here: https://fundraise.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/fundraisers/Stanza/24-miles-in-memory-of-stef--n
We’re facing a pancreatic cancer emergency – too little has improved and too many people are dying. Pancreatic Cancer UK only UK charity dedicated to taking on this injustice using every possible means. We’re supporting people with pancreatic cancer now, campaigning, and funding vital research to transform the future.
By working together, our actions today can transform the future for people affected by pancreatic cancer.
Together, we’ll take it on!
Footnote: None of the cash donated ever ends up in my hands, it is all stored digitally on the Pancreatic Cancer UK website and is transferred directly to them upon completion of the event.
I am so very happy to announce the first donation! Thank you so much for your support!
Today marks two months since Mom died. It sometimes feels like it happened just a moment ago and sometimes years. I think that Mom would be proud of how I’ve managed to pull things together. In the past weeks, I’m taken over all the things that Mom used to do for Dad. I’m managing the household accounts, making sure all the bills get paid... all the things that Mom had done because Dad just isn’t good with this kind of stuff. But with every thing that I’ve done to close out her accounts makes me feel like I’m losing another part of her. It’s my name on the accounts now, and the bills come to me. I still have her contact on my cell phone even though her phone was shut down.
I also started counseling, which has done a great deal to help. I still cry a lot when I think about Mom and look at pictures of her but that is normal. Losing a parent is like reaching the final level of full adulthood. It doesn’t matter that you’ve managed your own life and done all the normal adult things. You’ve lost that final safety net, the person that you could always go to when you needed advice or support. We’re starting to face milestones that will be our first without her. The first Passover, what would have been her 55th anniversary with Dad and her 75th birthday. This whole year is going to be a long list of firsts without her and each one is going to reopen wounds that have barely begun to start healing.
There’s no finding any rationality or comfort for us. Dad tries to understand how her cancer was never found until it was already advanced and while I know more about things like that because of my job, it’s not a comfort to know that what happened to her is typical. Pancreatic cancer is a monster that lives inside of you and you never know until it’s too late. I still feel like I failed her in some way. That I didn’t notice that the mild symptoms she’d experienced over the past year might be more serious. I know that I couldn’t have; that if her doctors didn’t see something wrong, how could I have? That this cancer masks itself until it’s too late. It’s going to be a long time before I’m able to move past that.
What I do know is that my life is going on. I’m finding moments where I smile and I know that Mom would be proud of the person that I’ve managed to become. That I’m finding strength to move on. The life I’ll live going forward is because of who she was and how she raised me. The scar is never going to fade, but I’ll start to remember her with joy and not tears.
Celery is a particularly rich source of the flavonoid luteolin (also called isoorientin). Luteolin is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune booster. And now researchers have shown that luteolin also suppresses the growth of pancreatic cancer cells in a test tube by 50%. But more importantly, this natural compound also disrupts the cancer cell’s key enzymes called MMP’s (matrix metalloproteinases) which they desperately need to metastasize to surrounding tissues. As a result, luteolin slowed the cancer cells’ ability to spread in a test tube by 80%. All this could explain why in one European study, those eating celery regularly had 53% less risk of pancreatic cancer. That’s quite impressive for a vegetable that’s virtually calorie free ~ The Eden Prescription