She was only 56 years old. She had been a smoker since she was a teen. She had also had asthma since she was a young child and was diagnosed with emphysema when she was 36.
My mother's fight was seemingly short. Within 7 months she went from feeling a little short of breath (more than her usual emphysematous self) to her death. It was a slow and agonizing spiral through multiple tests and examinations that eventually lead to a cancer diagnosis in November of 2009. Mom was in and out of the hospital after that. She ended up requiring home oxygen. On Christmas Eve 2009 we admitted mom to the hospital for her final admission. She didn't see her home again after that.
Mom lived in and was hospitalized in AZ and the rest of the family lived in neighboring states (CA and NV). We did our best to stay in contact with mom during her last couple of weeks. She called me often scared and/or concerned about her treatment. I was called in the middle of the night by Mom and various healthcare workers during these days. I received one final call from my Auntie who had traveled from NV to be with mom after one of those concerning late night calls. My Auntie told me that my mother had slipped into a coma and the doctors did not feel that she would not live much longer.
My family and I traveled 6 hours from CA to AZ- all the while not knowing if mom would still be with us when we arrived. We reached her around 5 in the evening on January 2nd. My husband and I stayed with Mom all night- trying to keep her comfortable and assuring that she had adequate pain medication. We didn't leave her side until the next afternoon. She died 1 hour after I left her side.
Being a healthcare worker there was nothing so relieving as to see my mother no longer suffering- peaceful.
Through this experience I gained a greater respect for the suffering and dignity of my patients. I deal with people with all types of lung ailments every day. Generally the patients I see are having some kind of respiratory distress or difficulty breathing. I have vowed to assure that I and the medical staff around me pay the utmost attention to the needs of our patients.
Here is my advice: Take care of yourself. Don't ignore the signs. If there is something out of the ordinary going on in your body- have it checked out. Don't let yourself become a needless statistic.