Saturday, March 9, 2013

preparing for lung cancer surgery

Last year It had been a ‘top secret’ 3 months since a 9 mm vague nodular density on my left upper lung lobe had ripped open my world.

I felt physically fine. No cough, no fatigue. Decades of MS spouse caregiving are about physical care and well I was in good physical condition.

In my odyssey both outpatient surgical procedures had gone terribly wrong. Following CT Guided Needle Biopsy I was hospitalized with a pneumothorax (less than 10% chance). During EBUS I flatlined and was hospitalized overnight (less than 3% chance).

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a popular definition of insanity.

With my luck so far, and now facing major surgery - preparing for surgery pragmatically I had to prepare to die as well as to hope to live.

My wife was in a long term care facility. Multiple Sclerosis dementia impaired her awareness of anything. Fortunately there was a Care Plan Review scheduled a couple days before surgery. Accompanied by my daughter I used the opportunity to let the cat out of the bag to facility staff and insure that should, God forbid, anything happen to me the transition would be seamless for her as her Mom’s advocate.

Looking around me at the detritus of a lifetime, I remembered the toll of time and emotions following the deaths of both my parents fifteen years earlier and my only brother two years later and having to clean out the left overs of their lifetimes. … I could not and would not leave my daughter in such a position. Bordering on drama queen, I began ‘Spring Cleaning’ of a life.

Fortunately after a quarter century of spousal caregiving we had all the legal paperwork from wills, to living wills, to advance directives to power of attorney done years ago. Adding codicils empowering our daughter who was a minor when originally prepared was the easiest part of the preparations.

Reviewing everything with her was poignant including from what functions would require a death certificate through save the money and just cremate me if I die, spread my ashes somewhere we had fun together. Stony Man Mtn in the Shenandoah where we have annually walked to the summit or The Inlet in Ocean City where we jet skied for decades.

Cyber junk was a curious pile of noise. Fifteen years earlier there was no digital legacy to deal with. I was dumbfounded to discover how many of my emails were stored in cyber space. Delete, delete, delete while time consuming reduced the pile to nada. Read and delete became my new mantra and one I continue to this day.

Several years of blogging about MS spouse caregiving as left more than a few footprints in cyberspace. This seemed cruel to leave for our daughter to clean up so I discovered the “delete all” doomsday links and demonstrated to her how to access.

Facebook has always creeped me out when ‘friends’ or ‘friends of friends’ die and family leaves their page up. My daughter has tried to explain to me that those pages can serve as a testimonial to many or family simply did not know the password to delete. So I began to delete pictures, posts, even comments except the most recent.

Come on now, Jesus Christ left not one written word why in God’s name should my babble survive.

Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst made for waking up in ICU on the afternoon of March 14th, 2012 all the more excellent. 

Patrick Leer
Health Activist:
Caregivingly Yours, MS Caregiver @


  1. Oh Patrick, I had no idea you were going through all of this. I'm so happy you're still around to write about it.

    1. Thank you Leslie, believe me I am even happier to be living in overtime. Among the things I covered with my daughter, just in case, was the wheelchair lap blanket you gave Patti. :)

  2. You were incredibly wise to do this all Patrick "before the fact" to make life easier for your daughter. The pain of losing you would have been hard enough; the "mess" to clean up afterwards is such a hassle to deal with along with grief, so again very wise, no matter how painful it was to do so, to have done it together with her.


    1. My Dad dying of pancreatic cancer 15 yrs ago began this 'Family Tradition' with me. Too few families talk about death and dying. Forget schools oh sure they'll teach sex education but not death education.

  3. Wow, I couldn't imagine putting myself in your shoes and maintaining the composure to insure your daughter would be 100% ready in case of a worse case scenario. You had so much on your plate yet managed to make sure those around you would have a seamless transition if the worst happened.

  4. I would not expect any else else out of you but to be totally prepared, at least in housecleaning and getting things in order. That is so you. and I am more then happy to see you here a year later talking about it. I also went through a lot of getting things arranged a few years ago. Made a slight dent in cleaning out the house of stored things also. My poor sons though, there dad is a pack rat who doesn't want to part with anything.

    1. Thanks Julie, good to know I'm not the only one who deep housecleans before major surgery. :)