10 May 1948 - 14 September 1998

Hazel Comes Home To Die

This is an email message I sent to friends after Hazel had returned home to die. Her sister, Pat, and I, helped by Betty and the other nurses and doctors in the palliative care team, juggled the morphine with the constipation. Hazel was pleased to be home, and actually ordered some new plants for the garden and a new lamp for the front room.

From: bobm@agsm.edu.au
Subject: Hazel's health
Date: Sun, 2 Aug 1998 16:28:25 +1100 (E )

Dear Friends of Hazel,

Since my message to you in May, Hazel's condition has worsened. She curtailed the taxol chemotherapy (with one treatment to go) and had undergone one treatment of chemotherapy with the drug that gave her almost eighteen months' remission in 1996/97, but was admitted to hospital in early June, suffering from nausea and constipation. After this had been controlled, she underwent major surgery to implant metal rods in both her upper femors, in order to reduce the pain from bone flexure and also to strengthen the legs, reducing the risk of fracture.

Neither of us had realised just how major this surgery was, or how much rehabilitation would be required to learn to walk again. After Hazel had been weaned from any drip feeds, she was transferred to a hospice, which has a good physio department and a "soft" gym. With high hopes, she was dismayed to find that new pain in her leg meant that the physio had to be reduced (she walks only with the aid of a frame) and she was upset when another patient in her ward finally died (perhaps of a similar disease).

After six weeks away from home, and after radiotherapy for the leg and shoulder, Hazel came back a week and a half ago. We have set up the family room downstairs with a hospital bed and table and chair, and the downstairs toilet is set up for her. The radio has reduced the leg pain, but other bones are now in pain -- there is no evidence that the cancer has spread beyond her bones. Despite the pain killers, she remains alert if subdued. The prognosis is not good.

She is enjoying being home, as son, Zoë, her sister Pat, and I are enjoying having her back, but she is not seeing many other people, by choice. Hazel and I are albuming all of her loose photos, and are taping her life story -- we're up to the end of her undergraduate studies.

Thank you, everyone, for your cards and messages in the past three months. If we haven't yet responded, it's not through lack of gratitude for your thoughts and wishes. They have meant much to Hazel, and to me.

I wish I could be more positive and have better news to tell. I have debated what I should say to you, if anything, and when I should say it. You see the answers before you.


Robert (Bob)


In the meantime, please feel free to email me, Robert.

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Last Updated 5 March 1999