Celebration of Life

Hi Everyone,
We will be having a celebration of life party for Kathleen on Sunday, August 11th from 3pm to 5pm. It would be wonderful to come together to celebrate Kathleen’s life and legacy.

Instead of flowers, Kathleen asked that donations be made either to the KW-Humane society, or the Annette Fund at the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre.

As you know Kathleen loved and cared a great deal about her dogs and cat, as well as the welfare of animals in general.  Donations can be made at http://www.kwhumane.com/

The Annette Fund is in honour of former GRRCC employee Annette Specht – who was well known for her quiet advocacy and generosity to patients and families with emergent needs – a Fund was established in her name, to continue her good works!

When a GRRCC patient or family member has immediate needs for one-time assistance with specific items, such as: a meal (Tim Horton’s coupons/cards); a taxi, including wheelchair access (United Taxi voucher); or Hospital parking ($10 card, one time use), or a supportive medication from Health Care Pharmacy, not covered by another source.

The link that can be used is: http://www.grhf.org/en/indorgredirect

These ‘little’ costs can be very onerous for a lot of people. Kath was ‘lucky’ in that she had an amazing drug and benefits plan.  For many, this is not the case, and it can REALLY add up.

The service will be at the Erb & Good Funeral home.  You can find further information at http://www.erbgood.com/book-of-memories/1641288/McSpurren-Kathleen/service-details.php

Finally, I want to thank from the bottom of my heart all the emails, food care packages, phone calls, cards and just plain old support directed specifically to myself and Elaine.  Its been a fog for us after Kathleen died on Monday.  I have been putting pictures together to play at the service in the background, and its bitter sweet.  It brings back so many memories and makes me miss her so.  But also, I mourn the future I will never have with her. I really wanted so much more with her.  



Reason #983….

… on the list of why I love Kathleen. She can still share a laugh even in the shittiest situations. Last night was a constant barrage of nausea and vomiting… Often it would just be a deep burp, but you never knew. The PSW and I were sitting on either side of the bed, somewhat anxiously waiting for the next time…. Barf or Belch? Then, cutting through the quiet like a bull in a china shop, Orville on the couch let out 3 seconds of “BUURRRRRRRRRRPPPPP“. We turned in awe at the shear volume of it and Kathleen said, “Excuuuuuse me!” All three of us just laughed and laughed.

Belching Dog

In the continuing shell game of symptoms, the vomiting was better controlled this morning. She had a bit of challenge swallowing and keeping her heartburn med down, but eventually managed to. The doctor found some sublingual versions that will allow her to just metabolize it in her mouth and not have to worry about swallowing. But then the horrible back pain returned. Our friend Jan had to use every trick in the book to get her comfortable and now has been sleeping since 11am.

Sometimes it feels like some terrible Greek fable where the central character has to pick 3 afflictions from a list to endure. Not like there are “nice things” on the list.

Profound Fatigue
Constant Nausea
Intractable Pain

Pick three. But when its just physical, her presence of mind is quite amazing. Last night was like that. She was tired, she was barfing up any bit of water she would swallow and in some abdominal pain…. Yet she could still laugh a little, and still try and enjoy a few more moments together.


Not Awake, not Sleeping

Its been hard, but we are managing so far. I havent had much of an inspiration to write on the blog as things in many ways have not changed much. They are still headed to their inevitable conclusion and symptoms that now arise are just part of that. When that is, is hard to guess. Soon. Kathleen continues to get weaker and weaker. She hasnt eaten anything for some time. Even now, swallowing sips of water is difficult and speaking is very laboured for her.

To further complicate matters, Kath has been very frightened at night. They call it “sunsetting”… Things get worse at night. She will often wake up and not recognize the PSW and be afraid and confused. So with the help of our good friend Jan and her mum, we will be with her to keep her comfortable and feeling safe. I am on night shift tonight. Perhaps once or twice an hour, she will talk aloud about the dream state that she is in for a few sentences, look at me and then go back to a place where we are not. She is not really sleeping, but not really awake either. Somewhere between.


Hospice at Home

So far we are making a go of it at home and havent yet had to think about hospice or hospital care. Kath is at a stage where she is really loosing muscle and fat. She sleeps a great deal, but when she is a awake, she is pretty foggy and weak. Occasionally, the feisty Kathleen we know and love pokes through. When her mum and sister and I were trying to understand her, we had to keep asking her to repeat what she said. Finally, in exasperation she ‘yelled’, “I have 3 deaf people looking after me!” We all laughed, even Kathleen a little. But those moments are fewer now as she slips away from us.
As she now has a hard time swallowing pills, its a little more difficult to control her back/hip pain. Also there is a lot of diarrhea to contend with. On the plus side, we found a massage therapist who works with lymphodema patients in the home. This has managed to reduce the swelling in her legs a decent amount in order to bring some relief.
Her sister Mel, is with us a few more days. She has been a great source of love and practical help for us all
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It was hard to leave the hospital for a number of reasons. For Kathleen, tearful goodbyes for one. People she will never see again. Ever. As in the big ‘ever’. For me, it was like leaving a supportive family. There were so many young nurses who treated Kathleen as a beloved aunt, and so many older nurses who treated her like a treasured niece. And for me, just overwhelming kindness and respite. I remember coming in last Sunday morning, and the nurse who was Kathleen’s “constant” (when you have to be constantly monitored, the nurse assigned is called a “constant”) had turned down her sheets and arranged her pillows so perfectly and lovingly, I was expecting to find towel art like at one of those fancy Caribbean resorts. You know, a fresh bath towel origamied into a swan? There were a lot of tears shed. Seeing the hospital retreat away through the back portal window of the ambulance taking us home only added to the defined intensity of the moment.

I was thinking a lot about that guy from back in November who I happened to pass in the hall as he casually asked the nurse, “You called and said my wife is in a coma. Is she here or on the 6th floor.” I cant even remember what he looked like now, just the unphased tone in his voice. Its probably been a few weeks now, perhaps a month where I have become that guy. I know Kathleen is going to die soon and it no longer terrifies me like the way it used to… Same with Kathleen to a different degree.  As with each new step along the way, we acclimatized. She literally was placed into her death bed in the living room today.  We both cried, but not that much.

Twenty minutes later, we were on the side deck, enjoying the sun and having a bbq with family and a friend who Kath was roomates with last February in the hospital.  I was tired and didnt really want to do it, but Kath insisted. It took a good 15min just to transfer her out of the livingroom bed and into the wheel chair to get out to the side deck. But reflecting on it after, the BBQ was a profound reminder of what life is for me. Its finite and you must fight to live sometimes. And I dont mean hold on for the sake of holding on– struggle to make the best of whatever situation you are in. Look for light in those dark places. Make friends and relationships no matter where you are and how you are. And entertaining family and guests 20 min after being placed in your deathbed ? Thats the amazing fighter I have known and loved for almost 26 years.

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