On Wednesday, May 21, 2014 Jay wrote this short letter and left it on his computer for someone to find. Entitled “To Everyone” the letter was written just after he moved into hospice care at sister’s place in Modesto.
Here’s what he said:
I think I will be going soon but only to the unseen. Keep talking to me. I’ll make myself known. I will give signs from the other side to prove I’m still here. Look for the signs and don’t pooh pooh them.
I just wanted to shine a spotlight on the animals to show their beauty & value. That has been my mission. Staff, keep up the good work and honor your role in this.
To my big family, blood related and not, I love you all and accept who you are. Enjoy life!
Its been great but the body is worn out.
Much love! Jay
I read this note to Jay as part of my remarks at Jay’s memorial in San Francisco this past weekend.
See more about the memorial: “A Fond Farewell to Jay Holcomb” http://blog.bird-rescue.org/index.php/2014/07/farewell-to-jay-holcomb/
Missing Jaybird everyday,
Our dear friend is gone. Jay Holcomb died peacefully Tuesday afternoon in Modesto, CA. He was 63.
With his sisters Marianne and Judy, mother Joan, close family, friends and his goddaughter, Elizabeth, at his side, Jay was released from his pain today of kidney cancer that was diagnosed in January 2014.
Thank you for all your love, support, prayers, and good words. I know Jay appreciated all your thoughts.
There will be a celebration of his life in the coming weeks.
Please read the International Bird Rescue blog post on Jay’s impaction wildlife care
I visited Jay at his sister’s place in Modesto over the weekend with his god-daughter Elizabeth. Jay is settling in to his new home and enjoying playing cards and catching up with his two sisters and his 91-year-old mom.
He wanted you to know that he appreciates all the well-wishers via this blog and the many folks that have texted and called him. I think he’s a bit overwhelmed by the out-pouring of support and is going into a bit of hibernation, technology wise, this week. So please don’t be alarmed that he hasn’t answered the phone or returned your e-mail.
The doctors and nurses have adjusted his medication and he seems to be eating more. When it’s not too hot, Jay hangs out beside by the backyard pool. He still doesn’t have much energy but his sister has him on exercise regime to get him up and walk around the house.
Please do keep in your thoughts and prayers as Jay goes through this next stage of his journey.
I suffered a minor stroke last week. That is resolved for now and I can function normally. The stroke was caused by my heart that is only working a limited capacity and has created a nice clot that is sitting in the heart chamber. I am now on blood thinners to allow the clot to be reabsorbed and reduce the risk of more strokes. I found out last week that my heart is slowly giving out and cannot be repaired. Its only a matter of time till it stops functioning. How long, we don’t know.
I made the decision to go to my sisters home for this chapter of my life where my family can work with hospice to care for me. Mark & Russ are supportive of this and have done wonders for me. Its hard to leave that half of my family but I will get 24/7 nursing care as my sister is a RN as is her best friend/neighbor. So, its a good decision and they will visit me often.
I still want to work, via phone and email as long as I can.
The cancer treatment worked very well but the aging heart trumps the cancer at this point. I am off all other medication so maybe I will be able to eat food and taste it again. Hope so. The doctors will not speculate on how much time I have so we will just have to play it by ear.
I know this is hard. Allow your grief to be released and care for yourself. Im doing that also. I’m just getting adjusted to this.
I love you all. Thanks for your love and support!
Feel free to share this with the appropriate people.
Here is my latest update. First, I think its fair to say that this experience has been the ultimate personal challenge. Not just the obvious physical issues of healing the cancer out of my body but the ways in which it has challenged me spiritually, emotionally and in many other ways. I hold firm to my MO that everything in life is an opportunity but even that knowingness is challenged when my body is just reacting and suffering. But, I just keep on swimming as Dori the fish would say.
I have had a lot of scans done this last week. CT and MRI to prepare for radiation treatment on my vertebrae. This will make sure the cancer there does no more damage to my back. Treatments should start next week TBA. Another CT scan that was used to track the progress of my chest and abdomenal tumors. This was interesting. It showed that three of the tumors in my lungs have completely vanished! I have been breathing much better so I knew something good was going on in my lungs. The tumors on my kidney have also gotten smaller, most of the tumors in my pleural cavity and on my bones have shown no remarkable changes and in general I am in less pain. Mark has been working to reduce my pain meds as appropriate. The one on my liver has had a slight increase in size. The bummer is that all the moving and prodding seems to have fractured ( slightly ) my rib. There was some cancer there as well. So this has caused a lot of discomfort. So they recommend waiting until June to re-scan and determine if I should stay on the chemo drug Votrient.
I consider this a huge step in the right direction! One step closer to having my condition go from terminal to manageable for the near future. They gave me another drug for my naussea and this is helping a lot. They wanted to put me on a bone denseifying drug but I have build up my calcium and magnesium levels first. This drug may help prevent further damage to my bones from the cancer.
So, I move onto the next phase. It really is living day by day or “in the moment”. I am being forced to do that and I think I understand that concept more now that its really all I can do to evolve from this state I have been in.
Until the next update, have a great spring and thank you to all of my friends who support and love me. Back to you!
I just wanted to update everyone as to what is going in with my healing and treatment. I am improving slowly but steadily. The treatment regimen was to take the chemotherapy drugs for about 2 months and then evaluate how well they are working. I am almost at the end of my second month and should being having tests to evaluate the treatment in the next few weeks.
I am having many reactions to the chemotherapy drugs that are considered the side effects that go along with taking these drugs. My symptoms range from nausea and vomiting to having so many canker sores in my mouth that it makes it difficult to swallow and eat. I am learning to manage the constant back pain that has come along with all this. So, this has been challenging and I just keep moving forward.
About 3 weeks ago I noticed that my right foot had some numbness in it and I could not lift my toes very much. After a number of easy tests the doctor theorized that something was applying pressure to my spinal area causing weakness and foot numbness. We then did an MRI of my back and it was determined that I have a pressure fracture of the #10 vertebrae in the middle of my back. We think that the cancer has weakened the bone as it was one of the sites where they knew that the cancer was in or around the bone.
As you can imagine I am on various medications. I am also using a marijuana extract called CBD, this is a non-hallucinogenic molecule that helps with pain and nausea. Mark buys a tincture for me and I take one dropper full a few time a day so I don’t feel sick to my stomach. Because there is virtually no THC in this product I feel pretty good and can concentrate better.
We are letting my back heal on its own and I am Just taking it easy. I have lost about 60 pounds. Im now at 171 pounds and my hair is turning white. It’s not falling out. Its white underneath and my now 1//2″ roots are pure white. I’m quite a sight! So, my body is morphing with the treatment and its, well, interesting. But, something is happening and its positive so I am pleased about my progress.
I am going to get radiation treatment on my fractured bone site as they want to inviolate the cancer there. That process will happen this week.
Well, thats it for now. I will report any significant news as it shows up.
Thank you all for your support, cards, phone calls, texts and love. Jay