In this episode, I chat with my friend Amanda about how she grew up with her grandpa and then when she went off to College, how he started to get sick. We talked about the shocking way they learned he had cancer and how she was his caregiver until he passed.*
Amanda’s parents divorced when she was 12. She had two younger sisters and the three of them all went different ways. Amanda moved in with her grandpa, one sister lived with their mom and the other sister lived with their dad. She looks back and thinks of how hard that must’ve been for her grandpa to have to play the mom and dad role to a teenage girl when all he really wanted to be was the fun grandpa.
In the Fall of 2014, he started having some problems. Amanda would come home from College on the weekends, so she only saw a little bit of what was going on. One of those times, she took him to the ER and they told her grandpa that he had diverticulitis. The doctors told him to change his diet and see if it got any better. It never did. The problems continued through the Fall and into the Spring.
On her way home from College for the final time before graduation, her dad called and said she needed to stop at the hospital on her way because her grandpa was there. “Well, John, it looks like your tumor has gotten bigger.” The whole family was sitting there thinking, “what tumor?” Apparently there had been a tumor that the doctors knew about from a previous scan, but not one of them had ever bothered to tell the family or her grandpa. They were all blindsided by this. Amanda took the reins and said he was going up north to a better hospital. They did more scans there and a colonoscopy and found out that he had stage 3 colorectal cancer. The doctor recommended that they start treatment right away, but grandpa John was insistent they wait a week so he could attend Amanda’s graduation.
After the treatment was started, grandpa John had really, really bad reactions to it. He had blisters all down his throat and they covered his feet. He ended up back in the hospital and then to a rehab facility. From the rehab, his family doctor said they needed to transfer him to a different hospital to have a tube put in his stomach so he could get some nutrients. John had been unable to eat, drink or even talk because the blisters were so bad. Amanda said you could see his bones because he was so skinny. When they got to the hospital, the doctors found out his bowel had ruptured and he was septic, so he was being lifelighted. The family doctor warned Amanda that grandpa John could die. Amanda called some of her family and they were able to say their goodbyes before lifelight came. Grandpa John was totally freaked out! He did not want to die. By the time the family got to the hospital, John was already in the ICU. The doctor told them he didn’t think John had more than a few days to live.
Fortunately, he lived a little longer than a few days. John’s sister was able to get him into the Huntsman Cancer Institute. He went into there completely bed ridden and by the time he left, about a month later, he could walk with a walker. Amanda said his whole character and care changed the second he got there. He had such a strong will to live. They constantly went back and forth to the doctor, which was a 6 hour round-trip drive. After several months of that, Amanda finally said they needed to move to the city so they could be closer to John’s doctors. He agreed and they moved in April.
In August, he went back to the Huntsman and the doctor there told him things weren’t looking good and they needed to start thinking about going on hospice. He agreed to go on it in September. The whole month of October, things just got worse and worse. On Thanksgiving night and the entire next day, John would do what’s referred to as a “death rattle.” Amanda said it was the most terrifying sound she’d ever heard. She said he’d slip in and out of it. The day after Thanksgiving, her family told John goodbye and they left. That night, November 27, something clicked in Amanda’s head.. She was the only one who hadn’t said goodbye. Within just a few minutes after letting him know how proud she was of him, he was gone.
Listen to the episode to hear all the details.
*Please note: this is the guest’s story. Their story is how they perceive it. It is not my judgement or responsibility to determine whether or not this story and the things said are true. Please be open minded when listening to/reading these stories.
KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THIS EPISODE:
-Grief comes in waves.
-Don’t take your health for granted and be more cautious about what you put into your body.
-Go to the doctor regularly.
-Get your colonoscopy done when it’s time! Don’t put it off.
-Health guidelines and ages recommendation for certain testing are there for a reason.
-Don’t wait.. If there’s something you want to say, say it. If there’s something you want to do, do it. If there’s somewhere you want to go, go.
LINKS TO THINGS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
–Shailee’s episode on grief
-Amanda’s favorite book: The Tattooist of Auschwitz
-Amanda’s favorite thing: Inflatable kayak
-Ending song: I Don’t Dance by Lee Brice (listen on the Hard Knocks playlist on Spotify)
Grief is like the ocean. It comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim. – Vicki Harrison
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