Tag Archives: diabetes

Ushering My Father to a (Mostly) Good Death

Photo courtesy of Karen Brown

Karen Brown | Longreads | November 2017 | 14 minutes (3,613 words)

 

“How about Tuesday?”

My father is propped up on three pillows in bed, talking logistics with my sister and me. We’ve just brought him his Ovaltine and insulin.

“Or would Thursday be better? That’s a couple days after the kids are done with camp.”

“Ok, let’s plan on Thursday.”

My father is scheduling his death. Sort of. He’s deciding when to stop going to dialysis. That starts the bodily clock that will lead to his falling into sleep more and more often, and then into a coma, and eventually nothingness.

He is remarkably sanguine about the prospect, which we’ve all had a long time to consider. A master of the understatement, he promises it’s not a terribly hard decision, to stop treatment and let nature takes its course, “but it is a bit irreversible.”

If I’m honest, he’s ready now to stop dialysis. It’s a brutal routine for someone in his condition, incredibly weak and fragile from living with end-stage pancreatic cancer, kidney disease, and diabetes. It’s painful for him to hold his head and neck up, which he has to do to get to the dialysis center. During the procedure, he must be closely watched so his blood pressure doesn’t plummet.

But he’s always been a generous man. He’s willing to sacrifice his own comfort in his dying days for the convenience of his family, since we all want to be present at the end. If he pushes his last day of dialysis to Tuesday, then my sister can still go on the California vacation she’d been planning with her family. If he pushes it to Thursday, I can still take the journalism fellowship I’d accepted. It will also give his grandchildren time to finish up their summer jobs and fly down.
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Cast by Chronic Illness Into a Limiting Role

Illustration by Giselle Potter

Maris Kreizman | Longreads | November 2017 | 10 minutes (2,462 words)

 

In junior high, I had my heart set on attending a famous performing arts sleep-away camp in upstate New York. All I’d ever wanted from the time I was 4 and saw a local production of Oliver! was to be a Broadway star. I could barely contain my jealousy of all the child actors who were making it big in musical theater that year, 1990: the orphans of Les Miz, the orphans of The Secret Garden, the orphans of Annie. I had the talent to be an orphan too! I just needed a chance to go away from home, I reasoned, because very few successful orphan characters are discovered living with their parents.

If only I could attend French Woods, the place where Natasha Lyonne and Zooey Deschanel had spent their summers — a destination for suburban preteens on the East Coast who had Broadway ambitions, kids who perhaps idolized Bernadette Peters (me) and had strong opinions about Andrew Lloyd Weber’s early work (also me). I had always fit in just fine in my New Jersey town, but I knew I would find my people at French Woods.

Instead, I found myself at the Clara Barton Camp for girls with diabetes. I wrote my parents a “please come pick me up or I will die” letter after my first night.

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