A Greensboro man named Brian Stoll, whom I never met and had never heard of until today, lost his battle with cancer and passed away on July 15. I’m not sure how I came across his blog but when I did I was captivated by how he shared his experiences from the original diagnosis until two days before his death. His family wrote a final post on the 15th.
The blog is difficult read when you know that Brian has already lost his battle with cancer, but I think that by sharing his struggles he created a valuable resource for people who are just beginning their battles with cancer or those with a loved one recently diagnosed with cancer. If nothing else they will get an idea of what lies ahead for them and perhaps they won’t be blindsided as often as they would have been without reading his blog.
Brian was a man of great religious faith so his writing alternates between being a straightforward account of his deteriorating health and an account of how his faith is an integral part of dealing with it. If anything his faith got stronger as his body got weaker. Here’s a sample from a post titled "Give me some oxygen, PLEASE…":
The outpouring of response from my Preparing to Die post has
been overwhelming. I haven’t been able to respond to everyone yet. My
lung capacity continues to shrink, making simple conversation a
difficult chore. Thank goodness for email and this blog. It is so easy
to communicate with everyone via the written word versus having a
conversation. This brings me to my next update. My physical ability is
so limited now. How so? Walking up a flight of stairs is darn near
impossible. I now have to sit on the bottom step, with my back facing
the steps, and “rear end” my way up the stairs over a two or three
minute process. Walk outside to get the newspaper? Thank goodness my
driveway is only about 50 feet long. Run around the house terrorizing
the dogs while everyone else laughs? No more. Go hiking with Brookie in
the mountains. Unfortunately, those days are gone. Play a round of golf
with friends? Never again. This has been one of the difficult mental
obstacles to overcome. I have so much time on my hands now, so I tend
to sit and think about all the fun stuff I have done in my life. Brooke
and I love to go hiking. It is classic daddy/daughter time, plus we
both love nature and the outdoors. I can’t do that anymore. Dammit,
that thought makes me very angry and sad at the same time. I am being
robbed of my ability to enjoy my family. That’s not fair! BINGO! Poor,
pitiful me. You selfish idiot. Why can’t you relish the fact that you
WERE able to enjoy these things in your life? Do you not understand
there are some people who will never go hiking, who will never see a
beautiful mountain stream, and never be able to enjoy God’s wonders?
Sometimes I feel so stupid. I really do have to work on getting away
from the selfish junk and being thankful that God has blessed me in so
many ways. The reality angel that sits on my right shoulder can really
give it to me sometimes.
Another mental obstacle that I have
finally succumbed to is the fact that I need a wheelchair to get
around. Truth be told, I simply cannot walk more than 50 feet without
getting winded. The wheelchair makes it so much easier to get around,
plus it’s a real snazzy new model. Lot’s of bling,ya know? I also got a
handicapped placard for my Suburban. Although I may not live to be 90
years old, I sure do feel like it now! I’m also very dependent on
oxygen. When your oxygen content in the bloodstream gets below 90% you
become oxygen starved. This causes panic, anxiety, disorientation,
restlessness, shakyness in my speech, etc. When this happens, I feel
like a fish out of water. Panic is the first thing to set in, and then
I realize I can’t do anything to help myself. This turns into a very
precarious situation resulting in a panicked frenzy. Kimberly will get
the oxygen machine turned on and puts the tubing in my nostrils. Then
she sets up the morphine nebulizer. Ah yes, the morphine nebulizer.
It’s a little machine that takes small amounts of morphine and saline
and turns them into a mist, which is then inhaled through a pipe. This
is starting to sound like illegal drug activity, eh?!? The morphine
calms down the lungs by changing the way it processes oxygen. Simply
put, it helps me to breath once again. Lately I have been taking 3-4
morphine treatments a day. The events leading up to the treatments tend
to be very frenzied to say the least. Never a dull moment.
In his last post Brian lamented about how he was no longer able to provide for his family and he quite openly discussed the financial devastation wrought by his cancer treatments. I can easily imagine the frustration he felt and I’m sure it was extraordinarily difficult for him to write and ask for help, but that’s what he did with his last post. His childrens’ college funds were spent on his treatment so his family set up a fund called "Breanne and Brooke’s Future" at Wachovia so that people who want to can help out (just visit any Wachovia branch to make a donation if you want).
It takes a very big man to put aside his pride and ask for help and by doing so I think Brian showed exactly what kind of man he was. After spending just a few minutes reading his blog I truly regret that I never had the chance to meet him.
His family wrote, "Keep the family in your thoughts and prayers and remember that we were
blessed to have had him but Heaven is in Awe at what it has received." The man obviously left a great legacy.