Aunt Dot

Ah yes, my great aunt, Dot. You’ve read stories about her, rolled your eyes with me when discussing her gifts, and fumed in unison over her taunting Cordy. But today, this post isn’t about her antics, it’s about her.

On Monday or Tuesday, we’re not sure which, Aunt Dot fell in her apartment. She lives by herself, and although she has one of those Life Alert “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” necklaces, she wasn’t wearing it. She wasn’t discovered until mid-day on Wednesday, and she couldn’t remember how long she had been on the floor. An evening in the emergency room resulted in the relief of finding no broken bones, but they did find she had a bladder infection and pneumonia, and her recently developed diabetes was out of control. She was admitted to the hospital.

Thursday and Friday involved a lot of tests. Her right carotid artery (the one that supplies blood to your head) is totally blocked, but we knew this. Her left carotid artery (that’s been doing the work for both of them) was discovered to be partially blocked. We thought that was probably the worst of the news, and she would likely need to move to assisted living from now on to ensure someone was nearby in case she fell again.

But it got worse.

Turns out the dark shadows the lung x-rays picked up were pneumonia, at least on the right side. The left side, though, was a tumor, encompassing all of the upper part of her left lung. They needed to do a biopsy to determine if it was malignant or not.

Today they did the procedure, but it didn’t go well. While lightly sedated, Aunt Dot stopped breathing. The medical team quickly got a tube down her throat and hooked her up to a respirator. She was then moved to ICU.

The doctor told us he’s 99% sure it’s malignant, and this lung cancer is starting to grow into her bronchioles. It can’t be treated, because the treatment alone would kill her. If she didn’t have all of these other problems, he’d give her 6 months to a year to live. But with all of her other health problems, including emphysema, she has at best 3-6 months, but could die any day. How this giant tumor had been missed by her primary doctor at her regular doctor’s visits is baffling to me.

I saw Aunt Dot briefly today after the biopsy procedure. She was semi-conscious and fighting the tube in her throat, so they had to fully sedate her again. It was hard to see her like this. Yes, she’s been a pain to me my entire life, but she’s still family. She’s my grandmother’s sister. That tough old woman, who was very intimidating to me as a child, looked so tiny and frail in that hospital bed. I stood by her side, watching her squirm and twist in a half-daze, and I didn’t know what to say. I finally reached out, touched her hand and said, “It’s OK, Aunt Dot. We’re here, and you’ll be fine.” Somewhere through the haze, I think she heard me, because for a moment she calmed down. The part about being fine wasn’t true, but it was all I could think of in that moment.

In the morning, the medical team will try to remove the tube. If she can breathe on her own, she’ll be moved out of ICU and eventually to a nursing home. If she can’t, they’ll give her 24 hours more and try again. She has a DNR order, so if a second try wouldn’t work, we would let her pass without any further intervention.

While I don’t want the last days of her life to be drawn out and painful, I do hope she will regain consciousness and will be given the time to put everything in order before she dies. I wouldn’t mind having a little more time to talk to her, too. One of my aunts told me today that Aunt Dot was so happy that I visited her on Thursday, bringing Mira with me. The entire reason I visited her today was to bring Mira to her to lift her spirits again, but I arrived right when she had stopped breathing. I hope she can see Mira at least one more time.

And I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I’m finding myself a little sad that Christmas just won’t be the same this year without another damn nutcracker and a bag of stale cashews.

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  1. Sigh. You know, my Aunt is sick as well…and while I think she’ll be here awhile more…she still annoys the hell out of me. Yet like you I find myself romanticizing the way things were. Funny how family does that to you.

  2. Aw, I’m sorry, Christina. Isn’t it amazing how a little baby can do so much?

  3. Sorry to hear this Christina. We all know that when you talk about her antics that you really do love her. We all have one in our family. My Grandmother was like that and we used to laugh at her gifts too, but it was all out of love and we do miss those gifts (conversation starters!) and we miss her very much. The memories are great :)

  4. Major Bedhead says:

    I don’t really know what to say. I’m sorry that you’re going thru this and obviously I’d never wish her illness on anyone. No matter when it arrives, I hope she has a peaceful end and that you get thru this without too much heartache.

  5. Mary Tsao says:

    I hope Aunt Dot goes peacefully. That’s how I wish to go. If she lived this long on her own, that’s saying something.

    You never know with these Aunt Dots, though… she might just come back fighting and surprise everybody.

  6. yes, i agree with mayberry. little kids are miracle workers. and good for you for being with dot now.

  7. I’m just so very sorry. It’s wonderful that you were able to take Mira to visit last week… and to know that your Aunt Dot enjoyed it.

    I know what your saying about the nostalgia over things like the nutcrackers. My grandmother (who passed last year) would sometimes give the worst gifts. One such gift was a HORRIBLE clock with dolphins, and a rainbow, and a snow globe… and an alarm that has dolphin sounds (HORRIBLE!!!) For years it sat in a closet meaning to be thrown away. Zoe found it last month and loves it. The darn thing is sitting in our living room as I type. Just can’t get rid of the awful thing now.

  8. I’m so sorry. I hope your aunt has a chance to be alert and say goodbye to her family and that you all are able to make her last weeks or days as comforting and comfortable as possible.

  9. Aw, I am saddened by this turn of events. It is never easy when a loved one takes such a drastic and unexpected turn for the worse. My hope, like all these other posters, is that she will come back, tie up lose ends and pass peacefully. My thoughts are with you and yours….

  10. Sending prayers to your Aunt Dot and family. My grandmother died from lung cancer and it was awful. 3 months from diagnosis to her death…like your Aunt, by the time it was discovered it was untreatable. ((((hugs)))) So sorry your family has to go through this…I hope Aunt Dot passes peacefully….

  11. Aw, Christina, I’m so sorry to hear about your aunt. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  12. Your family is in our prayers.

  13. I’m sorry to hear about your Aunt Dot. I do hope that she’s able to see Mira again.

  14. How very sad. I share your hope that she’s given the chance to see and talk with everyone before she goes. I’ve got a few of those in my family, too — don’t we all — and it’s amazing what a hole they leave when they go.

  15. MamaMichelsBabies says:

    I’m so sorry… even the tough cases have a soft spot, and I too hope she gets to see Mira again. YOur stories of your Aunt reminds me alot of my grandmother before she passed, sadly of the same thing, I wonder if perhaps it’s just the generation. SHe’s lucky to have you and your family. *hugs*

  16. Oh hon. I’m so sorry… I hope she’s not in any pain and that you do get to speak with her again. Hang in there…

  17. Mommy off the Record says:

    I am so sorry that your Aunt is so ill. I hope that you do get some final moments with her and that she doesn’t suffer too much.

  18. ((HUGS)) ((KISSES)) ((PRAYERS))
    I will be thinking and oraying for all of you!

  19. Jennifer aka Binky Bitch says:

    Oh I’m so sorry. I hope she gets to see Mira again..

  20. Omigosh, that’s tragic! I’m with Mary – I hope your Auntie Dot goes peacefully. Hugs to you. You’re so great for taking the baby to see her – and it’s super that she loved seeing you and Mira so much.

  21. I hope see can see Mira again – that would be fantastic.

    But yes… I hope she goes peacefully and not in pain.

    And if she has another trick up her sleeve, now is when she’d bring it out. And so even if she is around, Christmas might be a tad different anyway, if she respects the support you’ve given her during this time of stress for her.

    Best wishes to you and your family.

  22. motherbumper says:

    I’m sorry and wish I knew the right thing to say. It’s amazing how we look at our family (who may annoy us) in a different way when they need to lean on us most.

  23. aimee / greeblemonkey says:

    I am so sorry, Christina. Thinking of you and your family.

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