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Jack is taking his last journey. We learned on Thursday, Sept 14th, that Jack has malignant lung cancer that has metastasized to the lymph nodes. He is at home on 24-hour oxygen. Today (9/19/17) he was admitted to Mayo Hospice in-home care. I am taking care of him at home with the help of several family members and friends.
This has been a very sudden, shocking discovery. Doctors tell us this may have begun 6 months ago. Jack played golf during spring and summer, usually 4-5 days a week, and played 27 holes on August 24th, the last day he golfed. I first noted some weight loss in late spring but didn't notice how profound it was until late August. To date, he has lost 25 pounds, mostly muscle loss. As summer went on he began to complain that he didn't have as much energy as usual and shortness of breath when walking the nine holes at Hadley Creek golf course, something he has done easily for several years. He was very proud that at age 89 he could walk the course while younger people needed a cart. The final steep climb to the clubhouse became very difficult for him. I also noted that he began to decline invitations to play, saying he just didn't feel like it. That was very unusual for him because he loves the game so much.
He gradually began to feel ill during the week of August 27th. I urged him to call his doctor or go to the emergency room. He declined both suggestions until Labor Day evening when he asked me to take him to the ER. After preliminary studies , he was hospitalized at St Mary's Hospital and had many more tests and x-rays. He had developed a large pleural effusion (fluid buildup) between the chest wall and left lung. A thoracentesis was done where over 2 liters of fluid was removed. He felt so much better the next day, but that was short-lived as the next day he had another liter of fluid removed. Pathology of the first fluid removed were negative for cancer or infection. There was considerable delay in pathology results from the second and he left the hospital after 5 days with no firm diagnosis and using oxygen at night. When we saw his primary care doctor in the Clinic the following Thursday, we heard the news for the first time that Jack had malignant lung cancer with lymph node involvement. We visited the pulmonary doctor the same afternoon where Dr. Kern scheduled further diagnostic tests. A bronchoscopy was done the following morning which further confirmed the diagnosis. We were told at that time the mass in the chest was inoperable.
Jack is adamant that he remain at home. He does not want to go back to the hospital and particularly does not want to pass in the hospital. I concur with his decision and am doing my best to help him do that. There were many more appointments scheduled for him but he refused to have any more and asked his doctor to cancel all of them. He now has good days and bad days but never has he lost his ability to make others laugh and smile. He truly is a "good man" as his primary doctor, Dr Henry Schultz, described him. He will be missed. He may be able to continue to make people laugh for days or weeks or even months. He has no pain which is a blessing. His biggest complaint is shortness of breath. When he moves around or when he eats, he has more difficulty breathing.
As many know, Jack has incredible faith in God's mercy and compassion, and expresses his devotion to Mary by praying the rosary 3 times a day, something he has done for 26 years. He began the practice while caring for his first wife, Marge, during her struggle and continues to pray one for her, one for his large family and one for the world. I have no doubt he will see the face of God. Fr Tom anointed him and gave him last rites last Saturday. Since that time, he has been entirely peaceful.
We have heard from many, many people all wanting to help. I have begun to record all those offers as well as a list of things needing to be done, and hope to be able to call on many of you. Many visitors have stopped by and all are welcome, but please call ahead so I can schedule visits for him at intervals which will allow him to rest.