Saturday, January 07, 2006

A Fact of Life and a Decision

Sorry for this depressing post, but this is going on in my life right now.

If you've read Zelda's site recently, you'll find that my grandmother is quite sick. I was told by my mother that she was jaundiced and they located a tumor on her liver. However, I just found out yesterday that it was in fact a tumor on her pancreas. The tumor was growing from the head of the pancreas into the liver and was blocking major ducts in the liver. I saw her bloodwork and CT scan. It doesn't look good. My aunt, who's an MD, couldn't hold back her tears. She and I both knew what that there was nothing more that could be done and that pancreatic cancer has a mortality rate of virtually 100%. The average time to death is 6 months by the time of diagnosis. However, my grandmother's condition had been present for most of that time already. Her doctor things she'll last a couple of weeks to months. Noting her progression of symptoms as well as her bloodwork, I'm not so sure about that.

Death is a natural part of life. I understand this. What we're now in the process of doing is determining what to do. The hospital cannot do anything else for her except make her passing as pain free as possible. However, medicare will not pay for her to stay in the hospital. We have been given a choice to send her to a professional hospice where she can continually get care until she passes away. Or, hospice care at home. My parents want to take her to their home so she can be surrounded by loved ones when she passes. There will be a professional visit at home to provide anything she needs, which would be mostly pain killers. My dad has stated that he will take vacation time to take care of her. All of my other aunts and uncles want hospice care elsewhere. My aunt had previously done it before and she said that it was really hard. Our argument is that it is not our wishes that matter. It's what she wants.

Here's the tricky thing that complicates the whole matter. She doesn't know she's dying. The elders of the family have decided that we should not let her know about it. My grandmother stated that she wanted to stay in the hospital because she does not want to be a burden on anyone. But, we also know that she loves to have family around. She wasn't doing so well until all of the younger relatives (myself, cousins, etc) came by to visit her and joke around with her. She was smiling and laughing so much despite being excessively tired. For that reason, we want her to be happy when she passes. We don't want her to pass surrounded by people she doesn't know. We have to make a decision by Monday. What do y'all think?