Take My Hand…

Terminally-ill? Terminal prognosis? Advanced stages? What are you talking about? I just came in for a simple scan and now you tell me that I only have so much time left to live? It would be best to start getting my affairs in order. Really? You must have the wrong records, right? There must be a mistake. I am going to get another opinion! What do you doctors know anyway? Only God knows when my time is up! I know lots of people who have cancer and they have outlived the amount of time that their doctor had told them. So, what, are you now just going to give up on me? You are wrong and I am going to prove it when I walk back in here a year from now and show you just how wrong you are. I’m outta here!!!

Generally speaking, while we all recognize the realities that someday we will die, very seldom do we talk about, plan or even share our thoughts about death. Then, under varying circumstances when a terminal prognosis is given, we are suddenly forced to deal with the inevitable prospect of death within a stated relatively short period of time, whether we are the patient or a loved one. Regardless of where or how the news of the terminal prognosis is received, the shock and overwhelming flood of thoughts and emotions always seems to hit with a similar blunt force, at least, for me, based upon each of my personal experiences.

Like most people, initially, we want to get another opinion, start treatment options immediately, scour the web for others diagnosed with the same disease especially if they have also received a terminal prognosis, or, seek out anyone who will willingly give us feedback that we want to hear if for no other reason than to give us a reprieve from the shocking news.

Terminal illness, in medical terminology, is defined as a disease that will more than likely result in the death of a patient within a period of six months or less, regardless of whether they have any form of treatments. In certain instances, the estimated period of time may be stated to be as long as twelve months or less. Irrespective of the timing element, or, whether a person chooses to start or continue treatments, or, even the nature of the underlying disease, a terminal prognosis essentially refers to the predicted future course of the disease. This is an estimated time of survivability before the disease progresses to the point of death.

In plain truth, the disease is determined to be incurable and a person’s medical condition will more than likely progressively get worse over the days, weeks or months following the determination of the terminal diagnosis.

As is the nature of a terminal prognosis, I have always said, “time is not on our side.” For loved ones–whether they are family and/or friends–who decide to become caregivers, the ensuing journey will require a lot of unconditional love, patience, trust, perseverance, compassion, courage, empathy, understanding, sense of humor, strength, faith, hope, reality checks, communication, restraint, planning and organization, resourcefulness and preparation among other things. And, most importantly, a proactive approach in order to achieve what I believe to be the ultimate goal of caring for a terminally-ill loved one (affectionately referred to herein as a “TiLO”)—do everything humanly possible to make our loved one as comfortable as possible as they take, what I respectfully and sincerely refer to as, their “final life journey.”

In the event that you are the patient who is reading this blog post, my heart goes out to you and I pray that you are surrounded by loving support and comforted each day, one day at a time.

I am hopeful that the experiences shared herein will provide some greater awareness to all who wish to walk with a TiLO, helping them to make the most of their remaining days, whether measured in days, weeks, months or longer. To the fullest extent possible, focus on living, one day at a time. TiLOs, please let those around you do what I refer to as the “heavy lifting” while you keep things as simple as possible as you have enough challenges to contend with.

All that I share within these blog posts are based upon my personal experiences as a caregiver blessed with the gift to walk with five of my loved ones during their respective final life journeys. Regardless of the underlying illness or the estimated amount of time given per the terminal prognosis, in each instance, to the best of our ability, as you will see, we focused on living as well as how to make the most of each day, one day at a time!

Please note that when it comes to a terminal illness, there is no “one size fits all” approach or solution. While each person’s experience may bear some similarities to the experiences of others, there are so many different factors that come into play and, as a result, each person’s experience will more than likely be different. In the journeys that I shared with my loved ones, to the best of my ability, I tried to use all that I had learned from prior experiences to help me to do an even better job with each subsequent loved one that I cared for.

Once again, a great big hug to all as you embrace what I truly believe is one of the greatest challenges in life.

Take my hand…Let’s do this!

~D. Toru White~

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