This blog post is a difficult one to post, but I feel it is very important to post for any parents who may be going through something similar. Dealing with losing someone you love is something we never want to discuss with our children. But sadly it happens, see how we dealt with it as a family
How our family started
My husband and I started dating almost 8 years ago. I instantly became close to his family, as family has and always be the most important thing in my life. The one person I became the closest to was his grandmother. She was one of my best friends, not a day went by where I didn’t speak to here at minimum of 2 times a day. Usually I spoke with her more like 5-8 times a day, which yes seems like a lot but I called her about everything. Usually we had over big conversation of the day which lasted any where between an hour or three, just depending on what we had to talk about, and then we had many little calls about lunch, dinner, what she was up to, or just to randomly call and tell her something.
She was such a big part of Chief’s life. She along with my husbands aunt watched him as an infant, during the week while I worked. He saw her often, and spoke with her every time I was on the phone with her.
Grandma started complaining a lot in December/ January about having bad back pain. She went to the doctors multiple times and they kept telling her that she was having back spasms and gave her some muscle relaxers. On one visit they thought maybe it was her gallbladders, but after an MRI it revealed that she only had one gallstone and most likely was not the cause of her pain.
After months of complaining she called me early in the morning crying that the pain was so bad. Finally I was fed up, I was taking her to the hospital to find out what was wrong with her. We arrived in the emergency room and were immediately taken back to a room, they ordered a CT scan of her chest and abdomen. The ER doctor came back and we spoke with him outside her room and he told us that they found a mass on her pancreas. I instantly knew it was cancer, no test had to tell me. I realized in this moment I was going to lose one of the most important person in my life. What I was not prepared for was how quick it would happen.
She was admitted to the hospital for more testing, and I explained to her that they found the mass, but we didn’t know yet what it was. I stayed with her the entire night, not sleeping and pacing the halls like an anxious parent waiting to hear bad news about their child. It seemed like the test to confirm the cancer was taking a lifetime. The next afternoon the doctor came in and explained what was going on, and what we were waiting for. Once he was finished talking to us, I went into the hallway with him to ask about the test results. He checked right there on the computer, and I saw him pull up the results and I knew what they meant the instant I saw the red numbers. It was confirmed, she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer and he said she only had about 6 months to live.
Leaving the Hospital
Once we left the hospital, we made an appointment to meet with the oncologist and he gave us even worse news. He didn’t think she had 6 months, he said more about 3 months. I was completely devastated, how was I going to handle this, how was my son going to handle this? They were so close. He referred us to Hospice, and told us to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Well months passed and she did great, she had days where she was in a lot of pain and other days where she was completely fine. We registered her with hospice and got a great set of nurses to work with. They helped with her pain management, and anything we needed.
Hospice Home Care
Then the time came, 4 months after she was diagnosed and 1 month later then the oncologist gave her, she started to get weaker, started to forget things, and was no longer able to care for her self. I had made the decision and promised her over a year ago when I helped her put her brother in hospice that she would not go into a home, that she would come live with us. So in July she moved in with us. My 3 year old was ecstatic that his great grandma would be here every day with us. The day before she arrived we set up her room, we had all of her supplies delivered by hospice, and we hung pictures on the wall to make it like home. (we briefly converted our downstairs play room into her bedroom) Our first 2 weeks were great, she was happy to be here and was doing well. I made sure to spend as much time talking to her as possible. My son spent all day loving on her, showing her toys, playing and talking her ear off.
We tried to capture every moment with her while we could. Giving her all our love, hugs, kisses, and laughs. I feel that this is important that all children should spend these last moments with their loved ones. Even on her worst days, a quick kiss or hug could give her lots of energy and made her so happy. We must not treat them as they are sick, but as they are our family and soon they will no longer be there with us, so we should make their final moments happy ones. My all time favorite day, was the day I introduced grandma to snap chat. We took lots of photos, and I will always cherish them as they are from the last day before she started to become much more forgetful.
Time to say goodbye
Not long after this amazing day she started to eat and drink less, and then the time came. She woke up late Wednesday night and was very confused, she went back to sleep but when she woke on Thursday she had trouble breathing and was put on constant oxygen, the hospice nurses came right away to check on her and let us know that it wouldn’t be long. We made sure to talk to Chief and explain what was going on. We had spoken with him many times before and told him that soon great grandma wouldn’t be with us any more, I explained that soon the angles would come to get her and that she would go to live with them. He was obviously upset and confused that she would be somewhere he couldn’t see or talk to her anymore, but its important that he understood that she didn’t just disappear with no explanation.
By Friday afternoon I knew she wouldn’t make it through the night, hospice came out and confirmed that soon we would have to say goodbye. We called my mother in law and she rushed from work, and eventually the rest of the family came to say their goodbyes. We brought Chief in the room and he climbed into bed with her and gave her a hug and a kiss and she smiled, more then she had responded the entire day. Once everyone left it was just my mother in law, my husband and our son left at the house.
Later that night a hospice CNA arrived to assist us as the time got closer. We stayed in the room the majority of the night with her, just briefly coming out to close our eyes for a few minutes to return right back to her side. Then at 5am I had just come out to close my eyes for a moment and the CNA came out to get me, it was time. I held her hand, kissed her, and told her how much I loved her. I went upstairs and woke my husband, I crawled into bed and cried my eyes out then pulled my self together to get back down stairs. I held her hand, and hold her how much I loved her until the moment she took her last breath. 7/30/2016 at 5:13am she was gone, she passed peacefully in loving care of her family.
That morning Chief woke up, and we explained to him that she had passed and that the angels came to take her away. He ran to her room to discover that she in fact was gone. He was upset but understood that grandma was in a better place and that she was no longer in any pain. He still talks about her quite frequently, we go to visit her grave at the cemetery, and he talks to her outside sometimes while he is looking to the sky. This journey was one of the most difficult ones that I have ever taken and I would not change one thing about it.
I hope that if you are dealing with a similar situation, that you would choose to include your child(ren). It is helpful to not only family member who is dying, but also to the children who will ultimately have to deal with their passing. Make sure to take advantage of any resources you may have. Hospice was such an amazing help to us during and after my grandmothers care. I would not have been able to do any of this with out their help. We will also be taking advantage of their bereavement programs that they offer as well. If you don’t think that hospice home care is something that you can do, they have inpatient facilities that your loved one can go to once their symptoms are no longer manageable at home. Our facilities locally are beautiful and amazing, and you receive the same care there that you would at home.
We love you grandma and no day is the same with out my daily calls to you.