My husband was diagnosed with cancer four years ago. Three years ago he was told he would die from his cancer. He had plenty of time to think about how he wanted things done.
My husband went to a large university medical center for his treatment. He thought the world of his doctors but it was still a large hospital. It could be cold and impersonal. He said he wanted to die at home.
His cancer had been growing. Anyone could see that. What I know is that I took him to the hospital for an appointment. He wasn’t feeling well. I thought they might admit him, make him feel better and send him home. But that’s not what happened. He was admitted but he didn’t come home.
My husband’s health went downhill that morning. His medical oncologist came in and explained what was happening to him. A D.N. R. bracelet was slipped over his wrist. By mid-afternoon, he was no longer responsive. Maybe he had had enough.
I sat with my husband in the late afternoon and watched and waited. We were joined again by his medical oncologist. She stayed for hours. I wasn’t surprised by this but I hadn’t expected it either. It’s a large hospital and she’s a busy woman.
What did surprise me was my husband’s radiation oncologist walking into the room. I remember thinking that he should have been home having dinner with his family. He spoke with me for a few moments and then sat down on the edge of my husband’s bed. It didn’t matter seem to matter that my husband was unresponsive. He held my husband’s hand and started talking to him. He recalled meeting him for the first time and talked about some of their exchanges over the years. He told my husband that he admired the way he had dealt with his cancer. The doctor stood up and was still holding my husband’s hand when said thank you and wished him a safe journey. Then he leaned over and kissed my husband on the top of his head.
The radiation oncologist left but the medical oncologist stayed with us for a little while longer. Eventually she too had to leave. But before she left, she also walked over to the edge of the bed and sat down. She took my husband’s hand in hers and started talking to him. She also recalled some of their interactions over the years. She talked about what a unique character he was and how much she had enjoyed knowing him. Then she stood up and thanked my husband for the privilege of knowing him. And she kissed him goodbye.
My husband passed away later on that evening. He didn’t die at home like he had wanted. But he didn’t die in a cold and impersonal hospital either.