Specialising in the human experience of Living with prostate cancer – warts and all

Posts Tagged ‘Terminal illness

Jack and Jill Cancer Tragedy

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Support From Friends and Family

Support From Friends and Family

The world of cancer can really kick you in the teeth at times, the trick is to be able to bounce back and move forward but sometimes it is more difficult to rise and come up smiling when it belts you below the belt. The following story is of events that have overtaken a married couple who are close friends of my wife and I. It took me some time to choose to publish these events as it is such an overwhelming personal ordeal they are dealing with. I wrestled with my thoughts on the moral justification in making their ordeal public and now I have done so in the hope others may be inspired by their story. In the following events I have used the names of Jack and Jill to protect their privacy and as I write I am still wondering at times if all this is not just a bad dream.

Jack and Jill are now in their late sixties. A few years ago Jill was diagnosed with bowel cancer and was at the time successfully treated with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. A short time after Jill’s cancer treatment Jacks brother was also diagnosed with bowel cancer and he was also treated successfully with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. With all the health and medical issues that had suddenly descended on them Jack and Jill decided to retire, buy a caravan and join the grey nomads touring Australia.

About the time they bought the van Jack fell off a trestle and broke his leg, down toward the ankle so the grand Australian tour departure was put on hold until his leg healed. Eventually they got underway but just a couple of thousand kilometers into their trip Jack and Jill found themselves stuck in Townsville as Jack had developed an infection in the bone where he had originally broken the leg. Townsville is where my wife and I met this pair and we became firm friends. Jacks infection was such that the leg was invaded by a medical steel structure from knee to ankle with rods descending into the leg at various places to deliver the antibiotics needed to the bone. Jack also was treated in the hyperbaric chamber for two months to try to assist the healing. Jack endured nearly twelve months of treatments to try to beat the bone infection without success.

Late last year the medical specialists and Jack started discussing amputation of the leg as the final solution and while these discussions were going on Jack had a colonoscopy which led to biopsies and he was then also diagnosed with bowel cancer. Now Jack and the surgeons had two problems to deal with and a decision was made to have both the amputation of the leg plus the bowel resection done at the same time (a 12 hour operation.) Both of these procedures were completed early in March and Jack is doing OK. He faces a lengthy rehabilitation period for his leg and prosthesis followed by perhaps radiation and extensive chemotherapy for the cancer.

The cruncher to all this came to a head recently when Jill revealed that she had been re-diagnosed with the return of her bowel cancer which had now spread extensively to her liver. The doctors informed her it was incurable and terminal, she could only expect her time left to be between 12 and 14 months. Now Jill had been informed of this some time ago but decided to keep it to herself until Jack had gone through his ordeal. That last sentence says more about the love and respect that one human can hold for a loved one than any explanation I could give. They have offered Jill some strong chemotherapy, not as a cure but to help prolong life long enough for both of them to return to their home once Jack is stabilised. I shake my head with despair for my friends and wonder how these sort of events can overtake good peoples lives.

With Love from Friends

With Love from Friends

I offer the following verse I composed for them and anyone else out there who might find some comfort in these words. It was inspired by the words of Gordon Lightfoots haunting ballad called “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” The lead line has haunted me for years “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours ?” Somehow the haunting returned and I built on it in my own words as the timing seemed just right for my friends.

Does Anyone Know Where The Love of God Goes?

Does anyone know where the love of God goes when a cancer turns your time left to hours?

In the dark and despair only faith can repair, what the verdict of cancer has soured.

But his love is still there in the fond memories we share, with the love-ones we see that surround us.

Those moments are there when the laughter rang out and the hugs and the kisses were about us.

The hard times and fears, the regrets and the tears, have been dealt with and left far behind us.

So does anyone know where the love of God goes? Well I think the answers not hidden.

Seek deep in your soul among your memories there and give thanks to what he has given.

Lee aka Popeye


Euthanasia Discussion For The Terminally ill

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Agree /  Disagree

Agree / Disagree

I decided to follow up my previous post on “Anxiety,Depression, Suicide and the view from my place” with this subject. All of these issues share a common thread that most terminally ill patients would have experienced or considered at one time or another. Indeed most healthy people I know, including myself prior to diagnosis have a personal opinion about euthanasia in regard to their own situation, if and when personal health deteriorates at some time in our futures.

Recently I spent almost four months at Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia. I was there for radiation therapy for prostate cancer as well as advanced skin cancer on my nose. It became a habit for me to walk daily down through the town and through a beautiful park area called Cotton Tree Park and then down to the beach for a swim. Here I found myself one day, stopped next to one of the cotton trees admiring some pelicans at the water’s edge when I glanced down and saw a small plaque at the base of the tree.

The plaque was a dedication to Bob Dent who lived his life on the Sunshine Coast. Bob was the first person in Australia to have legally ended his life by euthanasia in the Northern Territory in 1996. Over the past few months I have thought about that plaque and the man who made that decision all those years ago which helped me decide to do this article. I then discovered much more about the circumstances of Bob Dent as follows.

Apart from being the first person in Australia to be legally euthanised he was also the first person in the world to end his life by legal euthanasia and he chose the date of 22nd September 1996 which happens to be my birthday. Bob was also battling late stage advanced prostate cancer and was under 24 hour nursing care. Two more terminally ill patients would take advantage of this law before the federal government passed laws to rescind the Northern Territory Euthanasia Act in 1997.

Voluntary euthanasia is where the patient has consented to die with assistance, usually from a doctor. This is legal, under certain conditions, in the Benelux countries (The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) although only The Netherlands has had much publicity. Assisted suicide, which can be seen as a form of euthanasia, is also legal in Switzerland; it has been legal for many years, but only became well known for the practice when people started travelling from other countries to end their lives at a special clinic in Zürich. Certain US states have also voted to allow assisted dying, again under specific conditions. At present the only states are Oregon, Montana and Washington. But it’s under discussion in other states, and in fact several other countries, including the UK, are now debating the idea of a change in the law, so the list of countries that allow euthanasia may well be longer in a few years’ time.

the negative consequences of not legalizing euthanasia are very real and cannot be ignored. Some patients cannot bear the indignity that comes with the loss of control, the wasting and the excruciating agony that accompanies terminal illness. They may attempt to terminate their suffering by ending their lives themselves and fail in the process, bringing further suffering on themselves and those around them. These patients may also ask for the help of loved ones not trained in medicine in their suicide attempt.

Everyone has a right to life and most seek for a “good death.” Surely terminally ill patients should have a right to die with dignity and without pain at the time of their own choosing. It is easy for society, the government, and people to deny them this one act of mercy by spouting “moral”, “ethical” and religious tenets by the dozen. They have not traveled in their shoes.

I would like to end this article with final words by Bob Dent in a letter to the federal government. It is in the form of a quote of the last few paragraphs.

Bob Dent

Bob Dent

“The Church and state must remain separate. What right has anyone, because of their own religious faith (to which I don’t subscribe), to demand that I behave according to their rules until some omniscient doctor decides that I must have had enough and goes ahead and increases my morphine until I die?

If you disagree with voluntary euthanasia, then don’t use it, but don’t deny me the right to use it if and when I want to.

I am immensely grateful that I have had the opportunity to use the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act to ask my doctor Philip Nitschke to assist me to end this interminable suffering and to end my life in a dignified and compassionate manner.

I did want to write this statement in my own hand, but the weakened state of my body makes this impossible. It has been dictated by me and written down for me by my wife. “

Bob Dent
Darwin Australia
21 September 1996″

Further reading:

Lee aka Popeye