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No Mercy

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My name is Kelly. I'm 25 years old, and new to the forum. I come here 10 months after the death of my mother. She passed away in May after a nearly year long battle with advanced cervical cancer. It was brutal. And painful. And preceeded by the death of my father in 2000 after a long and painful illness of his own. He developed COPD, endocarditis, hypothyroidism and was on and off of ventilators and in and out of surgeries for a very long time. When I was 19 and in medical school, being that my parents were divorced, it was left to me as the oldest child to make the decision to take him off of life support after a massive stroke that left him brain dead. Five years later, my mother followed suit. (and in between the two, I also lost my grandmother as well) I signed my mother's DNR with hospice of the valley when I was 24. And I cared for her up until the end. I quit my job to stay home with her and take her to her treatments daily. And the only way I can describe it is brutal. In and out of the hospital, and the physical pain she endured was incredible. The cancer went undetected for about 2 years. She was diagnosed with a uterin fibroid until the doctor opened her up and found out they were wrong. It was cancer. And along with her uterus, he removed a mass the size of an orange. Despite treatment, the cancer spread, closing off her kidneys. She had tubes coming out of her back that needed care daily and she had to wear adult diapers. Soon she couldn't walk she was so weak.....and the most painful part for me was watching her lose her hair. That may sound superficial, but my mother was a hairdresser. And a damn good one. She had bright red hair that made you notice her in a crowd. And since I was a kid, it was part of the definition of who she was. I see the irony in the fact that she fought her weight her entire life and then struggled to eat. She died at 84 pounds. Neither one of my parents made it to 50.

So now, here I am. I am now raising my 15 year old sister and we are on our own in the world. And we are both facing our own struggles and dealing with things very differently. And I find very little mercy in the world. It's all I can do to get out of bed now let alone face the countless things I'm bombarded with on a regular basis. There is no end to it. And people just don't understand that this doesn't go away after a few months. It persists like a nightmare you can't escape. It becomes an old excuse. At least that's what my friend tells me. You know the thing I hate the most? When people tell me that it is my choice to feel a certain way. I have no more choice in how I feel about this, than I would if someone smacked me in the head with a hammer. No...I got very few choices in this one. And the choices I did get to make, I question all of the time. I feel terrible guilt over the signing over both of my parent's DNR orders. Having a medical background I knew what I was getting into. But the questions remain. What if I had fought harder for them? What if I had explored alternatives? Second opinions? New treatments? Psychic healers for God's sake. I should have tried ANY and EVERY thing that may have had the smallest chance. But I didn't. I let them go. And it haunts me.

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Dear Kelly,

I cried when I read your post. I can't imagine a 25 year old having to go through what you have, and I think you are an incredible person.

As far as questioning your decisions....don't, please. I hope this sounds right, but death is not always the worst thing to happen. It sounds like both of your parents were in bad shape, to say the least, and an end to that kind of suffering is like a blessing, except for the people left behind. I have to remind myself every day that my dad (who died a year ago last month) is, hopefully, now at peace. There is a wonderful book (which I have recommended several times on this board!) called "Final Gifts". It is written by hospice nurses and gives you a whole different, and comforting, view of death. You might find some peace reading it. I did. I think you made courageous and unselfish choices for both your parents.

The more posts you read on this board, you will realize how many of us go through not having people understand our grief and how long it is lasting. Just ignore them and feel what you want to. Take care of yourself and your sis first and don't worry about anything else. I also understand that "bombarded" feeling. Since my dad has died my mom has become more helpless and confused. I live with her and take care of her and am so grateful I can.I love her with all my heart and worry about her constantly. But I have had to take over everything and some days I feel like I just can't handle one more problem, no matter how small or big it is! At those times I try (if I can manage a few minutes) to just go to my room or outside and do some deep breathing. Even if I just get a couple of minutes, it helps a little. I repeat "Take one moment at a time" over and over!

Please keep posting. As I said before, you are an incredible young woman.

Hugs to both of you,


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Dear Kelly,

I'm so very sorry to hear your own, sad story about your parents. Shell is right - how incredibly difficult this must have been, especially when you're still so young. One thing in particular that you said at the end, really hit home for me...

"But the questions remain. What if I had fought harder for them? What if I had explored alternatives? Second opinions? New treatments? Psychic healers for God's sake. I should have tried ANY and EVERY thing that may have had the smallest chance. But I didn't. I let them go. And it haunts me."

This is what I actually did try to do, at least to a certain extent, when my fur-baby was sick with cancer, and while I ended up trying 3 or 4 different methods, in the end nothing worked out anyway. I can argue with myself that I didn't pick the right methods to try, but have come to the conclusion that I didn't know about everything that was out there ( true ) and in my case, I wasn't given much time to research it all anyway. But one of the most important aspects of this entire mental and emotional, inner debate, is that there was one thing negative about this course of action and that is: all that research and liasing, etc. didn't leave me enough time to just BE WITH my beloved boy, so in a very big sense, I feel like I wasted the precious, little time that was left for us to be together - spent more often than not on the phone, or giving him things he hated. And in the end, it really seemed like his death was just meant to be, regardless of anything I tried to do to stop it, or at least delay it.

There are seldom, if ever, any clear-cut, black and white solutions to dealing with our loved ones' illnesses and dying, which isn't an easy thing to even begin to accept, but in order to move forward at all, to a certain extent we have to accept that we're fallible, we make all sorts of mistakes and we don't have all the answers all the time, every time. And if you're a perfectionist by nature, like I am, this is no simple matter. The 'what-ifs' are endless, and it takes much time before many of us can sort of 'come to grips' with them. Some of us never do, or only with certain things. But I wanted to offer this other perspective to your own 'what-ifs', just because I've been there, done that, too. It may not help now, but possibly later on you'll recall this and your heart will let this perspective in, when you're ready to consider it.

Again, I'm so sorry you've had to join this 'club', but pour your heart out here if you need to, as it's one of the best places to come to start working through your grief.

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dear kelly,

wow, that is ALOT for someone so young to have to carry. i remmeber being 25 and STILL being overly dependent on my dad's advice (not that it was any good...)

do you have any outside support? i know many people have trouble asking for help, but often that is the best help you can get. start with your sister's school counselor. given that level of profound loss, i would imagine both of you would be in need (yes, not just COULD benefit, but NEED) SOME form of support from a respected counselor.

i know i did. i lost my mom at 17. i was too naive or wrapped in my self-criticism to seek out help, and my dad too wrapped in his own life to offer it. i spent the next several years both depressed and wondering why i felt that way. at least i solved that part.

anyway,, God Bless. You have taken on a lot and your sister is lucky to have you. I would be concerned for you both reight now re: emotional distance from others, but right now that is what the two of you need the most. that and some good fortune. you will be in my thoughts and prayers.

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