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Autopsy results for Penny (part 2)


I got the paper copy of the autopsy yesterday, which goes into a lot of details. So, I'm not going to transcribe them here.

But, basically, the cancer was definitely involved in the esophogeal damage that was causing her internal bleeding into her stomach, that caused the dehydration and anemia. It had threaded itself around her aorta. It had replaced one of the three lobes of her liver. Her bladder was scarred - possibly a side-effect of the hysterectomy, possibly from her occasional infections.
The cancer had also wrapped itself around the pericardium, that fluid-sac that protects the heart, but it hadn't invaded yet. It had begun to invade her diaphragm and there were many small tumors in her lungs. It had begun to invade her kidneys.

She had mild artheriosclerosis, something we had been dealing with.

The most startling thing, though, was the amount of necrosis. There was a lot. The larger tumors were dying inside. Apparently too fast. If they had been dying slowly, her immune system could have gotten aggressive and gone after the tumors, but too-fast necrosis suppresses the immune response, and being diabetic, that was already a problem for her. She had two big tumors and numerous smaller but still big ones, and each of them had advanced necrosis.

Yesterday was four weeks.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
anita_margarita
Feb. 3rd, 2006 11:26 pm (UTC)
Everything shows how - and I use this term grudgingly - hopeless Penny's condition seemed to be. It's like it was fated (and again, I don't like that term much here) and nothing could be done.

Which makes me wonder, why? What's the point, here, of her illness and seemingly inevitable death? What is God getting at here? What's the lesson, the story to take away with us? What was her mission here? What did she have to teach - and who was she teaching?

Sorry if this seems overly maudlin, but these are the kinds of things I wonder about.

foomf
Feb. 4th, 2006 01:19 am (UTC)
I got a book on grieving that had some surgically precise things to say about when someone dies suddenly, and when they die of a disease. One of the things was that whenever we suffer, illness or grief, God suffers with us. Mourning and sadness are not something we should be 'too good for' - when he went to Lazarus' tomb, Jesus wept. Immanuel, God With Us.

That it's not only right, but sometimes necessary, to cry out to God and to demand answers. There are no wrong questions when you ask them of God.

I can't help but remember the things she did that prepared her for this. Her care receivers for Stephen Ministry were a very old woman, who was brilliant. She was trapped in a shell of a body that would not even allow her the things she took pleasure in - deafness and blindness had stolen her music and her books. Fragile bones stole her walks, brisk or peaceful. She felt that God was punishing her for something, she wondered what possible worth it was for her to continue to endure, she ached for the peace of death, but she continued to live on, her mind undimmmed, in a hospital-home where too many of the others had lost their minds along with their bodies.
Penny was one of the most brilliant people I've known; her IQ was a good 15 points above mine. She felt intimidated and slow-witted around this woman. Penny worked for a year to help her focus on the spiritual - the hard stuff, for a pragmatic intellectual who was more at home with the stock market (she was the first woman to be licensed as a broker anywhere in the western US, possibly the entire country) than in the "womanly world of feelings". She wasn't as facile with the theology as some others might have been. This meant she couldn't give simplistic, pat answers to hard questions, and I think that was a good thing. When her care receiver died at the age of 97, we toasted her memory with Irish Cream, her favorite drink.

(continued)
foomf
Feb. 4th, 2006 01:19 am (UTC)
Penny's second care receiver is still living, and was a lawyer, a successful one, and shook the dirt of Redding off her feet with a vow never to return.
She's very intelligent. She was everything Penny feared being. Her weight and immobility and constant suffering, result of a lifetime of smoking and drinking and lack of exercise, over 30 years of undiagnosed or untreated diabetes, heart disease, kidney and liver problems, and even surgery for breast cancer in the last week of December. The week Penny went into the hospital, her friend was gleefully escaping in the middle of the night, from the 'rehabilitation' hospital that wasn't doing a proper job. Penny was afraid of the helplessness, the illness, the slow decline. I don't know in much detail what she and this friend really talked about. I think, mostly, it was about mortality, about faith, and a lot about friendship and caring. They exchanged histories and the things they disliked about Redding, and Penny told her about how it had grown and changed and how trees had finally grown in, making it less stinking-hot in places.

During the last 10 years, Penny had become interested in Julian of Norwich, a medieval mystic whose visions of Jesus were profoundly influential in the formation of anglican spirituality. She (Julian) had some of her most profound revelations in the nature of God as God the Mother. The focus on the analogy of God as God the Father had (and has) contaminated the understanding of God, because each analogy, while it points to something, is also wrong.
There was an Order of Julian that was a lay order for women, and Penny was interested in that, but then came across a more recent and very active group, the Daughters of the King, a prayer and service order for laywomen. She was a member of that group, and continued so until her death.

I point those things out as being _part_ of her mission.

I know I learned an incredible amount from Penny. A lot of it had to do with pride and selfishness and paying attention, and what to do about them. I had to learn to say I was sorry, and to admit it when I was at fault, even if it didn't 'feel' like I should. I had to learn to disable my automatic 'empathy' reaction, because it was the wrong thing to do, the wrong way to cope, with her own emotions. (We both had to learn this.) I had to learn to see past the action for the reason behind the action, because so much of what she did or perceived was so filtered by her upbringing, her past, and I was far too often wrong about why she did things.

I learned a lot about faith, about believing even when I didn't feel it. We helped each other a lot with that.

And, apparently, we were a great source of inspiration to other people. I guess. I heard about that from other people, after she died, and I still boggle over it.

What was the point? What's the point of anything, really? We are all given a tremendous gift, life, and we live it with God or without, depending on our own choices, and what happens in it, we are told, will work out to the eventual good. God turns all things, all pain and joy, all to His own end.

Which doesn't make the pain less, but it does mean it's shared, and we're not alone, even when we're lonely.
aerowolf
Feb. 4th, 2006 11:53 am (UTC)
God turns all things, all pain and joy, all to His own end.

Without the bad, without the pain, without the darkness... we would never appreciate the good, we would never appreciate the wellness, we could never marvel at His light.

No matter what role you ascribe to Him/Her/Is, we cannot truly know God, for then we would have no need of Him...
foomf
Feb. 4th, 2006 09:52 pm (UTC)
I disagree, the darkness is not necessary to truly know and love the light. As mortal and finite humans, we have never experienced light without darkness, ergo we will always appreciate it having known the dark. It is inevitable, but not necessary.
aerowolf
Feb. 5th, 2006 01:41 am (UTC)
Mmm... I will disagree with you, there. Listen to William Shatner's rendition of "Common People" (from his 1994 CD "Has Been") for an expression of why.
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