September 16th, 2009:
My last post started: 16 days until I move into Maitri. Wrong. As of this morning, I moved into Maitri. I have started my intake with the social worker and the nurse. Tomorrow I'll start working with the Hospice person to manage my medication. So, what's all the hurry? Why is this happening so fast?
A few hours after my last posting, I went to the home of Boone Callaway and his partner David for a dinner hosted by the Maitri board of directors. Also present was Tim Patriarca, Maitri's Executive Director, and Traci Teraoka, the person who arranged the decor and furnishings that set the feeling tone of the residence. As I was walking down the stairs of my apartment building to Traci's car, I made it to the last stair, stopped to rest and was suddenly overcome with pain. I was so overwhelmed that I wept. Traci comforted me and presently we continued to the party. Once there, I settled into visiting with the arriving board members until the pain returned in full force. To manage as best I could, I went into another room and lay on the sofa, breathing until my overwhelm receeded. By the time dinner was served, I had relaxed a lot.
As the courses were served, I managed to stay with the conversation most of the time. We started by going around the table and expressing our gratitude for each other, stories about Maitri, memories of my service over the years. My own gratitude centered around being held in this group as a sick person. Indeed, I was sick. Right in front of everyone. Then I spoke about how much it meant to me to know that Maitri would care for me in my final weeks and months. Between courses, I relaxed by getting up from the table and lying on the living room rug to relax. By toggling between sitting and resting, I made it through the evening.
Before the party broke up, Traci had asked if she could spend the night to be sure that I had any assistance I needed. A week before I would have declined her offer; on Monday, I accepted without hesitation. Also, Tim suggested that I could move into Maitri sooner than planned. As soon as Wednesday (today). Again, I said "Yes!" immediately.
The next day, Traci and I had a leisurely breakfast and I started talking about how much I had enjoyed the evening. After promising to stay in touch through the course of the day and move as many mountains as necessary to gain early admittance for me, Traci took off into her day. Within a few hours, she called to see how I was doing. Ever the rose-colored-glasses romantic, I waxed on about how well I was getting around, etc. Traci listened politely and then said, "Last night was not only fun. It was also very scary and frightening to see you in that much pain. We were really concerned about what to do. Your pain management failed and we witnessed that. It was difficult to watch." I knew that she wasn't in any way blaming me, rather, that I have spent so many months pushing myself forward to get things done, that now, with my energy declining and my tumor growing, I cannot fake my discomfort any longer. My strategies are failing with my health. What other people see is more realistic, less sanguine.
Quickly, I assembled my application for admittance to Maitri. That afternoon, Wendy returned to take care of me for the evening and night and joined me in the scheduled appointment with my primary care physician. Then, we stopped at Maitri to drop off the paper work. Grace Molyneaux, the attending nurse who runs the medical side of the residence reviewed my application and said, "You can move in tomorrow." I was startled. Tomorrow? She explained that it would be easiest to get me started with hospice pain management as well as all the intake effort with no delay. Stunned, I left with Wendy who assured me that the sooner I had 24 hour care, the safer I would be. Clearly, a part of me wanted to get into Maitri for the safety and comfort. Another part of me felt startled to have the move happen so soon.
Just before noon today, I took a cab over to my new home. With a carry-on containing my meds, some clothes and a few toiletries, I entered my new home. Rather than climbing the stairs, I took the elevator up to the second floor. As I walked toward Grace's office, I was suddenly overwhelmed. This was it. I was here. In my final home. I wasn't just visiting. This wasn't a wander on the floor prior to a board meeting. This wasn't a social call. Sabrina the nurse came up to me, looked me directly in the eyes and said, "Oh, I am so glad you're here! We'll take good, good care of you. Let me help you with this." And with those words, I crossed the threshold and was led toward my new room.