An Unnecessary Death

8 Comments

My youngest sister died in 2009 at the age of sixty-three. It was an unnecessary death.

Sally had developed a cough that she had ignored for a few months, thinking it was allergies. In September of 2007, she went to a doctor who immediately ordered a chest x-ray and other tests.

The diagnosis – lung cancer.

The doctor at our small local hospital, either not understanding the seriousness of what they had seen in the tests, or not wanting to be the one to tell her the worst, said it was curable.

Well, he was wrong.

Sally went to Roswell Park Hospital in Buffalo, NY, a cancer treatment center, to begin treatment. Doctors there told us that she had stage four lung cancer, incurable. She began chemotherapy and was hopeful that it would give her a few more good years. She was going to be a grandmother for the first time in January of 2009 and she had a lot to live for.

Sally rallied for a while, enough to make a trip to the Netherlands with me and our other sister.

Things were looking hopeful.

Then came the bad news. Tests had showed that, as lung cancer is prone to do, it had metastasized to Sally's brain. She began radiation treatment to fight the brain tumors and it was all downhill from there.

Sally lived long enough to meet her granddaughter, but that was all she could manage. She died in March of 2009.

The saddest part of this story is that it could be prevented. Sally did not get cancer from smoking; she got it from radon.

When her home was sold, the new owners had the home tested for radon. It tested very high for radon particles.

Another sad part of the story is that Sally's nearest neighbor was a radon specialist. He had approached her and her late husband five years earlier to ask if they would like to have their home tested.

Before they could make a decision, her husband died an untimely death from heart problems. Sally never gave it another thought, and the neighbor decided not to pursue the proposal.

Had she gone ahead with the testing and had the home radon-proofed, it might have saved her life.Or perhaps it was too late at that point – we will never know.

Radon is known to cause over 20,000 deaths due to lung cancer per year. It is the second highest cause of the disease, and it can be prevented. Home testing kits are available or you can hire a professional technician at quite reasonable cost.

Radon-proofing a home can reduce the radon content by 99 percent. If your home has not been tested for radon, considering doing it NOW.

We were devastated to learn that our loved one had died so needlessly. But we have all had our own homes checked. I want you to have yours checked too.

Oh, I failed to mention that I was one of the caregivers for Sally.

I'll never forget the night near the end when I was caring for her and she weakly turned to me and asked "I'm a cooked goose aren't I?"

What's a caregiver to say?

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For AgingCare.com, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

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8 Comments

I don't think this is the appropriate place for this debate. However, you need to go back to Chemistry class. Radon gas and radium are not the same at all, there is a world of difference between them. Radon gas would not have hurt Marie Curie at all.
Another insightfull article from Marlis. The caregiving for Sally was a great gift for her. It allowed her to die with loved ones at her side. Radon is a killer and is present in many homes. Mitigation can be quite expensive so it is important to have any new home tested before moving in.
As far as Sally's question about her imminent death, I think it is always important to answer truthfully and lovingly because the dying person already knows the answer.
As we have explored elsewhere on this blog doctors are reluctant to give patients bad news or maybe in this case just did not know and was hoping for the best.
Unfortunately for Sally a very bad train of events led to her untimely death. The one bright spot is that she managed to hang on, as so many dying people do to see her new grandbaby
I'm very sorry to hear of Sally's death, and I know we are always looking for a definitive answer as to "why" and "how did this happen?" However, my husband is a chemical engineer with knowledge of this sort of thing, and radon is a scam which ranks right up there with global warming. The earth naturally gives off these gases but it would take so much more than can be built up in the home that it is not harmful at all. If you are worried about it, open a window. And as for toxic mold, it is mildew...so get out some bleach and clean it up, don't spend thousands of dollars unnecessarily. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes, we just don't know why.