The “H” Word
I finally brought the subject up today.
I can’t do this alone anymore. Last night Will very nearly fell down our concrete back stairs, which end right up against a concrete wall; he was trying to lug in a small tool box and lost his balance. If I hadn’t been there to catch him…….if he hadn’t been able to right himself……that would’ve been it right there, because he’d have broken his neck.
He’s getting weaker. There’s no denying it. This afternoon he walked up the hill to the landlord’s house to pay our rent, and when he got back he was so woozy that I made him lie down immediately and put cool cloths on him. Of course, this is what happens when a person can’t eat much of anything without throwing up….but what it portends is very ominous.
I’m no oncologist, but I KNOW those tumors are growing and pressing on his internal organs. A week ago, he was still eating fairly hearty and having little or no nausea; now he’s been nibbling on the same muffin for two days, and today he’s eaten perhaps a thimbleful of cereal and half a tuna sandwich. He is on two different medications for nausea, but he’s throwing up anyway. His pain is controlled, but he’s acutely uncomfortable in other ways, running a sweaty, sticky fever more and more of the time.
So we had the conversation. He still wants to try the chemo, but we both suspect the window of opportunity is closing fast and now he needs symptom relief. He needs the services of a nurse who isn’t his wife. He needs supportive care for all his (our) health and spiritual concerns. And I need hospice to help me face what’s coming with some semblance of grace.
Dear God, I feel so alone.
It’s certainly not that I don’t have a wonderful support system. People from literally all over the United States and Canada are praying for Will and sending us all sorts of positive energies. Family members call to check in every few days or so, and we have many friends locally who have offered help with anything we need—food, transportation, a shoulder to cry on. But neither of us can bear to actually ASK for anything…..we aren’t eating, we can still get around unassisted, and I’m one of those who’d rather be horsewhipped than cry in front of people.
I also know that most women outlive their husbands, and with me being younger than Will by almost eight years, I should’ve been better prepared for this. However, I’ve always believed I’d be the first one to die, not only because some members of his family have some pretty impressive longevity, but because I’m the one with all the health problems: High blood pressure. Diabetes. Asthma. Obesity. And statistically at least, I have an astronomical risk of suicide, thanks to my lovely little mental illness.
I’m the one who was supposed to go first. I WANTED to go first. And I wanted to do it when we’d both gotten so old and/or sick that life was a burden, and the promise of Heaven only a breath away.
This is a time when I wish I weren’t a nurse. I wish I didn’t know what I know and see what I see. I want to be blinded by love to this precipitous decline, but the clinician in me has seen too many patients like Will, and they can’t be un-seen. That’s another reason why I want hospice involved: even though my instincts are telling me a different story, I desperately need an objective eye to evaluate him and tell me that things aren’t as bad as they look to me right now.
I want other things, too. I want this whole nightmare to NOT be happening. I want my sister to NOT be frail and sick and in an assisted living facility fifty miles away. I want my older son to grow a pair and come see his Dad without his entourage. I want the 14th to come so that my younger son and son-in-law will be home from their honeymoon.
And I want more time….thirty-three years wasn’t anywhere near enough. But then, another whole lifetime wouldn’t be enough.