Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Life goes on

    In a couple of years writing here I don't think this has happened before. A hiatus this long, that is. Truth is I've had plenty to talk about - the Wreck, cider pressing, my relationship, fighting the girl and all - but not the time, or indeed the inclination, to commit it to print.
    You've probably seen me referring to my friend Dawn here. She's been a true friend to me and my wife these last few years, providing humour and support just when it has been most sorely needed.
    Now it's her hour of need, as the cancer she beat a few years ago has returned. Metastasised, not a good word at all. Her decline has been swift and alarming, as from accompanying us to Sparkle in July she moved to difficulties with mobility, then fluid retention and the indignity of incontinence. First a council home help, then regular visits from the district nurse and finally a Marie Curie nurse with her overnight before a move to our local hospice.
    The fluid retention has gone, aided by a drain and a big plastic bag that filled surprisingly quickly, the nurse taking its volume as she emptied it. Eighteen litres, try picking up that number of soft drinks bottles and imagine a sick old lady walking around with that.
    The hospice is a masterpiece of design with amazing standards of care. A very specialist hospital ward, its atmosphere is as close to that of a home as they can make it. For a week after the fluid had gone we had the old Dawn back, grumbling about the food and shocking the nurses with her make passport photo, beard and all. I bought her in a seafood pizza by request one evening and ended up sharing the half of it she didn't eat with her daughter.
    But the inevitable decline continues. Fortunately there seems to be little pain, but she's nearly always asleep, and her lucidity seems elusive when she's awake. Medical staff do not make lifespan predictions for hospice patients, but it's becoming obvious that we should not expect many more weeks. However as I said to an acquaintance who was being something of a defeatist on the matter, I'll give up on Dawn when I'm following her hearse to the crematorium.
    As the friend who lives closest, I've been to visit Dawn rather a lot over the last week or two. It's the right thing to do, her family are widely spread and she needs to know she's not alone. It's easy enough to nip up to the hospice and sit by her bed for an hour or so.
    What shocks me though is how little emotion I've felt while some others are having difficulty containing theirs. I think it's the effect of antidepressants, they suppress such things, but it's engendered almost a feeling of guilt. Should I be showing public grief? Not if it's as false as that of a crowd of North Koreans at the death of the Dear Leader.
    So yes, life goes on. Rather a lot of it, at the moment.

8 comments:

  1. So sorry to read this but after you took me to meet her in June I am not too surprised...

    Dawn was a charming talented person who does not deserve an undignified end. She is lucky to be having a regular visitor and remember not everyone breaks down when visiting a hospice, don't be hard on yourself.

    At least she got to spend some of her life as the woman she truly was...

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  2. So very sorry to learn of your friend's pain. I know what you are going through as I lost my mother after a long fight. Then watching my music professor fight just as hard then loosing both of them within 2 month. Hospice care is a godsend for those of us left behind to carryon. You are a good friend and you need to be at her side as much for you as it is for her. Peace to the both of you!

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  3. This takes me back 30 years when a friend of mine lost her husband shortly after she had given birth to a long awaited child.
    Yes she was emotional when she called me to tell about the heart attack but when I went to the funeral home I found her welcoming each and every one with a smile that never left her face. To this day I admire her for having been able to do that. It made the situation so much easier for all of us. She is a spiritual woman, loving mother, very caring, full of energy, hard working, smart, reliable, best wife he could have had and best friend I can have. She also said 'Life goes on'.
    YOU ARE FINE AS YOU ARE, JENNY.

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  4. I'm so sorry to read about your friend. :-(

    I wouldn't "worry" about how much grief you display; I always believe it's about how much love, affection and support there is between friends. She knows, and you know - and that is, more than likely, enough for her.

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  5. How sad to learn of your friend Dawn's illness. Cancer is a terrible disease, one that took my mom back in 1997. I hope Dawn's remaining days will be filled with happiness and little pain. It is so good of you to visit her Jenny but of course you would do that for your friend wouldn't you. Nevertheless you have taken the time for a dear friend who has given you her time over the last few years. As the other girls have said, don't worry about not showing your feelings at this time, it will probably hit you after she has gone. Take care my friend.

    Shirley Anne x

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  6. Seems to me being with Dawn as much as you can and being yourself for her when she is lucid is important. Perhaps that is the benefit to not being overly emotional right now?

    So sorry to hear of another loss to this terrible disease Jenny.

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  7. I've only met Dawn the once, she won't remember me.

    But send her my love and best wishes in these final days. Your care for her is a lovely thing.

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  8. Morning all, and thanks. I'm sorry to say Dawn passed away last Wednesday. Quietly and without suffering, which is a good thing. She was a good friend, and I'll miss her.

    This photo was taken back in July, at Sparkle. Dawn is seated on the left, talking to an online acquaintance who to borrow a phrase of Dawn's.
    , "You wouldn't wear it to Tesco!". :)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jennyalto/7580898878/in/set-72157630598830502

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