Banding together with my large family had a positive effect not only on my brother, a patient, but on all of us.
Our brother, Guy, was diagnosed for a year and eight months with pancreatic cancer before he went on a trial at the local medical center. Two weeks into the trial, he was transported from the oncology center to the emergency room by ambulance, so he could be admitted to the hospital.
I had been hanging with him in the oncology center when this happened, so I texted the family, all eleven siblings, and their spouses. One sister-in-law wrote back, “It’s time for some corporate prayer.” She explained that everyone would pray at the same time, and I assumed she meant in person. So about ten members of the family showed up to squeeze into his little room that night at 7 p.m. My sister-in-law wasn’t happy about that.
“What if he needs a treatment while all these people are here?” she asked. Guy soothed her. “Then they’ll stand in the hallway like they’re Christmas caroling.”
After everyone arrived and hung out, we decided to continue this group prayer or "sending good vibes" to him at 8:45 p.m. every night. He was discharged a couple of days later looking great, and he carried on for another month, when he was readmitted.
The same sister-in-law suggested we fast in addition to what we were already doing. I could feel myself balking at the idea, and sensed that the idea wasn’t going to go over well. But then she added, “It doesn’t have to be from food or drink. We could fast from screen time.”
So the decision was made: every night at 8 p.m., we would turn off the television, cell phone or computer. We would either pray for him, watch the sunsets that he loved or just think about him.
The night before that hospital admission, one of our sisters convinced Guy’s wife that she needed help. She couldn't continue to stay with him 24/7, so we started round-the-clock vigils with him so she could get some sleep at night. She managed the shifts for us, of four hours each: 8 p.m. to midnight, midnight to 4 a.m., and 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. The night I was on, he said he wanted to use the bathroom, but he couldn’t get up. After the male nurse and I waited a while, I said to Guy, “Do you still want to use the bathroom?” He replied, “Absolutely!”
These shifts had such a good effect, not only on him, but on all of us. We felt like we were pulling together and doing good for him. We communicated with each other like we hadn’t in years, and it gave everyone a sense of purpose. We were able to say “I love you” to him in person several times before he passed away peacefully on July 27, 2016.