Dying and suffering are two ingredients of the standard life. How you approach it may vary. It’s something I ask my characters as I interact with others in real existence and think of their situations.
One is George. The second is Tucker. The third is Walt.
Walt is dead. The other two are alive.
Tucker is a cat. He showed up on my front porch a few years ago as a one hundred degree heat squeezed the air dry and forest fires shrouded the valley with smoke. He was injured, sick and scared. Although we were dealing with two sick cats, we took him in. I searched for his people but didn’t find them. He stayed.
Tucker suffers from an auto-immune disease, gingivitis stomatitis. After being owned by cats since I was twenty, he’s the third cat I’ve seen experiencing this. It disturbs me that I hadn’t seen any suffer this until the last ten years. Tucker is the third.
His symptoms are that his body is itself, with the primary front in his mouth. Plaque rapidly builds on his teeth. His gums become inflamed, infected, swollen, and at the worst times, bloody. They cause him huge pain. The infections can spread to other body parts. They don’t know what causes this so they address symptoms. Anti-biotics treat the infections. Teeth are cleaned. Steroids are injected to counter the inflammation. They’re temporary measures. They want to remove his teeth. That may help some. It usually does, but it doesn’t always help the cat. They can’t give odds.
The steroids, though, have side effects. Those side effects killed two of the other cats. It was a long process.
Walt suffered from pancreatic cancer. It was acting fast. His appetite faded, and then his weight and energy. He never treated his cancer but he smoked some marijuana to ease his pain and encourage his appetite.
We live in Oregon. He went the right-to-die route. After following the law’s requirements, he acquired the necessary morphine pill. I was one of the two people he asked to witness his choice. The other was his daughter.
He made his choice and talked to his family about it. A date was selected. He said his good-byes. His family joined him on the selected day. It was over in less than an hour on one summer morning.
George suffers from brain cancer. Brain cancer is the latest problem that began a few years ago. In his sixties, he discovered he was suffering non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He beat that. Then cancer was found in one place. Then another. They were beat. Then it was found in his brain.
He began the fight. Stem cell replacement treatment was endured. You know the tale: drugs, side-effects, detached retinas, financial drain, many doctor visits, hospital stays and ambulance rides. He’s a shell of what he was, with little hair and a lopsided, melon-shaped head. He fights on. He has sworn to beat it. His wife doesn’t believe he can. She’s waiting for his death as he is not.
This last weekend, he went to the hospital because his nose was constantly dripping and was worsening. Turned out to be brain fluid. All that treatment has made his bones and tissues porous.
This comes up in because of my wife’s statement regarding Tucker.
My wife has RA. She’s on treatment. It deals with her symptoms and relieves them with their pain, stiffness, sleeping, eating and thinking issues.
I’ve been resisting having Tucker given treatments. I’ve learned keeping him on a grain-free diet helps. L-lysine helps. But the steroid and AB do the best job, giving him a few days of relief.
My wife said, “Speaking as one who suffers pain, I want anything that gives any relief.” She, like George, has vowed to fight on forever. She fears side-effects.
But I thought, yes, you don’t want pain, but you’re still going to continue to endure pain as you fight on, planning to fight on until everything is gone and the disease claims you, and you die. The rest of us will also die from something, fight or no fight.
Her mother, too, approaching ninety, lives in an assisted living home. She can barely feed herself. Everything else requires assistance. Ambulance rides and hospital visits for new issues is a recurring quarterly event.
It’s a curiosity to me. I have no diseases and suffer no pain.I’m lucky as hell. That probably colors my insights. I think, why endure more pain to fight? Are you being selfish, living in denial, or living in hope that some treatment, or a new treatment will come along and save you?
I’ve been injured and sick. I do know pain. Flu, pneumonia, mono. I’ve had a broken neck, cut off part of a toe with a lawn mower, had injuries requiring stitches on my head (three times, three places) besides requiring stitches in my chin and ear lobe, and had a dislocated wrist that needed to be broken and reset, requiring me to wear a cast and have pins through my hand and arm.
I’ve seen what George’s fight does to his wife. He endures the treatments and symptoms; she experiences huge collateral damages, drinking more and more to cope, emptying bank accounts, selling their house, her life on hold.
I stand with Walt, myself. That’s probably why he asked me to be a witness.
That’s the theory for myself. But like many things, how we believe we’ll act and how we’ll actually act often have a gap between the vision and the execution.