Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dear Diary, they're together again

I knew my grandfather was going to die, it was inevitable.

Still, the last few days, I've felt like such a coward because I couldn't bring myself to go back to the hospice. Seeing him clinging to life and not being able to talk was heartbreaking. What was worse, was when he would grasp for my hand, squeeze it and look at me while he cried. He was so scared of dying and I hated seeing him like that.

So I came home on Monday after spending the night at the hospice. I stayed home all day Tuesday. And finally, after berating myself, I went to see him yesterday morning. He knew I was there because as soon as I walked in and cheerfully said, "Hi granpa!" he looked at me and winked. He held my hand for a bit and I talked about nothing significant.

About an hour later, I left. I believed I would get a phone call letting me know that he passed but, like every other night since he was admitted to the hospice, I didn't get that call.

So, this morning, I had my coffee, put on some makeup and took Lola with me to the hospice. I figured she could wait in the sunroom and play while I talked to my grandfather.

When I got to his room, he was staring at the ceiling. I cheerfully said, "Hi granpa! It's me!! Tamara!" But there was no reaction. I waited to see if he was breathing and sure enough, there was a faint breath.

I said, "Lola's here today but she's playing outside of your room."

It was so quiet. I listened again and watched to see if he would take a breath.

He did.

"Hey, granpa, Team Canada won last night!!"

He just stared at the ceiling and I waited for him to take a breath.
"Wait right here, granpa, I'm going to find your nurse."
Wait right here, yes, I am a dumbass.

The first nurse I saw was filling out charts. When I asked if she was my grandfather's nurse she said no and to ask at the desk. Honestly I wasn't sure what I was going to ask but I knew that I needed to talk to someone.

The only nurse at the desk wasn't my grandfather's nurse but she asked what was wrong and I told her that my grandfather's breathing was so quiet and that he was so different from yesterday.

She came to the room with me and watched my grandfather for a minute.

"He's taking his last breaths," she said. I looked at her.

"So that's it?" I asked. "It's a matter of hours now?"

She looked at me with compassion and said, "No. Sooner."

My grandfather closed his mouth and then gasped.

The nurse, Wilma, came around to where I was sitting and rubbed my back. "That may have been his last breath," she said.

I took my grandfather's hand and said, "I'm here, granpa. You're not alone."

And then he took another breath. It was quiet again and I wondered if that was it. But he took another one.

"I have to call my husband," I told Wilma.

When Ron picked up the phone at his office, I couldn't even talk. I just cried. He asked if my grandfather had passed.

"No, he's taking his last breaths. I need you to come here and get Lola."

I went back into the room and sat with my grandfather. He took another breath. Then another. In spite of myself, I chuckled and said, "Fuck, you're stubborn." Wilma smiled and said she had to go and get a stethoscope.
I watched as my granpa took another breath. He quietly took another breath. Then another.

I watched to see if he would take another one. But he didn't.

Wilma came back and asked if he had taken another breath.


She listened for a heart beat and, for one brief moment I wanted this to all be a bad dream, but there was nothing, and it wasn't.

"Dammit, grandpa I wore makeup today!" I said, as my tears and mascara made me look like a chubby Marilyn Manson.

I held his hand for a minute longer but I couldn't sit there with his body.

I went to the sunroom where Lauryn was playing and held her.

A few minutes later, Ron walked in and held me tightly.

A part of me is relieved that he's not suffering any longer but the selfish part of me wants my grandfather back. But at least he died knowing Team Canada was kickin' ass at the Olympics.

I believe my grandfather waited for me to come back to the hospice today so he wouldn't die alone. My grandfather and I were always close, ever since I was born. In fact, the old boy named me. Yup, my grandfather has always been there for me and, when he needed it the most, I was there for him.

My grandparents are together again and I take comfort in knowing that they are reunited.

Wherever he is, he's probably having a drink and would be telling me to quit crying and to have a drink with him. So, grandpa, cheers! I love you, Stinker! Give my grandma a big hug for me.

P.S. I still hate the Calgary Flames.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dear Diary, Things went down hill so fast

It was just Thursday that the old boy was transferred to the Hospice and today, I'm waiting for him to die.
Yesterday, I went there after my in-laws picked up the kids for the weekend, and brought a bunch of stuff from his house to make him feel more at home. When I walked in, his son and cousin were sitting there (it's a long story) so I made myself busy putting up the painting of my grandma and a few other pictures he really enjoyed.

That's when his son told me how bad things were.

My granfather had been delirious all day. He was talking to people who had died and trying to fight someone. At one point, he was talking like he was back in the army.

People do strange things when they're about to die and I guess my grandfather is no different.

He looked at me briefly but wasn't sure who I was. I knew then, that he was gone. The grandpa I knew, wasn't coming back.

He's been unconscious since then. I've sat and held his hand, telling him that he needs to go now.

"There's nothing else for you to do now," I said. "Grandma's waiting for you. You have lots of people who are waiting so you won't be alone, I promise. Don't worry about me, I'll be fine. You've done so much for me and I want to thank you. So just be at peace and know that granma will be happy to see you."

It wasn't as tough as I thought it would be to say goodbye. Maybe it's because he's still hanging on, I don't know. The doctor expected him to go last night but when I got back to the Hospice at 6 am, he was still fighting.

I expected nothing less.

I sat with him most of the time, holding his hand and chatting about ridiculous things. At one point, the doctor came in and when I tried to move my hand, he wouldn't let it go. I smiled, and knew that he knew I was there.

It's been such a long, weary couple of months but I honestly didn't expect to walk into the Hospice yesterday and not be able to talk to him. I guess a part of me always thought he was still invincible. Maybe a part of me wanted to believe, for just one moment, that I would have some profound last conversation with him.

Guess not.

I believe I will just reflect on the time I had with him and appreciate it for what it was. No one can take those memories from me and no one can claim them as their own. For a while, we lived in our own little bubble, his was filled with denial and mine was filled with love.

Either way, he's on his way to see my grandma this weekend. I hope he remembers to tell her I said, "Hi," for me when he sees her.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dear Diary, I feel like I'm living the final chapter

My grandfather moved into the Hospice today. The hospice, you know, is basically where people go to die comfortably.

He's so weak now. He weighs 123 pounds and is starting to have some confusion about certain things. For example, the other day he called me my mother's name. Grrr... of all things! Had he not looked so damn helpless I might have taken that pillow... :D just kidding!! Gotta keep things light!!

Anyhoo, yah, I wasn't thrilled. Especially when he said it a second time.

But then he has moments of extreme clarity and he tries to joke around. Sadly, he's so quiet and frail that you have to ask him to repeat what he says, and then he just gets mad. I laugh when he does that because if I don't, I'll cry.

Last week, he made me take him outside for a cigarette, and the damn wind was as bitter and cold as Kate Gosselin's sex life (hahahah, see? laughing is good!). Anyway, after freezing his scrawny, old man ass of for a damn cancer stick, he said, "Go get me a touque." Because, you know, I'm the touque fairy.

I humoured the old boy and decided that if was a touque he wanted, it was a badass touque he was getting!

Oddly enough, he LOVED the touque!

I can't imagine the pain he's in. I don't remember my grandma suffering this badly. In fact, she died at home in my granpa's arms. (Did I tell this story? I can't remember... forgive me if I'm rambling or repeating myself).

Anyway, my granma died of lung cancer 17 years ago, almost a year to the day she was diagnosed. They were living in Kuwait at the time and she came back home for treatments at the Cross Cancer Institute. A couple of weeks before she died, my grandfather came back for a visit and the night before he was suppose to leave, she died in his arms.

He was devastated. Rightfully so because my granma was the only thing holding my excuse for a family together. She was so amazingly beautiful, funny, sassy and smart. He adored her.

I even remember the last time I saw my grandma; she came to the studio apartment we had shared before she moved back to the acreage in Spruce Grove that my grandparents owned, and one of the last things she told me was that she wanted me to be happy.

Fast forward 17 years, and now it's my grandfather's turn to go.
Watching someone you love, die, sucks. Plain and simple.

My grandfather is physically a shell of his former self. To see the man I grew up thinking was the toughest sunuvabitch that ever lived, now be physically unable to do anything for himself and have to swallow his pride, is heartbreaking.

I know they're going to make him comfortable at the hospice. I know the environment is much more caring and private but I also know that this will be the place where he dies.

Thanks again for the kind comments here on my blahg and on Twitter. Your support means more than you know and often brightens my day.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dear Diary, I think I'll be OK

My granpa has officially given up. He told me so, yesterday.

He knows there is nothing that can be done and he is ready to just close his eyes and be together again with my grandma.

The nurses pulled me aside yesterday and said he officially had the doctor sign a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) and that he had lost his fight.

I wasn't surprised.

I went in and watched him snooze. I took his hand and whispered, "The nurses said you are giving up. Have you lost your fight, granpa?"

He opened his eyes and said, "Yah." And then he closed them again.

I'm not gonna lie, I shed a few tears because I was sad to hear him so depressed and weak. But, I quickly composed myself and started talking about my day.

"You can't sleep your day away," I said. "Wake up and talk to me."

"I don't know what to say, Tamara. I just don't know what to say."

He closed his eyes and was quiet for a while, when I said, "You want a drink, granpa? I'll sneak you in some rye."

His eyes POPPED open, I'm not even kidding I laughed out loud. "Really? You will?"

I giggled and said, "Yes, the nurse actually told me you can have a drink."

When the nurses told me about the DNR, they also told me that he was declining rapidly because he wasn't eating or drinking and he refused his IV so he was close to dehydration. I joked that if there was rye in his water, he'd drink it and the nurse said that they would be more than happy to get an order for a cocktail for the old boy.

Honestly, I was a little surprised but she said that in his case, where he's dying and there's not much time left, they make exceptions.

So, when I told him the good news, it added at least a couple of days to his life because I told him he couldn't have any until today.

"Gawddamit, Tamara!" he said, shaking his head.

"See," I pointed out, "you've still got some fight left in you!"

He laughed and nodded.

This whole process has been long, and I am weary. Emotionally, physically and mentally, I am drained. But I've come to terms with everything and accepted the way it is. I will miss him dearly but at least I know we're both going to be OK. He'll go to my grandma and I'll still have my memories.

Until then, we still have each other.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dear diary: I don't know what to say

I think I'm in shock.

I've known for a while how bad off my granpa is but it still is painful to hear the experts at the Cross Cancer Institute tell him there's no hope and that he has weeks, if a month, to live.

When I heard the news, I was eerily calm. I asked questions, tried to keep my granpa from being upset, and generally kept it together.

I even explained things to Big Daddy, repeated what the doctor said, and was fine.

There were no tears, just a calm rationalization that this was to be expected.

But now, I'm sitting here, trying to keep myself from hyperventalating and breaking down.

Cancer. Fucking. Sucks.

The doctor said his official diagnosis was that the primary source is unknown and that they could treat it with an aggressive IV Chemotherapy but that he is too frail and weak to take the treatment.

"Ultimately," the doctor said, "(having the treatment) could be the end of you."

My granpa, however, took that to mean there was hope.

"Well," he said, "let's do it."

The doctor looked at me and said, "No. I've treated 70-year-olds who have been able to walk in here on their own and you, well..." he didn't have to finish. My granpa is 6'2" and weighs 130lbs. He can barely wheel himself in his wheelchair let alone walk on his own.

He said the best they could do was make him comfortable.

Hearing you're going to die sooner than later is always a kick in the nuts.

When the doctor excused himself, wishing my granpa the best, I stood there not really knowing what to say.

So, I said nothing. And then we I talked to the doctor and he was really straightforward, telling me he thought my grandfather would be lucky to make it to 2 months, and that I should enjoy every moment with him.

And yet, I didn't flinch. Because I knew this was coming.

My granpa, however, was agitated and anxious to get out of there, the same way he was when he discharged himself from the hospital a few weeks ago.

Now, I am only trying to cope. I have always looked to writing as the ultimate therapy, so humour me if I tend to blog a LOT over the course of the next few weeks. I'm not looking for sympathy, I swear, I am using this as an outlet. I find it much more calming than any yoga or kickboxing class could ever be.

It's funny. I started this blog a blubbering mess yet I am finishing it feeling like it's going to be OK.

A couple of weeks... yah. Guess I better make sure that damn prozac prescrip is filled!!

Either that or my wine cabinet better damn well be stocked!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dear diary: I think he's come to terms with it

There hasn't been a lot of time from prognosis to now, in fact I can't believe it's only been six weeks since we found out he had cancer, but I think my granpa has finally accepted the fact that he's dying.

The last couple of days, he has clutched my hand and not wanted to let go. He tells me he loves me all the time, where as before I was lucky if I just got a wink and a smile from him. Yesterday he called and asked why it had been so long since I had seen him, but I had only missed going to the hospital on Monday and that's because I was sick.

"I love you, Stinker," he said.

"I love you, too granpa. I will see you this afternoon."

"Oh. OK. I miss you."

I think he knows that he doesn't have a lot of time left and it scares him. Yesterday when I did make it to the hospital, we chatted for a bit before he became silent. His eyes teared up and he said, "I want you to have granma's (wedding) ring."

I was shocked. Because when we had made arrangements for the funeral, he insisted that he be buried with his rings. I assumed he meant my grandmother's ring as well so when he said that, I replied, "You don't have to do that, granpa."

"I know I don't have to but I want to," he said, looking away. I could see the tears and it broke my heart.

"OK, granpa. Thank you."

Later, when he asked me to wheel him outside so he could have a cigarette (yes, he still smokes. What? There's no reason he can't enjoy the rest of his days... it's not like quitting now will make a difference), he said he wanted to complie a list of people to call. For, you know, 'after.'

I truly believe that he's finally getting his shit together because he knows there isn't much time left. Tomorrow we go to the Cross Cancer Institute for a more definitive answer on the primary source of the cancer but most likely I've been told not to hold out hope for treatment. Once he's done there, the palliative team will assess him however, once again, I've been told that he is probably a good candidate for the Hospice which means he has less than 2 months to live.

As tough as this has been for both of us, I do not want him to suffer so maybe it's a blessing. I am only living in the moment, though, and plan on making each one count.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dear Diary: A new month, a new outlook

Oh dear diary, you know how shitty this past couple of months has been... well... I've decided to redirect my attention to things I can control; the magazine, my home and myself.

Last week, I was told my granpa has about 2 months left to live.
Good. Times.
But I expected it so there's really nothing I can change or control about this situation except that I can make the most of each moment I have left with the old boy.

However, I also realize that I am close to burning out from stress so if I'm not healthy I won't be good to anyone, not my kids, not Big Daddy, and definitely not my grandfather.

That is why I'm focusing on the next issue of MOM Magazine and our inaugural FIERCE Women of the Year awards.
Are you FIERCE?
  • Outstanding MEO:
    YOU are an entrepreneurial mom who juggles work, home life, friends, family and are an industry leader! You run your own business. Your determination, spunk and grit have gotten you to where you are today. You have launched a successful marketing campaign for your business, shown impressive growth, mastered the art of social media and self-promotion, and can sell your products/services to your target market. When people talk about you and your business, it's with awe and respect because YOU impress people wherever you go.
  • Phenomenal Female: YOU have overcome huge obstacles in your life and are living a richer, fuller life in spite of the challenges you have faced. Life hasn't always been easy... there have been times when you thought you wouldn't make it but you found a way! You didn't let adversity win, you kicked it right in the ass and took back your life!
  • Rising Star: YOU are under 35 and have rocked the business world! You are making a difference in your community and will be a force to be reckoned with! Your ambition knows no boundaries! You may be young but you are brilliant, driven, influential, have great leadership skills and show the potential to continue making a difference in the community.
  • Dame Diva: YOU are past the poopy diaper stage of motherhood and enjoying the empty nest. Once a mom, always a mom, but you are also a woman, wife, friend, mentor and goddess! You share your experience with other women through volunteer work and/or in the work force. You offer advice, wisdom and comfort, and are seen as a mentor to younger women.
  • MOM Extraordinaire: YOU do it all! Volunteer, schedule appointments, take the day off to stay home with sick kids, co-ordinate playdates, run the household, do the laundry, bake the birthday cakes... there’s nothing you don’t do for your family! There is no such thing as "Just a MOM" and you deserve to be recognized for everything you do!

I've also changed some of the criteria for the awards and you do not have to be a member of FIERCE to qualify for these awards. Simply send in the entry/nomination form and we will contact the nominee for an interview.

This contest is open to anyone in the Greater Edmonton region but next year we are opening up the awards on a national level.

Let's honour some of the women who have made a difference! Don't be afraid to nominate yourself! We love to see women who are confident in themselves!!

I look forward to seeing your entries!


PS I want to thank everyone for their support and understanding during this extremely difficult time with my grandfather. It's not easy watching someone you love, die. Your kind thoughts and words mean more to me than you know.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Dear Diary: It's a new month and time for a new outlook!

Oh, dear diary, I made it through this past month relatively unscathed. I've had my moments where I have lost control of my emotions but, thankfully, I was alone and could just give into my sadness in private.

The old boy is going downhill quicker than I expected but maybe that's a good thing? I don't know. I'm not ready for him to go just yet so I hope he at least lasts for the rest of the hockey season. When the Calgary Flames kicked the shit outta the Edmonton Oilers on the weekend, I was sure that my granpa could now die a happy man. Turns out, he didn't even see the game but gave me that shit-eatin' grin of his when I told him about the score.

He's pretty weak and frail but his spirit remains strong. I have forced myself to start refocussing on the magazine because I need to keep my mind focused on the GOAL!! What's the goal? To have the baddest-ass MOM Magazine OUT THERE!!

And so it shall be!

We have our first-ever FIERCE awards gala coming up and I encourage EVERY woman to enter!! This isn't a "mommy" awards ceremony, we are celebrating WOMEN!!

  • Outstanding MEO

  • Dame Diva

  • Phenomenal Female

  • Rising Star

  • MOM Extraordinaire

So, let's celebrate YOU and all of your accomplishments!! Enter today or nominate someone YOU know who is worthy of being named a FIERCE Woman of the Year!!


PS Thanks to everyone for your kind thoughts about my granpa. I truly appreciate it!