Come and get it, asshole.

Fuck you, cancer. You may win in the end, but we’ll spit in your eye and go on our own terms.

I buried my Grandmother today. She was 87—she had a good innings. She left behind four kids, eight grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. No great-great-grandchildren like her parents had, but I guess our kids aren’t as fecund (or as irresponsible) as my generation was. She was a nurse for 52 years, beginning with the U.S. Army Cadet Nurse Corps in 1943.

Permanent fixtures of my childhood, she and Gramps moved into my Dad’s house to take care of us when he was deployed to Desert Shield/Storm. Gramps was diagnosed with cancer in ’91 and given six months to live. Grandma was diagnosed in ’92, with an indeterminate prognosis. Still, they took care of myself and my brother, while dealing with my obstinate rebel of an older cousin (17 and living with us) (he’s better now, especially as he has two teens of his own).

Gramps made it to 2001, lasting 10 years on a six-month sentence. Grandma beat cancer and went back to work until ’95, when she finally retired at 70. Then she beat cancer again. And then the bastard came back for a third round this summer. She wasn’t going to fight it at first, not wishing to endure another round of chemo and radiation. She was persuaded to fight, mostly by the great-grandchildren who grew up 200 yards away (the aforementioned cousin’s kids). And fight she did, through debilitating treatments for a third time. But in the end, she could hardly eat. She was down to 90 pounds.

By the time she went to the hospital last week, she’d had enough. She directed that no extraordinary measures be taken. She was tired, and she was ready to go. With her sat her two daughters, both career nurses themselves (more than 120 years of nursing experience was in that room—you’re goddamn right no bullshit was put up with). Her two sons were in and out, making arrangements and contacting family. A couple of us grandchildren were able to make it there to express our love, say goodbye, and sit deathwatch.

I’m rambling, sorry.

So listen up, cancer. You can come. And you may win in the end. But when you come for a wind-bit western-Kansas farmer, you’ll spend 20x longer waiting than you expected. And when you come for his bride of 54 years, you’ll leave when she damn well decides she’s had enough. And not a moment sooner.

Heh. I envision my grandparents, casually strangling ol’ man C with one hand while going about their business.

I once listened to a long monologue by an oncologist who was retiring young because he could no longer make sense of people fighting and clawing to live, with all the will and need in the world, only to get eaten like squirrels in a lion cage, while sour old people who had given up visited him year after year after year.

Tell your grandparents to look up my weathered Appalachian steelworker grandfather when she gets to the afterlife-- It sounds like they would get along just fine.

A fine tribute. I am sorry for you loss. Sending supporting thoughts your way.

A room where doctors fear to tread.

I am sorry for your loss.

Sorry for your loss. No doubt it’s a sad occasion, but…

…it’s good that you are able to keep this in mind.

This reminds me of a recent XKCD comic. For those not in the know, Randall Munroe’s fiance was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer a few years ago. It’s in remission now, but Munroe learned that once you’ve had cancer, you never really know for sure when/whether it’s going to come back.

Fuck cancer.

I am so, so sorry for your loss…

It’s extremely hard to lose a loved one to cancer. I know that anger, believe me! I lost my grandmother, 87 also, to colon cancer and I also lost my oldest brother, only 47, to colon cancer. To watch them waste away and not be able to do a damn thing about it …

My grandmother passed away in 1986 and my brother in 2003 but the loss for both is still so hurtful and painful. My sympathy and prayers are with you, sir.

I appreciate all of the well wishes.

Indeed. Bad ones, anyway.

I sat and visited for a little more than an hour. I was struck by both the emotion and the calm competence of my aunts–matter-of-fact assessments punctuated by brimming eyes. When I came into the room, my aunt ‘K’ announced my presence to Grandma, told me that Gram had little time left, and advised me that Gram’s breathing was normal for ‘someone near the end’ (she would’ve said ‘Momma’s in Cheyne-Stokes’ if she’d known I’d have had a clue what she was talking about).

The two aunts chatted back and forth, rolling their eyes that “glove and gown” was still required for staff. When the doc stuck her head in, the aunts calmly rattled off numbers, measurements, and condition updates, all in terms I (mostly) couldn’t understand.

The incident that struck me most was the bands. By the time I arrived, all of the fluids and such had been unhooked, and her kidneys were shutting down. Of course, without the kidneys the body has no way to eliminate liquid, so Gram’s body had no way to get rid of all the fluids she’d been getting to that point. The aunts were in constant if subtle motion, moving pillows, adjusting oxygen tubes, repositioning limbs, etc. Towards the end of my visit, aunt K noticed that Grams was retaining fluid and that her wrists were swelling.

She pushed the call button, then told the terribly young CNA who answered that she needed scissors and was going to cut the bands on Gram’s arm off. The young lady brought scissors and allowed that she could tape the bands to the bed.

It may seem like a small thing, but it struck me. I know that I defer to (perceived) authority, even if that authority is a wet-behind-the-ears CNA on her second shift. (I’m not saying your wan was, but she could have been, for all I know.) Doctors and hospitals elicit tremendous reverence from most of us, and the idea of challenging them is frightful to many. I know that I would be asking “can X be done?” The aunts just said “X will be done.”

I’ve read more than once here on the Dope how important it is to advocate for your own care, and how doctors and other specialists work for you–that they can and should be fired if necessary. That intellectual lesson became visceral when I watched my aunts–in the middle of grieving–tell everyone who came into the room not only what was going on, but what was going to happen and how, on their terms. Of course, their terms were Grandma’s terms.

A lot of nurses in my family too, and they sure kept an eye on my grandmother.

I’m sorry for the loss of your Grandma but it sounds like she passed with lots of loving family around, and who can ask for more? I will remember your family in my prayers tonight.

I am sorry for your loss.

Sorry to learn of your sad event, but you’ve definitely got the right attitude !

GOAzrial !

At least she could look back on a good and worthwhile life, and left behind a family to be proud of, to say the least !

Sending good thoughts your way.

Azrael, more good thoughts to you and your family. Your Grams was fortunate to have good family by her side, and I’m sure that their vigil it made it easier for her to let go. Your tribute is indeed strong.

Also, yeah, FUCK YOU, CANCER. It’s tiptoed into my family three times, and barged rudely in once, only took back one passenger on the return trip (my brother).

I like your attitude - as in “you can take my life when you pry it from my cold, dead hands”. My Nebraskan, depression-era mom survived breast cancer, triple bypass, bleeding ulcer, two strokes, two knee replacements and hearing loss - all between the ages of 70 and 83. As with most things, she wasn’t going to let some lame-ass, mundane, physical bullshit take her down, and she sure as shit did not. What she finally gave in to was the loss of her partner of 34 years, which strikes me as entirely reasonable.

Looking at this thread, your Grams (and Gramps) have some good company where she is now.