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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Still immortal...

We sat in the doctor’s office waiting for the news about the status of Riley’s cancer. He completed his first round of treatment and four weeks later had a CT Scan to determine what or where we go from here. We had been told that it was highly unlikely
that the cancer would be gone. Usually it took more than one round of treatment before a remission actually took place.

Actually, cancer or no cancer, Riley did not seem to be getting better. In fact he is much worse with weakness, confusion, hallucinations, lack of appetite and weight loss. I thought the cancer had just taken hold and was not all over his body.

During one of Riley’s more lucid moments, we had a discussion about the quality of his life. He was not happy with the way he was living at that moment and knew it would never be the way he wanted it to be. If he couldn't live his life in an alcoholic cloud, he didn't want life at all. The decision was made that if he needed more treatment – he would decline.

Finally, the doctor entered the examining room. She sat down and opened Riley’s chart, read a few notes and then looked up. “The cancer is gone,” she smiled and then said “Congratulations!”  She said there would be no need for further treatment and that another scan would be done in 3 months and every 3 months after that for a while.

I should have felt relief, joy, and happiness for Riley. But the only thing that I could process in my tired brain was that he was truly immortal. How many lives does this man have anyway? I heard myself saying that the good report meant I would not get the help that I needed to care for him. There would not be hospice nor would there be any support other than what I currently had. I suddenly felt overwhelmed with the realization that I would most likely die before Riley.

After Riley wheeled himself out of the examining room, the doctor stopped me and said “Just because he isn't dying of cancer doesn't mean he isn't dying and that no help is on the way.” She advised me to go back to Riley’s primary care provider because there would be a report sent to him with recommendations as to the course of further medical treatment. I said I would make the appointment right away.

Everything happened very quickly after that. Just after I got Riley into the house and settled, I got a call from the hospice center. It had been recommended that Riley be placed into hospice as a result of his general overall physical condition. I was ecstatically happy. The Calvary was coming!
It seems Riley is cancer-free but still dying. His body is beginning a process of shutting down. I didn't know exactly why. His blood tests all looked pretty good with no blaring alarms. He was losing weight but still had a pretty good appetite. He was just as obstinate as ever – a bit mean and extremely controlling. But, that’s a normal day.

In the meantime, Alea had found and leased a beautiful old farmhouse out in the countryside of Virginia. It was close to many medical facilities and was not in a medical desert. She called and told me “Mom, you’re moving on Monday.” I had no idea how I was going to get everything packed and ready to go in such a short time, but I was happy to be moving on to a more resourceful area.

Riley’s hospice care was transferred to a Virginia agency; the truck pulled up to the front door; and we were suddenly sleeping in this big old house with a giant sized front porch. I hired people to do the cleaning of the old house and get anything out that didn't belong there. I knew I wasn't getting my deposit back, so I simply instructed them to leave the house “broom” clean. It was done and I through with the Belhaven portion of my life.

I certainly don’t want to mislead you. I loved Belhaven. I made solid friendships that I know will last a lifetime. But it was also isolated from my family and difficult to get services, repairmen, and health care aides. Belhaven was beautiful – a peaceful little town with a heart. I look forward to visiting during the next “Pirate Festival” and spending time with my Belhaven friends.

The Immortal Alcoholic still appears to be immortal – hospice or not. At this point, I will believe he is dying until I get his ashes in a box.


Anonymous said...

Your post evoked many emotions and was wonderfully written, as usual. I could feel the despair that you spoke of, then such a journey that lifted me up afterwards. I am so glad that you are getting relief. Good luck as you move through this next stage of your experiences. I wish you only the best!

ADDY said...

Sounds so familiar - the alcoholic seems to pickle their body preserve it in alcohol) so that it does bounce back. But each time it bounces back, it is not as high as the last time, so that in the end, there is a limit to the number of bounces it can endure. So glad you are in a better place geographically and have loved ones nearby to look out for you. Hopefully a new chapter will begin.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy for you having followed this blog for a long time. What a long strange trip it has been, as they say.

coping said...

Linda....good luck to you on your next chapter. You are such a strong woman...an inspiration to me. My alcoholic husband is also immortal...at least in my eyes. He has been drinking heavily every day for 40 years, and seems to be healthy. Me on the other hand am
falling apart physically, and I swear due to all the stress he has put me under for so long! My life with him just goes on and on, and seems to be never ending story.
Best of luck to you, my friend...I have been following your story for a while. God Bless!