Living with Purpose
An opportunity to think about the end of life...
My name is Blake Bradford. I'm 51. I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma a few years ago, then I was diagnosed with lymphoma in addition to the myeloma. It was unexpected. I was under doctor's care and I had a care team, but my condition worsened significantly. It was sort of a lot to take in. And now I've been discharged into hospice care. And I am home at my parents' house, where I can be with my family.
I was in the hospital for the majority of the previous 12 weeks, long enough for the seasons to change. And it’s just, kind of, taking in a perspective on all of it. There are windows in those buildings, but there's no sunshine. I haven't seen the sun or the sky in months now.
It affects your mood when you kind of know, and you can just sort of see, the shadows moving, but you can't actually see, you know, the view. In the darker moments, just feeling like we're gonna go in a hospital and I'm gonna die here… I'll sort of die, and be forgotten. People will read about this, maybe, in the small print in the Inquirer sometime. But to be seen, and to keep that human connection, and to affirm that you're valued, and you're part of a community… and even though I was there in the hospital, people still want to be with me. You just need that, especially in the way that I was. If I end up hopeless myself, just that there are other people who are wanting good things, and giving me hope, is important.
I don't know that anybody said I wasn't going to get better, but it's just that your condition is serious, life threatening was abundantly clear. I don't have that same sense of like one day we’ll triumph, but I didn't believe them when they said that I couldn't recover. It's not as heroic and linear as that.
In the hospital I can have one visitor at a time. And my kids couldn't come visit except by special arrangement. It was hard, because it was, you know, on my birthday, and I'm in the hospital. They did make allowances for when we had to have meetings with my family and the care team. I appreciated that, because that dialogue was so important. There were things that I didn't want to decide alone. It's really work that I can't do, to be the patient, and be the sort of main communication secretary for what are the doctors telling you.
While I'm here, there's the opportunity to think about the end of life stuff in a real way, in a concrete way. Do I want a memorial service, or cremation? That's hard, and here we are. We get to where we've got to deal with difficult things.
I don't know what comes next, and my prognosis isn't great. I'm not waiting on miracles. But to become ok with not making everything happen that I wanted to happen... To prioritize certain other things during whatever time I have left. I don't want to just sort of be idling. I don't want to waste time that I don't get back. Just thinking through choices carefully, and moving with purpose.
One of the things that’s been most valuable about finally getting out of the hospital, has been being able to come back to my family, my wife, and my twins – my daughter and my son. Being able to see them, and touch them, and hear their stories in person for the first time in most of twelve weeks.
I think about the ways that this has made me more comfortable with affection. I think about showing love, and not just the expression, the words. I’m comfortable with more of both now.
I don't know that I've had this transformation yet, where it's like, I see the world differently, but I do. There's always the sense of life is fleeting that way. Living with purpose. A different degree of appreciation of your friends, your family, people who care about you.
I don’t know that I can say enough to them about how much I appreciate being part of our family, and having our family, and this dynamic. Before I got sick that was something that was cherished. And now it’s even more urgent.
One of the things this has given me an appreciation for is just an opportunity to express my gratitude for the people who have cared for me at a difficult time. I want to give my heartfelt thanks to the nurses and the care teams in the hospital for their patience during a time when I was probably frustrated and impatient, and challenged in my capacity. To the nurses I say, thank you.
For my parents, the challenge of seeing me, their child, in this weakened state... They were present, and supportive, for me and for my family, throughout this. There really are no words to express what that means to us as we continue this journey…
The Penn Medicine Listening Lab is a storytelling initiative that embraces the power of listening as a form of care. While the stories featured here aspire to uplift and empower, they may also describe experiences of trauma and suffering. We recognize that listening can be a vulnerable experience and offer resources at Penn Medicine and beyond through our website for those in need of support.
Tags: Compassionate Relationships