10 May 1948 - 14 September 1998

Hazel Weakens

This is an email message I sent to friends after Hazel had been at home for six weeks.

From: bobm@agsm.edu.au
Subject: Hazel's condition
Date: Sat, 5 Sep 1998 10:54:12 +1100 (E )

Dear Friends of Hazel,

The news is not good. In the five weeks since my last message, Hazel's pain has worsened, although with the help of the palliative-care nurses and doctors, it is under control most of the time. (Hazel is being treated with fentanyl three-day patches, equivalent today to about 130mg/d of oral morphine, about four times the amount she started on six weeks ago.) For the most part she has no nausea or constipation, although both have been problems from time to time. She is weakening, and her mobility is quite circumscribed: she no longer walks to the toilet. Moreover, the pain has been spreading in her body, most recently to her jaw, although there is still no evidence of spread of the tumour from her bones into vital organs or soft tissues. But a painful jaw makes chewing and even talking very uncomfortable.

We have been continuing to tape Hazel's life story, and are now up to 1992, and our twelve months in California. As well, Hazel has written letters to be given to son and Zoë as they enter the adult world, on their thirteenth birthdays, and has also given them momentos now, rather than leaving this for me to do, later. Zoë will get most of Hazel's jewellery, son will get Hazel's PowerBook, amongst other things. The purpose of all this is to help the children cope with Hazel's death, when it occurs. I have been given time off lecturing by the AGSM -- I still see my PhD students once a week, but I'm spending most of time at home with Hazel. Pat is also here, cooking and cleaning, as well as helping Hazel.

We have found a very recent book, which we have been reading aloud, to be very useful: _A_Good_Day_To_Die_, by Lisa Birnie (Melbourne: Text Publishing, 1998, ISBN 1 875847 75 8) tells the stories of twelve or more cancer patients at a hospice at Monash University. Most of us have no first-hand experience of dying, and the book provides one person's view of these people and their various experiences.

Hazel has said that she's ready to die. There is no self-pity, only a heart-breaking sorrow at being deprived of the opportunity to see the children develop further and grow to maturity. She has never said, "Why me?" She is being worn down by the pain, immobility, and inevitability of the disease's progression. I know that my love for her gives her comfort.

As you may imagine, we would not wish our experience on any of you, but then none of us gets out of here alive, so although her death will be premature for Hazel -- by about thirty years! -- it's that we are realising the fiction of endless life sooner than most do.

Thank you all for your messages of concern and love. If we haven't answered your message, it's not through lack of gratitude or affection.


Robert (Bob)

Robert MARKS, Australian Graduate School of Management, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
Phone: +61-2-9931-9271 (W), +61-2-9818-5618 (H), +61-2-63-552752 (some w/ends)
Fax: +61-2-9931-9326 (Fax)
Email: r.marks@unsw.edu.au OR bobm@agsm.edu.au
WWW: http://www.agsm.edu.au/~bobm

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

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Last Updated 5 March 1999