Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Every morning, the students on my team ask, "How's your grandpa?"

The answer is that he is not good. He has no energy and his legs are very weak. While walking through the yard the other day, his legs gave out and he fell into a bush. His friend Steve, the big, strong police detective, was with him. He scooped him up and sat him on the porch swing. Then, Grandpa cried. Not because he was hurt, but because he is frustrated with his lack of energy, and he's scared that he's going to lose all his dignity.

The other day, Grandpa asked Steve if he could have an officer patrol the neighborhood at night. He and Grandma live on a quiet suburban street, but Grandpa said he's not strong enough to protect her should anything happen. Someone else will have to do that from now on.

In the middle of rounds last week, my grandma called with lab results. His primary care physician had ordered a little blood work. When it came back abnormal, he didn't know what to do with it. He said as much and referred him to a specialist. That appointment is on Monday, but he's going to see a different family doctor tomorrow--someone who will, hopefully, know how to interpret these results. Frankly, they aren't mysterious. He has cancer. His white blood cells are crowding out everything else in his bone marrow. He's terribly anemic, and he'd feel a hell of a lot better with a few units of red blood cells.

I spoke to Grandpa briefly this morning. I had just finished seeing my patients and had a few minutes before rounds started, so I called to check in. He said, "Well, we go to that new doctor tomorrow. I'm just hoping they can do something to get me half way back to normal. Just half way."

He sounded so incredibly sad. I found myself leaning into the wall as I listened to him, as if the weight of his sadness was falling on me. I am incredibly frustrated by knowing what to do without the power to do it. I can see the note I'd write if he was my patient. I know the few tests I'd order, and I know what I'd do for him to make him feel better.

He's not looking for a cure, just half way. I wish I could get him half way.


MmeBenaut said...

Can you contact his doctor and have a chat?
Half Way isn't much to ask for.
I'm so sad for you Terroni. Lots of hugs coming your way. ooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Maria said...

Yes. Once they get some red in him, he will feel a big difference. At least for a while...

When my neighbor, Nona, was dying of cancer, she would look as if she were going to tip over that day and then go in for her blood and it was as if someone gave her a temporary elixir. I knew that it was just a bandaid, but it did buy her some more time...

And yes, I imagine how awful it would feel to know that you could not protect your spouse anymore.

Mostly, though...I feel for you, sweetie. It is hard to stand there and keep breathing normally, yes?

Terroni said...

Thank you, Mme and Maria. I really appreciate the hugs and love.

A quick update...

He went to the new doctor and both he and my grandma LOVED the guy. My mom, a nurse, went with them and confirmed that the doc seems to know what he's doing. He sent Grandpa for a chest x-ray, did more extensive blood work, and plans to transfuse based on the results of said blood work.

In other news, I got a card from Anne, Jane's partner, today. She said she understands the huge risk I took for them and she wanted to thank me. She went on to say other amazing things that I won't repeat here because it'll make me cry.

And finally, I got a much-needed haircut. That may sound silly, but it was the perfect day for it. I feel lighter in more ways than one.

It has been a good day.

Anonymous said...

Ach, I'm so sorry.

MmeBenaut said...

Hooray Terroni that Grandpa has found a doctor who knows what he's doing. What a relief for you.
And, I can attest to the fact that short hair is quite liberating. I'm enjoying my short hair, sort of. My neck gets a bit cold though.

Shan said...

Ohhh. I'm glad he is getting somewhere with his new Doc. That would feel powerless and heartbreaking for sure. And yes, even a haircut can help a little with such heaviness hanging about. :(

MLC said...

I'm sorry for you and your grandfather. I watched my best friend die of cancer, my grandmother, uncles.

So very hard and one can make sense of it intellectually but our feelings always speak to us much more loudly then our minds.