After losing her dear husband Leo, a bold 90-year old woman known as Miss Norma was herself diagnosed with cancer. Rather than sticking around for treatment, Miss Norma decided to hit the road in a motor home and travel the United States with her son Tim and daughter-in-law Ramie. Her decision was inspired by the book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande, a book that speaks about the quality of life at the end of life.
The day after Leo was admitted to Hospice we learned that she had a large, likely cancerous mass on her uterus. Two days after Leo died we found ourselves sitting in an OB/GYN office talking about treatment options. You know the drill: surgery, then radiation and chemo in some order. When the doctor was finished he asked her how she would like to proceed. A tiny woman at 101 pounds and under five-feet tall, an exhausted Norma looked the young doctor dead in the eye and with the strongest voice she could muster, said, “I’m 90-years-old, I’m hitting the road.” The doc and the confused first-day medical student who was shadowing him looked at Tim (her son) and me (her daughter-in-law, Ramie) for some clarification.