Often times when you are faced with the severe illness of a loved one, people always say: ” Keep on believing, God can still do a miracle.” But to those I want to ask: “Have you ever been there? Do you know what it is like to watch their suffering every day? I’m not sure what the motivation is behind people saying this – it is not as if people lives forever. Shouldn’t we sometimes make peace and accept that it is their time to go?
My dad died from aggressive lung cancer. From the time he was diagnosed it took him 7 months to die. Even though he didn’t receive any treatment, this illness did affect his quality of life. He was very much an outdoor person and he loved to braai. These are the things he had to sacrifice, especially in winter, due to an increased risk of pneumonia in his weakened state.
Over time he needed morphine to control the pain, which caused such intense skin sensitivity, that he could barely stand any touch. Therefore, he also lost the comfort of a hug from his loved ones. The eventual loss of appetite meant that he couldn’t even enjoy his favourite meal anymore – pap and braai vleis on a Saturday night!
Eventually he became so weak, that he had to be hospitalized – having to live his last days away from the comfort of his own home, surrounded by the family he loved. Even though we visited him often, there came a time where we had to leave, and he was left behind – alone!
Dying from lung cancer is a cruel and torturous death, ending with the patient actually suffocating. For me, his death was a miracle, meaning that he was spared any further suffering and allowing him to die in peace.
Now many years later, my mom is walking the same path, albeit from a different type of cancer – Neuroendocrine Carcinoid Cancer – which was discovered during an operation to remove an obstruction in her intestines. By this time it has already spread through her whole belly and into the lymph nodes. Due to the advanced state of the cancer, her age and weakened state of health, treatment was not a viable option.
A typical characteristic of this type of cancer, is the over-secretion of certain substances. Although the symptoms only manifest once the cancer spreads to the liver, as it then becomes unable to metabolize these substances. One of these hormones is serotonin (also well-known as the feel-good hormone!)
In excess, serotonin doesn’t make you feel good all! One very uncomfortable symptom is a flushing in the face, giving it a red or purple appearance. This can last from a few minutes to hours and can even become permanent.
An excess of serotonin also decreases the blood pressure. This can lead to dizziness, exhaustion and the real concern of falling. But I think the worst consequence is the constant diarrhea. It can occur up to 30 times per day!
All these factors combined created havoc on her body. The constant diarrhea makes her weak and causes her to lose weight. Due to low blood pressure she is constantly exhausted and not allowed to walk alone, less she should fall and hurt herself!
She has admitted to both me and my sister, that she hopes this illness won’t be stretched out for too long. That is when I ask myself: Will death for her, be a miracle?
Yes, we want our loved ones with us for as long as possible. But we can’t bear to watch them suffer.
So, I ask you, dear reader: Do you agree that sometimes death is actually the miracle we are praying for?
Thanks for reading.