“There is nothing more we can do.” The seven words most people are never ready to hear.
We had decided that Chris, Ashley (Cassie’s older sister) and I would be in the room when Dr V gave Cass the results of her latest tests and discussed what her options were. We knew Cassie would want to tell Ethan (Cassie’s younger brother) herself so we left him out of the loop for now. I was tremendously nervous that my husband and daughter would not arrive at the hospital before the doctor made her appearance. There was NO WAY I was going to be the only person sitting in the room with Cass for this news! I couldn’t eat, sleep or even think for that matter. If I could have thrown-up without anyone noticing I surely would have…I was a WRECK. When Chris and Ashley walked down the hall, relief swept over me. Oddly, I don’t remember what Cassie’s reaction was to seeing them both so early in the morning or what we said to explain this; it was not normal. It was only a few minutes later that Dr. V arrived and got right to the point. In her very compassionate way she discussed the tests and suggested hospice care. There was no panic, no sobbing, no noises, only a gentle tear sliding down Cassie and Dr. V’s face, and streams of them down ours. Cassie’s first question was, “Does this mean I’m going to die?” Followed with, “Can I go home for hospice?”
Dr. V went on to talk about the logistics of hospice, assuring her she could go home and if she began to feel better she could always discontinue hospice care and make an appointment with her to explore other treatment options. Cassie, with God’s grace enveloping her, said, “I think I’ll go home and rest.”
WOW! Just like that, the cancer battle was peacefully done and the place we tried very hard not to visit was pulling at us like a giant magnet. So many questions spinning around in my head: What would Chris and I do without our middle child? How would Ashley and Ethan survive without the glue that held them together? Would our family ever be happy again? How are we going to support her in her final days without falling apart ourselves? Most of those questions had no answers, they would just become part of the grief process, which we had just begun. The real question was: Is Cassie afraid? That answer came pretty quickly, at least her initial reaction did.
We spent the next several hours, through tears telling family and friends what Cassie’s decision was. The hospital was busy doing the paperwork necessary to begin hospice care at home; our family was busy transforming our dining room into Cassie’s “Serenity Room” as she named it. Very quickly the hospital staff was showering Cassie with love and gifts. They arranged for her dog, Scooter, to visit. Immediate family, Cassie’s best friends and boyfriend came. We had a full house. Astonishingly, after the initial hugs and tears of a new visitor, most of the conversation was normal. It was my dad’s birthday and we even had a cheesecake to celebrate. It was like it wasn’t really happening. We were told on a Tuesday and left for home on a Thursday.
The two days were busy but the nights were quiet. The Hines 5, as we called ourselves, all stayed the night in Cassie’s room. Chris slept in a chair, Ethan and Ashley in separate hospital rollaway beds while Cass and I shared her hospital bed. The first night she woke up breathing fast and crying hard, “I’m not ready! I don’t want to do this! I can’t do this!” We were inches apart; I put my hands on both her cheeks and very calmly whispered, “It’s not happening fast. We take one minute at a time. We let God be BIG.” In a few minutes she calmed and we both fell back to sleep. The next night I woke in a very similar panic, this time it was Cassie that calmed me with the same chant, “It’s not happening fast. We take one minute at a time. We let God be BIG.” We were all scared marching into the unknown but we knew we would be held up by the love of family and the strength of God.
Karen Hines is a mother of three, a wife of 30 years, a full time dental hygienist and the dynamic Awareness Director for the Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation – Changing Lives One Step At A Time. www.cassiehinesshoescancer.org