……..and it was the worst news we could have imagined.
Will has Stage IV pancreatic cancer, with multiple metastases to the liver and likely the small bowel. It’s going through him like wildfire; the oncologist gives him approximately 3-6 months to live if he doesn’t get treatment, and a grand total of maybe 6-18 months with aggressive chemotherapy. IF he responds, that is.
True to his nature, he plans to fight the disease hard and survive as long as he can, for himself as well as for the family. I don’t believe he realizes just how miserable he’s going to be, and I told him I’d rather have three good months than half a dozen filled with ugly, nasty, horrible symptoms. But he’s the one driving this bus, and by God, he’s going to do it his way, with dignity and determination.
I cried a little when we got back in the car, but mostly, I’m just numb. My only real emotion is anger at the unfairness of it all…….I found myself looking at several elderly couples in the doctor’s office this morning, and I was instantly FURIOUS that Will and I will never know the pleasures of growing old together. I’m also in a realm of pissed-off that I never imagined, knowing that I’ll have to stay here after he goes because it wouldn’t be fair to the kids to lose us both at the same time.
For his part, Will is scared and more than a little shaky, though I think he’s taking it better than the rest of us. He emphatically does NOT want to die, and he wants everything possible done to prolong his life even if it means losing his hair and throwing up his toenails after every treatment. And all I can do is support him, even though I know the dangers inherent in chemotherapy and have seen far too many ghostly figures who look like they died six months before they actually did.
Of course, I’m sick at heart at the mere thought that he isn’t going to be here for the rest of my life. But, I’ve already made up my mind that I’m not going to say Will is dying of cancer; instead, I’m going to say he is LIVING with cancer. Which he is…..yes, he has cancer, and it’s bad, but he is not dead yet and we are going to treasure every moment we have left.
This afternoon as we were waiting for the pharmacy to fill his prescriptions for pain and nausea medications, we sat holding hands for what seemed like an hour, and I studied the landscape of his gnarled veins and work-roughened fingers like I’d never seen them before. I told him I was looking at his veins to see where I’d put in an IV line…..as a nurse who used to be awesome at IV starts, I’m funny like that.
But what I was really doing was trying to capture the warmth and texture of the gentlest hands I’ve ever known, so that I would still be able to feel them long after the man they belong to is gone. Though I know every square inch of his body, I have this desperate need to imprint the images of his face, his scars, even his hobbit feet on both my conscious and subconscious mind. I also want to remember what it feels like to have his strong arms around me when I’m sad or afraid, and his magical touch when my back feels like it’s going to break in two at the waistline.
But mostly, I want to appreciate the tonal quality of his voice so that I can still hear it in the silence of my heart, and recognize it when he calls me to join him at the end of my days.