My sister Laura is at home now after two very difficult weeks. She's had two hospital stays in those two weeks. Initially she was admitted for pneumonia and an infection in her lungs. Last Wednesday, she suffered a pulmonary embolism, which left her even weaker and in more pain than ever before. She came home for two days, but it was the most difficult two days that she's had since her diagnosis last July.
This past Saturday I received a phone call from my brother-in-law James. He asked me to come over right away - Laura pulled out her gastric feeding tube. I don't know how long it took me to run the two blocks to their loft, but by the time I got there the paramedics were already there, and Laura was already inside the ambulance. She was lying there looking at me yet her eyes registered nothing, not recognition, not relief - nothing. It felt like the earth had opened up beneath me and my legs were giving out from underneath. Somehow I made it inside the ambulance for the ride to the emergency room. The ambulance ride was just the beginning of a long hellish weekend spent at the hospital.
While at the hospital, Laura made the decision to not have the gastric feeding tube reinstalled. After many tearful discussions with friends, family, doctors, and social workers, she maintained her decision. On Monday her doctors told us that her cancer was so advanced that even if she reinserts the feeding tube, she would most likely still have the same amount of time with us. So now Laura has come home to spend her last days with her family and friends. The doctors say that she has anywhere from a few more hours to a few more days before she leaves us.
James and I talked about how to break the news to her friends and loved ones. We planned on spending Wednesday calling everyone then posting the news on our blogs. But every time James tried to think of what he was going to say, he broke down and cried. Every time someone called to ask how he and Laura were, he was a mess. So I took his cell phone and Laura's, then told him with every confidence, that Adam and I would take care of calling everyone and that I would screen their calls so that he could spend the time watching over her. I dialed the first number calmly, thinking of all the phone calls I needed to make that day, intent on crossing this off my to-do list and quickly getting back to spending however much time I had left with my sister. I think I was on the second sentence of that first phone call when I lost control. I heard my voice crack and it was downhill after that. I sobbed through the call then dialed the next number to do it all over again. I don't know how, but I made it 2/3 of the way through the list before Adam came home from work to help. We slogged through the rest of the list and then I tried to figure out who wasn't on the list that needed to be called. I can't help but think that I'm forgetting someone.
Except for immediate family and a handful of friends, Laura hadn't seen anyone or ventured outside (except to the hospital) since her wedding in May. In the past few months, Laura hasn't had the energy to receive visitors, but everything was different now. Although we tried, no amount of preparation helped ease the shock of friends seeing how emaciated she was (she currently weighs 75 pounds), or how her pain medication rendered her virtually unresponsive to visual or aural stimulus. Every time someone came to visit Laura, it was fresh hell all over again.
After the last visitor had left, after Laura drifted off into a drug-induced sleep, we all went to Cole's. I tried so hard, but no matter how much I drank, I remained stone-cold sober. No matter how tired I am, I still can't sleep. And although I may think I've shed enough tears, that I've been wrung dry and cried out, the tears still keep coming. I think this is what it means to come undone.