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1/22/2017 Latest post:
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Here is the long version of Doris' recent health history.
As many of you know, Doris started experiencing severe abdominal pain at the beginning of 2016. Over the course of the year she visited many doctors and had many tests, but it was not until December 2016 that a CT scan showed an abscess in her stomach. This was drained during a 5 day hospital stay in mid December and she was sent home for Christmas. Unfortunately the pain returned after only a few days and she checked back into the hospital on 12-27-16. Exploratory surgery revealed "a huge mess," to use the technical terms of the attending surgeon. This required 3 days of surgery in a row, the last being at 7:30 a.m. on New Year's Day. Large parts of her colon and bowl were removed and an ileostomy was created. At this point the surgeons were still confident that all could be fixed and that Doris would still be able to return to a normal life within about six months. The lab analysis of the tissue samples proved otherwise. The diagnosis was of ovarian cancer that had spread to the lower abdominal organs and was incurable. Doris had already had to endure a significant amount of pain throughout the year and especially during the surgery (torture! as she described it) and was quite clear that her wish was not to prolong her life in any way if it involved further suffering. Doctors wished to keep her in the hospital for a few more weeks to allow her surgical incision time to heal and they also hoped to drain 3 more abscesses that had formed subsequent to surgery. Doris refused to stay, insisting on going home with Hospice care by Hospice of Central PA. The ensuing week at home was difficult and and chaotic as we navigated the set up of home care. Her grandchildren Shannon and Michael moved in to help. Doris' pain continued and the situation was exacerbated by her abnormal ileostomy which continued to leak every day in spite of the nurses' best efforts. Doris was in pain, stressed, frustrated and unhappy. It soon became evident that a new solution was needed. On Thursday, January 19, 2017 we transferred her to the Hospice (of Central PA) Residence at 1701 Lingelstown Road, Harrisburg. Our initial hope was that this peaceful environment with 24-7 supervised bed rest and special care for her remaining post-surgery issues would help her recover sufficiently to return home and live out her remaining days under Hospice care until it was her time to leave this world. A strong regimen of sedatives have finally eased her pain and made her comfortable, however, she seems to be becoming increasingly weaker and it seems likely that her body will not be able to sustain the needed recovery process. As much as this saddens all of us, her greatest wish during this ordeal, one that she repeated over and over every day, was to be free of pain and to be allowed to leave this life as soon as possible before the inevitable additional suffering from the cancer progression set back in. Until the sedative dose started to affect her cognitive ability, those of you who texted, talked and visited with her know that she still had all her wits about her. She asserted her strong will and desire to be in charge of the situation as best she could, which gave all of us caregivers quite the challenge! She also spoke with all about the good life that she had enjoyed and that she was very much at peace with the idea of moving on to another place. "Im Himmel da tanzen wir wieder" (in heaven we will dance again) was one of her favorite expressions. A phrase that she had inscribed herself on her husband Les' wooden urn at his death two years ago and one she shared with many of us.
I think it is good to remember that Doris had quite the year in 2016 in spite of her pain. She travelled to Germany where she visited with many friends and family over the course of about a month. She also spent several weeks with her dear childhood friend Helga Ottmar on the beautiful island of Gran Canaria. Of course, as usual, she participated in many events at her beloved Lancaster Liederkranz, Garden Club, Sewing Guild, German friends group, and time with friends and family. She also gained a son-in-law and grandson-in-law when Corinne married John Sheridan in November 2016. Feel free to let me know if I am forgetting anyone!
A special thanks to Hospice of Central Pa for her excellent care and a special shout out to Rosamaria, (our hired caregiver) for her dedicated help at home . My Mom loves to have her around. Thanks to all for your many cards, calls, visits and emails, these are all priceless. Love, Corinne and family