I played a small part in Jeannie's life
I first met her when caring for her father with poor lungs. The next week I changed terms and found her at another bedside. Her husband was hospitalised for prostate cancer treatment at the same time.
They were a good couple. They had faced a large share of adversity. Their children had left, but they fit together and still loved each other. Her husband was in and out of hospital.
I had so much medical work to do that each day at 5pm I would stop being a doctor and sit with each patient "chewing the fat" about the day. She was always around when I did my socialising rounds. They lived within a block or two of the hospital.
I learnt that Jeannie had had cancer also. And not once. Twice. Believe me, this is nothing like winning Lotto twice.
She just wanted him at home, and managed to do this with the help of the Palliative Care team who visited her regularly. Eventually he died. Jeannie was lonely but thankful for the good time that they had had together.
I didn't see Jeannie for 2 years or more.
Then a friend mentioned that she was in hospital. That day I did all my socialising with Jeannie! One of her cancers had not been cured. It had seeded her liver and was making her sick. She battled through several courses of chemotherapy. Initially there was a marked reduction in the liver masses and she felt better.
Later the liver masses resumed their march. Jeannie was in a bad way. She said that she was finished with her life. She felt that she had completed writing the last chapter. Despite the hardships, she liked the story of her life with her husband and children living beside the hospital in the working class suburb. She had no reasons left to continue living. Life wasn't any fun and she had no wish to have extra time for its own sake. She wanted to close the book.
I visited her everyday to sit, hold her hand and talk. As she deteriorated it became obvious that despite stating that she had nothing left to live for, she was fighting. I don't mean that she was fighting with a positive mental attitude. She was appeared to be forcing herself to continue breathing. For 5 days I watched this. Finally I said to her "Jeannie, why are you doing this? It's all right, we are here with you and we are happy for you to go. You're not alone."
She seemed to take a break from her task of breathing. “I've fought all my life, Doc. I just don't know how to give up.”
We didn't give up either. We nursed her body and spirit until will power was no longer sufficient. I felt privileged to help her close the book. I hope that this page honours the book of her life.