Tuesday, January 12, 2010

lumpy love.

jason thinks that i think too "morbidly" sometimes....
i am not entirely sure what ever sparked my thinking like this.
i try to go back as far as i can remember having my first thoughts of death and dying and being scared about medical things, and i think my earliest memory was when i was walking in a kmart or a store similar to that, with my father.
he had had a heart attack some time before that, and i remember him telling me that "you know, once you have one heart attack, you're likely to have another one, and you usually don't live through the second one." now, i'm not entirely sure if that was a guilt trip or what the intention was at the time, but whatever it was meant to do, it scared the ba-jeebies out of me.... and i never forgot it...

when i got older and worked in the hospital in oncology (with cancer patients), this fear only grew.... i mean, i LOVED my work, because i helped my patients daily.... it was an amazing job to have.... and i was amazingly blessed to be the one at many people's sides while they passed. i mean, not that i ENJOYED being there, but if i wasn't, i'm not sure who would have been.

one of my patients was a homeless guy. he was a DNR (do not resusitate, (sp?)).... anyway, the nurses called him a "drugseeking patient," and before i'd gone in there, i felt like "oh gosh, this guy just wants drugs.... and then, i saw him.... he couldn't sit still.... he was all over the place, and clearly uncomfortable.... he couldn't lie still. well i worked the next day, and he was my patient again, only this time i was a sitter for him. sitter, being that you just sit and watch them all day for one of many possible reasons. (reasons being: they are a suicidal patient, they are likely to fall and keep attempting to get out of bed, they are having seizures continuously, they are ripping their IV or pulse ox machine off.... whatever the reason, there are many of them.)

so i watched him because he kept pulling on his IV and he kept trying to get out of bed. i was actually a sitter for 2 men this day. i sat in the middle of them both, one was trying to pull off his pulse ox (for those of you who don't know what that is, that's the little machine with the red dot that goes on your fingertip. what it does is it measures the oxygen in your fingertips, which ultimately tells them how much oxygen is getting to your extremities. when this number drops, actions need to be taken), and the other was trying to get out of bed and rip his IV out, but really wasn't too alert to realize what he was doing... he was just mumbling and doing the actions, without even really knowing what he was doing. it was terrible.

so my right, i had this BIG, STRONG man with a LOUD dinging machine (when the pulse ox was off of his finger) and then a smaller, frail man who kept trying to climb out. it was so difficult at times when they were both in action, that i remember looking up at the clock multiple times and thinking how grateful i would be when this day was over.... this poor man. he was soooo antsy.... wasn't there anything in the world they could do for him? he kept saying, "sir, help me." (he was out of it and his eyes were closed) and he would be pulling himself up and i'd say, in a soft voice, "I'm right here. I need you to lie back down for me, okay?" and he'd say, "sorry sir. it hurts sir. please help me ma'am." and he'd hold onto my right arm with his left hand. and he'd lie still for a few moments and i'd cover him up with the sheet, and think he was settled, and right when i'd go to sit down, he'd repeat the same cycle.... ohhh it broke my heart.... i'd wished there was something i could have done for him. HE HAD CANCER IN EVERY PART OF HIS BODY!!!! It was in his back, in his bones, EVERYWHERE!!!! how could anyone stand to watch this man suffer like this, and yet still call him a "drugseeking patient!" i'd be drugseeking too, if i were in that much pain!!!!

anyway, i had this fellow the very next day.... again.... only this day, he was content. he was nearly out of it. wasn't fighting to get out of bed anymore.... he just lie still most of the day. i wasn't his sitter, for he no longer needed one. nurse giving report said that he was likely to pass at some time today.... and that he was a DNR so I didn't need to take vitals anymore, not after the first batch.... my insides felt like, "how could you just give up on someone like that?" i mean, I KNOW he was sick, and i KNOW he wasn't going to make it, but can't you monitor his oxygen level? give him more if you could.... i don't know.... i battled this one for a while. i took his vitals anyway.... and they were horrible... i knew he wasn't going to last through my shift.... i checked on him frequently. made sure he had oxygen.... his vitals were slowly dropping, and i remember just taking a seat..... no one was there. i pulled up a chair and he rolled his head towards me.... he started pulling on my arm... his vitals started going nuts.... heartrate was elevating, and he was clearly in pain.... i remember leaning my face down to him and whispering in his ear.... "it's okay, i'm riight here," just as i had the day before.... i had my cheek pressed against his and i held onto his hand with my left hand and my right hand was on top of his head.... i remember the way he had looked. i remember cleaning him the very best i could every day.... i remember.... the moment my cheek was against his, and i whispered in his ear, him lying still and his heart rate slowly dropping.... it was almost as if you could FEEL the fear lift from him.... it made me sooo sad and yet so much better knowing that he wasn't alone.... i watched his chest rise and fall until it didn't rise again.... i remember staring at his chest, waiting for it to rise again.... and staring at his chest and staring at it.... thinking, "he's gonna breathe again...." it's unreal, watching someone pass.... like, how does one's body just stop? how can ANYONE let ANYONE die alone??? his "girlfriend" came by AFTER he passed and before i had gotten him ready to go to the morgue.... she acted a bit upset, but not much.... she looked like she was loaded and it just sickened me. i felt like, "where were you?!" but i didn't say a word....

there are so many patients that i've had, that i remember nearly everything about... i remember their names, first and last. i remember their look, i remember their personality, their diagnosis. i remember how long they stayed and i remember their families....

it can still turn my stomach at times, watching people battle illnesses.... people fighting JUST TO STAY ALIVE, and here we are fretting the small stuff in life.... complaining to your spouses about who works more, or who makes more money, or who takes care of the kids more.... it turns my stomach....


there's this lump in my armpit.
it started a few days ago.... and has, at minimum, doubled in size....
it hurts to move my right arm.
it hurts to put a shirt on, it hurts to wash.
it just hurts.

i'm sure it's just a swollen lymphnode or something, but it hurts.... and when i looked it up on the internet, it says, "If you are a woman experiencing this lump, CONTACT YOUR DR IMMEDIATELY, as this may also be a sign of breast cancer."
ohhh. nice.
especially nice considering my father passed away from cancer. his brother and sister both passed away from cancer. and he has one other sister who is still alive....
his father passed away from cancer, and all of his siblings, minus one that is still alive (7 or 8 siblings mind you) have all passed away from some type of cancer.
it's clear.
cancer runs on my dad's side....

like i said, i'm sure it's just a swollen lymphnode, i'm nearly certain, but i'm not entirely sure i'd ever forgive myself for dismissing something that could be fatal, knowing i knew my odds before hand.... if it were just me, i would probably say "it's a freakin swollen lymphnode... i'll wait til it goes away." buuuut... it's not just me... it's jason. it's taylor. it's lewie....

my aunt wanda, who passed away most recently of breast cancer, had known she had a lump for a year and a half and by then there was nothing they could do. it was everywhere. they tried, but it was just too far spread to even really help. she passed away after just a few short months of battling it.

so about that lump in my armpit, (that i'm sure is just a swollen lymphnode), it had me awake much of the night because it hurt so bad. all these thoughts started going through my head.... like, what if BAM dr's told me i had cancer? honestly, emotionally, i feel soooo incredibly drained, i'm not even sure i'd have the energy to keep fighting, but then YEAH RIGHT!!!! do you know who i am? i fight everything! i guess that was the attitude i was looking for.... i was thinking of how pathetic my insides sounded thinking that there just wasn't anything else i could fight right now.... that's not ME.... that was that pathetic little voice inside my head throwing a pity party.... cuz whatever it is, cyst, lymphnode.... whatever it is, i just want it to goooo away.... it hurts.

do i think i'm dying?
do i think i have cancer?
do i think i think too much?
will i call the dr?
will i be okay?
i'm sure of it.

anyway, i guess where i was kind of going with this one was, that before you find yourself arguing over the small petty stuff that seems huge at the time, imagine if you were lying at the side of someone you love.... watching them fight to live.... what are those last minute words you'd cram in to say to them? what would you apologize for? would you kiss them and hug them and hold them? well, why don't you try apologizing for those things now... while they're still conscious.... why don't you kiss em, hold em, hug em now.... now, while you have the chance... why don't you let all the petty stuff go... and look at these moments you're given with them now.... they won't be there forever.... go ahead.... love on em.
.....i won't even tell em i told you to. ;)


Pat Tillett said...

Ashley you are a writer. There is no doubt about that fact. For me, what separates good from great is not what I read. It's how what I read makes me feel. There is a direct connection between my eyes and my brain. Much of the reading I do stops there. My brain filters and processes it. Sometimes, like about 10 minutes ago, I read something that goes from my eyes, to my brain, and then heads directly south to my chest. This entry did that. It wasn't in my brain long enough to get filtered or processed. I felt it immediately. It was both sad and uplifting at the same time. Thank goodness there are a few people in the world who think that somebody in that man's position still deserves dignity. Still deserves to have somebody there when he passes. Sorry, I didn't mean for this to be so long, but it kicked by butt. Strong and powerful… I loved it. One of the things I like best about it is that I know it's not fiction. It's real. Just a fabulous piece of writing!

buymebarbies said...

Ashley, Straight to the heart!!! This is who you are and always will be, a loving, caring person. You can't stand to see someone hurting, no matter who they are and that's TRUE compassion!!! I love you!!!

Bixler Brood said...

Ashley, YOU are a people person. You are a respectful person and well respected. You have this encandescent love for everyone, everything, and for that I'm honored to be your friend.

mrscolombo@yahoo.com said...

Ashley....I haven't commented on your blog much....mainly because I don't know what to say, I'm usually blown away by the writing and anything I have to say about it would just be poluting. I do want you to know that cancer runs deep in the Norris family. My father (your dad's uncle) died of lung cancer. All of his brothers and sisters died of cancer except Aunt Ruby, of course. Your grandfather, my Uncle Lewis, died of cancer too, you know that, right? Anyway....I have a list of all of them, how they died and their age. If you are interested, let me know. I think we all should be extremely careful of getting everything check. BTW my dad was 58 yrs. old. My brother, Ed, was 62. Cancer.

Have you been to the doctor about the lump? Is everything okay.

Take extra-special care of yourself.