Monthly Archives: June 2012

What Would You Do?

What Would You Do?

Maybe we’re just getting to that age now… that age when death becomes a very plausible reality. I’ve mentioned our friends C & F before. John used to work with the hubby– they are about 20 years older than we. The four of us used to live about 15 minutes away, and they frequently invited us over for dinner. While we didn’t exactly connect the same way we do with our peers, they were always very warm and generous and kind.

Four years ago, C was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Every year prior to that, he’d gone in for his yearly colonoscopy. The results always came back clean. Then, all of the sudden he started having aches and pains. After running tests, doctors learned that cancer had spread all over the body– to his lungs, his kidneys… The colon cancer had gone undetected for so long, because it had developed on the outside of the colon. Back then, doctors gave him two years to live. Since then, he continued to work while also seeking experimental treatment all over the world.

We lost touch in the years following. Chemo and radiation took its toll on C. He no longer had the energy to cook and entertain and host parties. Without him leading the charge and with us moving farther away, the interactions grew sparse. I thought of them often, but I was too lazy to reach out.

Then last Friday afternoon, we received word from another ex-coworker that C had been in the hospital since Tuesday. There were perforations in his intestines; toxic fluids leaked throughout his abdominal cavity causing severe infection. Surgery was not an option as doctors feared he would die on the operating table. The prognosis was 24-48 hours.

When we arrived at his hospital room, he looked surprisingly well. He was completely coherent and lucid. He had lots of tubes, but he was fully aware. I always remembered C as a vibrant and gregarious person. Like I said, he was always hosting parties, cooking up some fancy Michelin-level meal from scratch, listening to music, watching movies on his projection screen in his living room. Even though at work, John said he was oftentimes grouchy and sometimes difficult, outside of the office, he was clearly someone who loved to be around people. And he was a kind and generous man. They didn’t have kids, but I always saw stacks of donation mailings on the dining room table.

By contrast, his hospital room was so sterile and cold and white. The sunlight in his room was strong and oddly unforgiving. C said he was ill-rested and visibly, we could see he was very uncomfortable. He knew doctors were predicting the end. A lot of visitors came to see him, but the tone was solemn and silent. No chatter, no music, no tv playing in the background. I struggled with what to say. Frequently, we would all just sit there in silence.

The last few nights, I’ve been thinking, “What would someone else do under such circumstances.” He’s not ready to die, but doctors say nothing can be done. Limited time and yet, zero mobility. He misses his cats. He’s scared. Call after call, he explains the news. What must that be like?

And on top of that, it’s been days and NO ONE from his family has arrived. His spouse’s sisters have flown in from Singapore and Indonesia. Where are his brothers and sister? No one knows what’s up with that.

Meanwhile, C is hanging on… already doctors are surprised he has lasted til now, but even so, the situation is tenuous at best. This morning his white blood cell counts jumped so high that doctors decided to risk external infection by inserting an abdominal drain to pipe out the infection and pus. The physician reiterated that the drain does not cure/repair the problem, which is his perforated/broken bowels.

John and I have gone to see C & F the last three days. I know we aren’t very close, and the visits are extremely uncomfortable for John. But I just thought of how social C always was… and somehow I just felt like having a lot of people there would comfort him, especially in the absence of his family.

I want to be hopeful, but the reality is that he has been in stage 4 for a long time now. Small measures may buy him more time, but… not much.

I just can’t stop thinking about what it must feel like to not be ready for death. When astronauts go to space, do they spend their time before the launch thinking they might not come back? Do they have some kind of bucket list that they make sure gets done before take off? Do they say goodbye as if it’s their last? Maybe there’s higher likelihood of astronauts returning from space than not. I dunno. For some reason, death makes me think of people who go to space.

Thankfully, F is doing much better than I had expected. Four years ago, she was an utter mess– completely paralyzed by the news. Obsessed and yet completely immobilized by it. Fortunately since then, she has become stronger. She still has difficulty understanding what is happening medically/technically, but she clearly gains strength from the support of her sisters, so I’m very glad they are here. F will be ok. Still, this is someone who has relied very heavily on her husband for nearly two decades. She’s an immigrant from Indonesia with limited English literacy– she has never held a job, and it’s fair to say, she is completely co-dependent. Undoubtedly, the transition will be tough, but she will be ok.

So needless to say, this has been a stressful weekend. I’m still holding out hope.

Birthday Love

Birthday Love

So I turned 36 earlier this month… it’s the year of the dragon, so my age is a multiple of 12 (for the 12 Chinese zodiac signs). For the most part, my birthday passed blissfully… I mean, I DID struggle with the reality of being closer to 40 than to 30, but what can be done?

The life of Benji Button continued on its usual trajectory. The week before, I went on my long anticipated cattle drive in Parkfield, CA. My four days as a star in City Slickers definitely were an adventure. Temps were in the high 90s, and we clocked in about 6 hours/day of riding. Thankfully, those weekly riding lessons paid off and I eked by with minimal soreness in the butt and legs. Then again, Butt Butt’r might have been my savior! Overall, I was good with nearly all of the cowboy livin’ (the heat was actually nice with the breezes and tree shade)… the only dealbreaker for a repeat? The camping. Well, what I call camping. Yes, staff cooked our meals and we had hot showers and real toilets, but STILL. Anytime I’m not sleeping in my Westin bed (perfected after years of product research), I call it camping. Yes, crappy beds at cheap hotels also count. 🙂 Needless to say, I missed my bed– maybe even more than I missed unlimited internet!! And I should also clarify that this was the FIRST time ever that I traveled without my laptop. Yes, I am THAT ridiculous. Just call me fuckin’ Kim Kardashian, ok?

On a more serious note, the experience really reminded me that there are all sorts of ways people make a living. So often I forget and assume that everyone is college-educated, mid to upper class, and white collar. So NOT true. One person I met– he was the sweetest guy ever. Why do I say this? Uh, the dude was away from his wife for 4 short days, and he bought a subscription to some e-cards service so that he could queue up daily e-cards for the wife. If you’re rolling your eyes, let’s just remember that The Notebook is one of my favorite movies, so f off. Anyway, Andrew and I were talking about our childhood. He was telling me how he was raised by a single mom, and they traveled throughout California doing migrant farm labor starting at the age of 3– he picked cotton in the fields!! Then, he was saying how this cattle drive was on his bucket list, and to do it, he had to forgo all gifts/presents/vacations/splurges for the next two years.

I felt so ridiculous. I mean, truthfully, I found the site, thought about it for a few minutes, and then bam, booked it without further thought. And afterwards, I proceeded to buy myself a riding helmet, riding pants, and fucking expensive cowboy boots…

I know, my father always says “life is unfair.” But Jesus, call it like it is: I am a spoiled white collar brat. My life is cake. I need to do something about this.