Quality vs. Quantity

I was going to title this entry “Choose Life?”,  but being strongly pro-choice, I knew that that didn’t communicate what I was after.

I am the daughter of two octogenarians with dementia, with my mother soon to be 90 years old.  Today marks just over six years since my parents have needed *a lot* of help from myself and my sisters, and roughly eleven total years of increasing medical demands.  I am very tired.

I wish my sister would have started writing the stories along the way years ago, since there is no way that I will be able to recreate the crazy journey that we have been on, but this looks like a good place to write down those nagging thoughts and experiences that will be coming up.

I am a dog lover, and I believe that anyone that has dogs eventually faces the question of quality of life over quantity of life.  I probably think more about these issues with respect to my parents and the moral decisions we’ve had to make than the others.

In 2009, my mother nearly lost her life to Clostridium Difficile.   While she survived, her colon (large intestines) did not – it had to be removed and she was given an ileostomy (so she only has her small intestines).  I believe that I was the only one in the room when this decision was being made that wondered if it was the right one to make, knowing how unwell and unhappy she had been feeling.  Unfortunately, that nagging feeling was correct, she has never forgiven us for saving her life, because the trade-off, for her, was not worth what she had to give up.  Would she have us make that same decision again?  Unequivocally, NO.

When my dad chose to participate in chemotherapy in 2008-09 for Stage IV colon cancer, it came as a surprise to me.  He always swore that he would never go through chemo, having seen what it had done to a friend of his, but his survival instinct is strong .  With a properly chosen supplement and aggressive allopathic treatment, he is now  6 years NED (no evidence of disease).  That’s great news, but he exchanged colon cancer for chemotherapy/anesthesia-induced Parkinson’s disease, which has robbed him of many things.  Would he do this again?  Unequivocally, YES.   He chose life, however altered it made him.

Part of the Parkinson’s is his own version of dementia.  Part of that dementia is a strong desire to remain in charge, of anything he can, and when he can’t, he strikes out in a mean way.  He is this way with all of us, and saves a particular individual meanness for each of us.  Yesterday, in an attempt to make me upset, he told me that I should shoot my dog.  It did make me upset, but probably not for the reasons he thought.

What is life when you alienate all who might have cared for you and you have no joy left?  What is life when it consists of tilting at windmills?

I have no answers, only questions.  I do hope that as I age, I am able to choose to Live Life, rather than just try to survive it.

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