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Finding a Way Through Cancer, Dying, and Widowhood: A Memoir

Finding a Way Through Cancer, Dying, and Widowhood: A Memoir

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Finding a Way Through Cancer, Dying, and Widowhood: A Memoir

Lunghezza:
208 pagine
1 ora
Pubblicato:
Dec 31, 2013
ISBN:
9781480804241
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

As an expert in chronic illness, author Pamala D. Larsen thought she understood what her patients and families with chronic illness were experiencing. When her husband, Randy, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, however, she realized how little she knew. In Finding a Way through Cancer, Dying, and Widowhood: A Memoir, she presents her journal of dealing with her husbands cancerfrom the first day of diagnosis, through eighteen months of illness, hospice care, his death, and her first long year of widowhood.

Providing an honest view of those experiences, Larsen shares thoughts that many people have, but few express. This memoir tells the real story of the pain experienced as a family of caregivers watches the downhill course of a loved one suffering from cancer.

This memoir shares insights and asks difficult questions, telling a common, ordinary story that is acted out every day by thousands of people. It serves to communicate that grief is not an easy road; each survivor must find his or her own answers and path to recovery.

Pubblicato:
Dec 31, 2013
ISBN:
9781480804241
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Pamala D. Larsen has been caring for patients with chronic illnesses since becoming a registered nurse in 1969. For twenty-eight years, she has been a professor and administrator in several university schools of nursing. Larsen is coeditor of Chronic Illness: Impact and Intervention. She is retired and lives in Colorado.

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Anteprima del libro

Finding a Way Through Cancer, Dying, and Widowhood - Pamala D. Larsen

Copyright © 2013 Pamala D. Larsen.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Archway Publishing books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting:

Archway Publishing

1663 Liberty Drive

Bloomington, IN 47403

www.archwaypublishing.com

1-(888)-242-5904

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

ISBN: 978-1-4808-0423-4 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4808-0425-8 (hc)

ISBN: 978-1-4808-0424-1 (e)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2013922829

Archway Publishing rev. date: 12/23/2013

Contents

Preface

Introduction

Prologue

Cancer

November 23, 2010

November 24, 2010

December 3, 2010

December 6, 2010

December 16, 2010

December 19, 2010

December 20, 2010

December 22, 2010

December 27, 2010

January 1, 2011

January 3, 2011

January 5, 2011

January 6, 2011

January 8, 2011

January 13, 2011

January 16, 2011

January 27, 2011

February 15, 2011

February 18, 2011

February 22, 2011

February 27, 2011

April 1, 2011

April 19, 2011

April 21, 2011

April 23, 2011

April 24, 2011

April 27, 2011

May 8, 2011

May 29, 2011

June 3, 2011

June 11, 2011

June 29, 2011

July 1, 2011

July 3, 2011

July 5, 2011

July 6, 2011

July 19, 2011

July 24, 2011

August 7, 2011

October 1, 2011

October 3, 2011

October 29, 2011

November 2, 2011

November 12, 2011

November 25, 2011

December 12, 2011

December 31, 2011

February 26, 2012

March 21, 2012

March 25, 2012

March 27, 2012

Dying

March 29, 2012

April 7, 2012

April 8, 2012

April 15, 2012

April 20, 2012

April 22, 2012

April 23, 2012

April 25, 2012

April 29, 2012

May 2, 2012

May 5, 2012

May 10, 2012

Widowhood

May 16, 2012

May 20, 2012

May 29, 2012

June 4, 2012

June 5, 2012

June 9, 2012

June 16, 2012

June 23, 2012

June 30, 2012

July 7, 2012

July 16, 2012

July 18, 2012

July 20, 2012

July 23, 2012

July 27, 2012

August 3, 2012

August 5, 2012

August 9, 2012

August 14, 2012

August 17, 2012

August 20, 2012

August 28, 2012

August 30, 2012

September 7, 2012

September 13, 2012

September 19, 2012

September 27, 2012

October 3, 2012

October 9, 2012

October 15, 2012

October 17, 2012

October 20, 2012

October 22, 2012

October 29, 2012

November 1, 2012

November 2, 2012

November 4, 2012

November 7, 2012

November 11, 2012

November 12, 2012

November 15, 2012

November 20, 2012

November 22, 2012

November 23, 2012

November 26, 2012

November 27, 2012

December 2, 2012

December 8, 2012

December 11, 2012

December 13, 2012

December 17, 2012

December 19, 2012

December 20, 2012

December 22, 2012

December 25, 2012

December 30, 2012

January 2, 2013

January 6, 2013

January 7, 2013

January 8, 2013

January 12, 2013

January 14, 2013

January 18, 2013

January 23, 2013

January 25, 2013

February 1, 2013

February 3, 2013

February 6, 2013

February 12, 2013

February 18, 2013

February 21, 2013

March 4, 2013

March 18, 2013

March 20, 2013

March 29, 2013

March 31, 2013

April 2, 2013

April 5, 2013

April 10, 2013

April 13, 2013

April 14, 2013

April 15, 2013

May 2, 2013

May 8, 2013

May 10, 2013

Epilogue

Bibliography

In memory of Randy

1947–2012

Preface

I ’d never written in a diary or journal before, not even as an adolescent. However, when Randy was diagnosed with cancer, I felt drawn to put my thoughts on paper. My journal has been privy to my personal thoughts—often, thoughts that could not be spoken aloud. Thoughts that others might not under stand.

I wrote the first entry in my journal the day Randy had a diagnostic test that revealed the cancer. Looking back, I have no idea why I even took a journal with me to the outpatient surgery center that day. I had work things to do, but I chose to take an empty journal instead. Throughout Randy’s illness of eighteen months and my first year of widowhood, I wrote in my journal. It was my safe place.

While editing my journal for publication, I added some reflections, thoughts, and comments at various points. Sometimes now, from a distance, I can better understand what we were going through and what my thoughts were—but sometimes not.

This memoir is a conversation—first with myself and then, after his death, often a conversation with Randy. With loss, survivors have many questions, but they receive few answers. Each of us hopes that there is a magic answer, somewhere, to guide us through grief. But there isn’t. We need to find our own way and our own answers. I’m still finding my way.

If you are now finding your way, may these words help you realize that you aren’t going crazy, but are experiencing what others have felt and thought after a wrenching loss. My hope is that this memoir provides support or understanding in some manner. Many others have walked this difficult path. You are not alone.

Introduction

C ancer. It’s esophageal cancer, stage IIIB. There’s been no mistake. The pathology report has not been confused with someone else’s. Randy has cancer. We sit quietly in the oncologist’s office: Randy, our son Brett, and I. No one says a word. There are no words to speak, no questions that we need answered now. We are stunned. We had a normal life before … before c ancer.

Prologue

The Larsens

W hen Randy and I received the diagnosis of cancer, we were living in Colorado. We planned to retire the following year or a year after that—he from his architectural firm and I from my position as professor/associate dean in a school of nursing. Along with my siblings, we were finishing the construction of a cabin in the mountains, which Randy had designed. It was a time full of pr omise.

Randy and I were married in 1969 after college graduation. After Randy’s stint in the Army during the Vietnam War era, we established a new hometown in Colorado rather than return to Kansas, where we’d grown up. Randy, an architect, opened his first office in Colorado in 1977. I worked part-time as an RN at the local hospital and began teaching part-time. During those early years, our lives were blessed with three children: Brett, Amy, and Blake.

Randy’s architectural practice flourished, and he began specializing in university work, particularly designing research and development facilities. In the 1980s I returned to school for my master’s and doctoral degrees, qualifying me to teach at a university. In the mid-1990s I wanted to try my hand at nursing education administration. Randy was supportive, so we packed up and moved—first to Kansas and then to North Carolina—to realize my dreams. In 2006 we returned to our Colorado hometown to be closer to our growing number of grandchildren. Randy opened a branch of the North Carolina architectural firm, and I became a professor and administrator in a school of nursing at a nearby university.

Each of our children married: Brett to Karrie, Amy to Shane, and Blake to Kareen. And from 2001 to 2012, the number of grandchildren grew to twelve.

Randy’s family included his mother, Martha, and his two siblings, Jane and Roger. My family includes my father and four siblings: two sisters, Denise and Marisa, and two brothers, Craig and Doug. My siblings and I have always been close—so much so that in 2010, together, we built a vacation home in the mountains. Although it is truly a home, we call it the cabin.

Randy and I were financially secure and tired of working, and we wanted to spend more time with each other. Then cancer became an unwanted guest.

Once, our family numbered twenty, and now we are nineteen.

Cancer

The disease that doesn’t knock before it enters.

—Susan Sontag

November 23, 2010

The hustle and bustle of the surgery center. People everywhere: staff, family, and with-’ems, as I call those who tag along or are the designated drivers for the trip home after a procedure—all in an accelerated world of activity. Where are they going? What are their stories? There are some tears, including my own, but most people are absorbed in their own worlds.

Randy has his intravenous (IV) line in place and has spoken with the anesthesiologist. There is talk of allergies. Somehow we had both forgotten his contact latex allergy from the early- to mid-1990s. Was he designing the Natural and Environmental Sciences Building project then? Was he forty-eight when he finished that project? Fifteen years ago? Where have the years gone?

I’ve tried in every way I can to calm myself this morning, but nothing’s working. The uncertainty, the waiting, and just thinking how quickly this has all taken place won’t allow it. It started with heartburn that seemed worse than normal and two incidents of food seeming to get stuck in his throat—once during the week of November 5 and again the following week. Randy’s appetite had decreased in the previous few weeks, but nothing alarming, or so we thought. On November 16 we were off to our doctor’s office, followed by an upper gastrointestinal (UGI) X-ray the following day, and back to our doctor’s office the next day to receive the report. A large mass had been found in his middle chest area. A visit to a gastroenterologist on the nineteenth, and today an endoscopy. One week ago today, we were headed to our doctor for what seemed like a nasty case of heartburn. Surreal … all of it.

Is this how a diagnosis of cancer happens? A mass in the distal esophagus—is it

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