When you hear the words “Please let me!” you may think they’re coming from a child who wants to have ice cream for dinner or a teenager who wants to stay out past curfew and hang out with their friends. In other cases, it’s “please let me…help you”, “please let me…stay with you”, “please let me…understand why”.
I will tell you a little bit about my Nanny. This woman has lived through lung cancer where she lost half of a lung. She has had brain cancer that caused seizures until she finally had a tumor removed. Let me tell you, this lady has been hit by a quad which resulted in broken ribs and her having to be airlifted to the nearest hospital. She has even suffered from a lawnmower accident that caused her to lose her toe. About a year after she had her brain tumor removed, she realized that her head was not healing in the way it was supposed to. When they went back in to figure out why, the doctors found they had left a staple behind that caused an infection. This infection caused her head to leak fluid. Her head wound never healed and she developed Osteomyelitis, a term that means her bone is infected and is essentially rotting. The incision in her head has never healed and has only become worse over time. Her blood is infected as well as her skull and she has been on IV antibiotics for months, with little results.
I have found it hard to accept the words of my Nanny when she says she wants to die, and she is ready to go. I find it hard to respect her wishes even when it’s what I really should do. Last week my Nanny was deemed palliative, this means the goal is to make her comfortable as she gets ready to pass over. This doesn’t mean that she is fighting, it doesn’t mean she wants to fight, it doesn’t even mean that she can fight. She wants to be with my grandpa again and she hates not being the independent woman she once was. Over the past few years I have been the one caring for my Nanny; I do her groceries, I change her bed, I buy her news clothes when she needs them, I take her to her appointments, bring her for blood work, and I have even become the person the doctors call if she needs anything at all, including emergency blood transfusions in the middle of the night. I do it because even when she is stubborn and doesn’t always say thank you, I know she will always appreciate me, and I will remember that I was there. I was there for the card games and the hours spent baking. I was there to learn to knit and I was there all those summers at the farm. I was there for the jokes and the laughs, but I was also there for the tears and the scares. Even when she is the one in pain, she is the one holding me while I cry for her.
I know my Nanny is ready, but that doesn’t mean I am. The toughest thing to remember is that this is not about me. I’ve lost many hours of sleep not only wondering why she wants to pass, but also wondering how she can be so at peace with the thought of it. It frustrates me how she wants to stay at home and doesn’t want to go to any hospital setting because “that is where old people go to die”. I find myself struggling to understand how someone wishes they would stop waking up in the morning. It frustrates me that she doesn’t want any extra care or help, and she doesn’t even want me to go and see her…but I still do. She wants to be alone in the place where I always found her and her comfort, in her home, at Nanny’s house. I know I have to be strong for her, just like she’s being strong for herself. I need to spend as much time as I can with her and care for myself too, by surrounding myself with my support system. As much as I want to make decisions for the woman who has opened my eyes to the world in many ways, it’s not about me. As much as I want to say please let me help you, please let me take care of you, please let me see you, please let me. I should start with thank you, thank you Nanny for the woman you are and for everything you have done for me and our family, thank you for the happiness and memories and everything in between. Now please let me have the strength, please let me have the courage, please let me be okay without you. Please let me.
~ Kristin Ferguson, Administrative Assistant at Plan A Sudbury