For the past few months, I’ve been pretty quiet with writing. The reason?
My dad was sick.
On June 1st of 2018, my father was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma or in layman’s words, terminal brain cancer. The same cancer that robbed Senator John McCain of his life, except dad’s tumor was inoperable and he decided against treatment after three weeks. Our entire journey from diagnosis to death lasted 5 months.
As a healthcare provider for over twenty years, I dove into patient care mode. We healthcare people tend to compartmentalize, turn off the feelings to be able to provide the care needed. I was no different.
For the final three months of my father’s life, my husband and I were there, camped out in his backyard every evening, night and morning to help provide care alongside my mother and other family members.
Good friends lathered us in visits, cards, food, and so many prayers, providing the palpable presence of God each day. His steady, solid promise of peace wrapped us in his nail-scarred hands while we watched our brilliant, talented father lose his ability to work in his woodshop, speak, eat, and walk.
There are no words to describe the heartbreak. Cancer devastated every part of his physical body, but the one thing my father did until the day he died was love.
He gave kisses to my mother, squeezed our hands or tried to give us a few jumbled up phrases of I love you. Those last days, I will always cherish, especially now in the aftermath of his death, when his earthly absence seems so surreal.
For all the caregivers out there taking care of patients with Glioblastomas, I want to provide some insight into his death, because when I searched there was a lack of information. So here’s a summarized version of the last week of my father’s life.
- No pain. – Dad did not experience any pain. He did lose the ability to use his right side early on and often complained of numbness, but even that didn’t seem to bother him much the last week. We gave him morphine and lorazepam to calm his breathing the final two days of his life.
- No seizures – probably due to the antiseizure meds he took from the beginning.
- He did lose interest in eating – This was one thing he loved up until the last week. The nurse at Solace told me that when they stop asking to eat, then their body is shutting down naturally and they do not feel hungry. This information brought me some comfort.
- He slept more and more every day and was not able to be awakened the last two days.
- Clarity: Dad did have one moment of clarity the night before he died. He was alert, squeezed our hands, tried to talk to us. A beautiful time I’m so thankful for to this day.
- Solace and hospice nurses provided everything we needed and were a constant support through the entire process.
- Labored breathing: The night before Dad’s death, his breathing became labored. He did have what many call the “death rattle.” This was alarming at first, but once we gave him the morphine and lorazepam, then his breathing calmed.
- Kisses: I gave him kisses every day. I knew our time was limited. I wanted him to feel loved even when he was not conscious.
- His last breath: He died with one quick, audible, peaceful breath. I believe that was the time Jesus called his name and Dad left his earthly body, his soul uniting with his Savior in eternity. Now, he’s in the presence of the perfect, eternal love of Christ.
An estimated 23,830 malignant brain cancer diagnoses were predicted for 2018. My father was one of those, but many are still out there caring for their loved ones or just finding out their devastating diagnosis.
To all those providing care, remember that even though the days and nights feel long, the time is short, so … be like my father and show love until their last breath.
In memory of my father, Don Moore, this blog will carry on his name – StoryMoore.