Unless something unexpected happens over the next couple of weeks to alter the outcome, I will become the last surviving sibling of an original family of six—two parents and four children.
I’m not interested in belaboring the point of death; it’s the final segment in the circle of life, and none of us are getting out alive.
But I do want to address CANCER, the culprit that took my younger sister and, if the timing estimates pan true in his case, will have taken my younger brother within the next few weeks at most.
In a simplified nutshell—and I DO mean simplified—cancer is a disease of cell-mutation.
Every human cell contains about 23,000 genes. Cancer cells cause genes to mutate, function abnormally, and control cell-growth. Some genes command cells to grow; and others command them to stop.
So, in a summary nutshell, cancer is the result of growth-control genes mutating and causing dysregulated cell growth.
And while the oncological ramifications of cancer are beyond my expertise, the above is MY layman’s technical understanding of the disease. It’s the SCIENCE side of this horrible killer, the side that fights desperately to keep people alive for as long as possible.
There is always a time for hope, even when it’s against all odds. Remission is fantastic. It means that—at least for the present and perhaps occasionally for good—the cancer is gone.
I’m no stranger to it; I’ve experienced it directly. But it’s a bad idea to become too cocky about it because cancer has a way of lurking in the shadows, only to return with a vengeance.
I’ve spent my entire professional life in science and engineering, believing that there are answers to everything. They may not be at hand, but they’re out there someplace.
Nor have I ever been a big believer in stuffing things into my emotional pockets and taking them to the grave. But there is a time to realize that hope is gone.
My brother has reached a point where he’s so weak he can’t lift his head. His sight is going faster with each passing minute; his voice is barely audible; his words are painfully unintelligible. The pain and congestion in his chest and back have reached the point of constant morphine dosages.
He still knows that I’m his brother, but he can’t remember my name. His morphine kicks in, and he’s at peace, at least until it wears off.
In his case, the science of medicine surrendered to the art of medicine about 6-months ago. And no group of medical artists do this better than those who have dedicated themselves to Hospice Care.
In both my sister’s case—up to the moment she died—and in my brother’s case throughout his stay to date, I’ve witnessed no apparent limit to their unyielding patience, compassion, and ability to bring dignity to the terminally ill.
I’ve spent as much time with him as possible these past months, and I’ll continue spending my time with him until he dies.
But as much as I love him, witnessing his slow agonizing imminent death from lung cancer has only intensified something I’ve preached to others all of my life: dying isn’t the worst thing that can happen to us; it’s merely the last thing.