Settling in at Home

In retrospect, the month of April was a blur. Between selling our former home, purchasing a new home, and my transition to home hospice care, there was a lot to do and consider. Through the fantastic generosity of family and friends, along with a lot of effort from Lorie, amazingly everything went smoothly.

It was tough for me to be a spectator for most of the events mentioned above since I’m restricted from physical activity due to cancer invasion of my spine. As just one example, I’m not supposed to lift more than 5-pounds or risk further fracture.

Making matters worse, I still don’t look like a terminal cancer patient. Other than seeing the hospital beds in our house, I’m sure that some of the people helping us pack questioned why I wasn’t lifting a hand with the move. Whether this was true or not, it affected me emotionally by adding to my depression. I wanted so badly to help.

As mentioned in a recent tweet, what’s been my biggest surprise since being diagnosed with terminal cancer? The people you thought you could count on but were wrong and the people you least expected to be there but rose to the occasion. So, for everyone who contributed financially, physically, or otherwise during the process — thank you from all of us!

I am also frequently asked whether or not I will be receiving further cancer treatment. In this regard, hospice stresses patient “care” over “cure”. The goal is to provide comfort during the final aspect of life. Therefore, no — I will not be receiving further treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation, or participating in clinical trials. My ideal scenario, as described by Dr. Robert M. Wachter in a recent opinion piece for The New York Times is “death with dignity and grace, relatively free from pain and discomfort”.

Fortunately, our dog Humphrey did his best to reassure Lorie that he’d take good care of me as she returned to work after spring break. More comforting to her, however, are the weekly visits from hospice to monitor my vitals, change the bandage around my patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) device, and adjust my various medications as appropriate. I feel like we’ve made good progress in each of these areas over the past month and life is slowly returning to a “new normal.”

One remaining issue relates to sleeping through the night. The beds provided through hospice are adjustable and comfortable, but I tend to wake up in the early hours and then have trouble getting back to sleep. Accordingly, my nurse Linda suggested switching from Ativan (lorazepam) to Klonopin (clonazepam). Both medications are sedatives that can treat anxiety disorders, but they have differences in how long they work. Klonopin has a slightly longer half-life than Ativan, which may help me sleep through the night.

In other news, I decided to close my Facebook account this week (for a variety of reasons). Going forward, this blog and my Twitter account will serve as the best ways to keep track of my cancer journey. Sign up for new post alerts here using your email address to be notified each time there is a new blog entry.

Michael Becker and Humphrey
Michael Becker and Humphrey

13 thoughts on “Settling in at Home

  1. Hi Michael, I’m Becky from Michigan. I’ve been following you for over a year. I just had my 2 year check at U of M, where I received my treatment. I received 7 Cisplatin Chemotherapy treatments along
    With 35 Radiation treatments. I have remained NED. Mine is NasalPharyngeal, with metastasis to left lymph nodes. HPV 16. I’m doing wonderful, but can’t help feeling fortunate!! I wish you well!
    All is Well with My Soul.

  2. What a busy month you all have had! When my husband got his diagnosis in October, the first thing he said was that he had to be able to take our grandson(5 months at the time) fishing. Saturday is that sweet boys first birthday and on the invitation is a picture of him and his Papaw fishing. Although they may be what stands out to some, there are very few big events in our lifetimes. It’s really about the small everyday things – walks with your dog, conversations in bed with our spouses, playing catch (or fishing) with the kids,family dinners and time spent with friends – that binds us together. Sometimes the people that we can truly count on are few in number but huge in heart. Sounds like you have a good tribe. Many prayers as your journey continues.

  3. I just lost my partner to this cancer. It was really the radiation that killed him. His vascular system was destroyed so he had recurrent bleeding episodes. He was 67. He was extremely uncomfortable but was never put on hospice. I am glad that you are at least getting comfort care.

  4. I went on hospice this week ALS HAS taken my life away I PRAY for no more suffering God Bless us

    • Oh goodness, so sorry to hear about your disease progression. What a horrible disease. I wish that I had something profound to say, but there are no words that adequately express my emotions.

    • Christine, May you find peace and rest soon. I have seen your struggle and it is very hard. Know that you have fought the great fight, and have won the race. Bless you.

  5. Thinking of you Michael and of your family. My mother is dying of breast cancer and I cannot even go see her. You are lucky to be surrounded by a loving family and Humphrey. You are right that extreme circumstances reveal who your true friends are.

  6. I couldn’t find you on Facebook and got upset. So glad I found you again here. I wanted to tell you about my sister, Chris, but I see she commented above.

  7. Thank you so much to you and your family for sharing. My husband doesn’t seem to be far behind you, and your insights have been invaluable for me to prep for what lies ahead. Prayers and peace.

  8. Hi Michael, I am new to your blog and have been reading since April 2019. My Husband was diagnosed April 10, 2019 with HPV positive squamous cell carcinoma. He is 54, active and takes care of himself. He also noticed his lymph node on his neck was swollen, much like the picture of yours. He will start chemo and radiation May 15. He has one kidney due to donating one to our son when he was 1 year old. Our son is now 26. Drs are concerned about the effect of chemo on his remaining kidney. Your blog has helped me as we are going though the early steps of facing cancer. God bless you for sharing your story and answering so many questions I have had. I hope you are resting in comfort and enjoying your family and Humphrey at this time. I think about you often. Tracy

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