Michael’s journey with palliative care
We had a good three weeks at the lake. The weather was great. My brother came from Ludington and we had a fish fry lunch. Linda and I celebrated our 44th anniversary.
There were a few rainy days but we made due. I know one thing not to do on a rainy day…a 3-D puzzle! We used up three or four hours on a rainy afternoon rubbing our eyes as we worked on one!
My last chemo treatment went well. I had few side effects. Then we got good news and bad. My recent scan showed that two tumors shrunk. The one that has not been cooperative grew a little. My doctor suggested we start another form of chemo. It has bad side effects. My other option is to get in contact with Harbor Hospice and go in that direction.
I’m going to take a little time off and think about that.
My birthday is tomorrow. Big 64! So we’re heading back up to the Lake House to celebrate. Everyone will be there, and on Saturday, we’re having a retirement party for Linda.
Monday we’re heading up to Mackinac Island. I haven’t been in many years. The last time my youngest daughter was there, she was 12. We’re bringing her son who is just 12 now, and it will be his first trip there. I’m going to take a lot of photos.
I once asked my father if he ever thought that people would be carrying around a telephone in their pocket. He said he supposed it would happen and he recalled Dick Tracy’s spy watch. Somebody must have been thinking about things like these phones in our pockets that also take photos. And if you’re searching for information, you can do it so quickly right on your phone.
I was born in Muskegon and went to Muskegon High School. From there I went to work for Grand Haven Stamp Products and stayed for 44 years. For the last ten, I worked in automation as a process engineer for the injection molding division. I worked with robots. Most of the time, robots ran production machines, and the operator took the finished product at the end of the line!
A final note from our writer, Susan Newhof, who interviewed Michael every few weeks for nearly three months and produced this series of journal entries with him:
At the end of this interview, I thanked Michael for being so open about his journey. He told me, as he often had before, that he hoped it would help others learn about the benefits of palliative care. He was grateful to his palliative care team and was looking forward to so much, including taking family members to Mackinac Island. We agreed that we’d talk again in a couple weeks so he could share stories of the trip.
On August 15, Michael and his family made that much anticipated drive north. Daughter April was driving and intended to pull into an observation parking lot as they neared the Mackinac Bridge, but she ended up in the “on” lane instead. Moments later, they were traveling north on the magnificent suspension bridge, high over the blue waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Michael was thrilled! They walked around downtown St. Ignace and did fun touristy things. They ate fudge and ice cream, and Michael bought souvenirs. Because Michael wasn’t feeling very strong, they decided not to take a ferry over to the Island that afternoon. Instead, they settled into their accommodations with pizza and a movie.
The next morning Michael was not feeling well and asked to go back to their lake house. From the lake house, he was transported to the hospital, where they learned Michael’s big, loving heart was failing. He passed away early the next morning with Linda and April by his side.
“Palliative care gave Michael time,” Linda told me a few weeks later. “He could endure the chemo, which kept him going. He could tell the palliative care team about problems he was having such as eating or not being able to sleep. They helped him figure out solutions. They calmed him, and being able to see Michael calm made me feel better, too. When you talk with people about palliative care, they hear the word hope. Michael had a good journey.”
We are deeply grateful to Michael for generously sharing the last several months of his life with us, grateful to him for showing us how to live fully each day, with hope and expectation, making plans to the end. And we are grateful to Michael’s family, especially to his beloved Linda, for their enthusiastic support of this journal project. Michael touched all of us, and we will miss him.