Debbie, a close friend of mine who lives across the street, is dying.
Three seperate specialists have said she has less than six-months to live. And she's going downhill fast.
It was just a week ago that we celebrated her 70th birthday with pizza, salad, and a fiesty game of dice. Since then, Hospice services have come to wait in the wings, ready to move in when needed; probably soon they have said. My heart grieves.
The culprit? Lung cancer. At least, that's where it all began. Just 15 months ago, in the spring of 2019. When she was just 68 years old. Debbie, like me, has a long history of smoking. In the past -- before I quit -- she and I would come together either on her porch or mine to chat and to smoke. Now, that seems so long ago.
Debbie's cancer has been aggressive. Four seperate cell types have been identified; more types are suspected. She's already lost a kidney to the disease. And the ravage is not over.
Ten days ago, as I sat with her in the oncologist's office, we learned the PET Scan results from a few days before not only confirmed the earlier Cat Scan image of a liver riddled with cancer but that its primary tumor had multiplied from 3 inches in width to encompass almost 1/2 of this vital organ.
And, as the physician gently added, the cancer had spread to varied areas of her spine, from just below the brain stem and down to bones in her pelvic area and to the femur bone of both (upper) legs. And, there was a new lesion in the lung which had looked clear just 8 months ago, following radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
We were told that gone was the possibility of the immunotherapy option we so hoped for. In fact, removed was the possibility of any viable treatments. Although the oncologist offered an oral cancer medication, she stressed it was not a cure. There was just too much cancer. Debbie chose not to take those pills.
When we left the oncology center and got to my car that day, Debbie dryly commented: "Well, guess I don't have to worry anymore about giving up smoking," as she lit one up.
Although -- surprisingly -- Debbie is not in any pain at this point, Hospice has supplied pain medication for her use when needed. Her two siblings and spouses, who live locally, have circled around both Debbie and also her 97 year old Mom, who lives with her. Debbie's daughter and grandson from North Dakota fly in tomorrow for two weeks. The family is laying on a lot of love to both Debbie and her mom.
I have just returned from a short visit with Debbie. She was very weak. Her voice was more like a hoarse whisper and her speech had a slur to it. Her cough was deep and tight. Her step was shuffled. Her chosen diet now consists of vanilla milkshakes, rootbeer floats, and chocolate milk. She will sip at water and chicken soup when prodded.
Debbie was on the couch and soon drifted off to sleep. As I sat by her, I thanked God that her daughter and grandson will be here in just over 24 hours. I want them to have time with her at home. And time for Debbie to welcome them to the familiar surroundings of family before she needs to move into the beautiful but alien house of hospice.
I am losing a dear friend.