How does it feel to die?
Nowadays I wonder. How bad can it be, really? When you’re miserable enough, wouldn’t death be a welcome respite?
He asked my grandma euthanasia two nights ago. I was numb. Does he want to die? Would I want to die, if I were him?
Cancer is nothing like I thought it would be. Nothing. It’s so mundane, so involved with bodily functions. I don’t know what to feel; I don’t feel anything. I know I feel anger, when my brother went out with his friend to breakfast. Actually, that’s it. I feel anger. And when I don’t feel anger, I feel nothing. I see my grandpa; I have a goal of getting him to eat a fourth of the bottle of protein shake, and I complete the task.
I realize that there are things about cancer that you never know, never will know, unless you experience it. You can’t talk about it with others. It’s humiliating; it strips one of his dignity.
He cried the other day. He’d tried to go outside to sit in the sun, like we had that one day when he smiled. It was such an effort to get him from the wheelchair to the bed. I’d never seen him cry, except for when he and Uncle said goodbye. Anyway, that was the last time he tried to leave the room.
Everything takes effort. And it was so shockingly fast. Walking disappeared only a week ago. Moving got difficult 2 days after. Eating, swallowing; those went just 2 days ago. We have to dissolve his pills. He drinks half a bottle of Ensure each day. It takes hours to get it down.
We change his clothes for him. For a while, he still had the pride to refuse to let my change his bottoms, because I’m his granddaughter. I smiled when he ordered me out of the room. Now, he lays, breathing shallowly, eyes half open. He does nothing when I change him. He barely notices. I notice how bony he’s getting – his shoulders are narrower than mine; his emancipated frame looking so much smaller when juxtaposed with his enormous, bloated belly.
We drain the fluids from his stomach every 3 days. Two liters of yellow, foaming liquid. As it fills the container, I can’t help but think it looks like beer.
For a while we would haul him to the bathroom. It was a long, strained process. We even switched the side of the bed he lay on, after decades of tradition. He resisted that. But it was for nothing. He pees into a bottle now, and wears a diaper. Cancer is not glamorous.
He can barely talk. He might grunt, and we all rush towards him, and while we’re coaxing him into continuing he falls asleep.
Sleeping. He’s always sleeping. While we urge him to eat or drink. While he’s peeing. While he’s talking. That’s all he does.
And the phlegm. He breaks into terrifying coughing fits; when I sit vigilant and he starts choking and I don’t know what to do and I just stand there helplessly until my aunt or my mother comes in and takes care of it. I’m useless. I’m the alarm, and nothing more.
I can’t even comfort him. Day-to-day chinese doesn’t teach that vocabulary.