Facing Cancer Head On
You are never prepared for the words, "Your husband has cancer." Having been a paramedic you learn to put your emotions aside and deal with the situation at hand. So from the moment our doctor showed me the xrays and asked if I knew what they meant, my mind went emotionless and treated the fact instead of the illness. It was as if it would go away if I didn't think about the terminal aspects of the situation.
I learned to take one day at a time and frustration welled up in me as I watched the medical profession ignore the large mass in my husband's lung and turn to other aspects of his physical needs. Anger grew each day that they didn't start chemo or radiation because they were fixated on his heart and doing bypass surgery. In my mind, this meant they were also ignoring the need for expediency in starting treatments.
Early on there was talk of a partial removal of the affected lung and this gave us hope and something to cling to. The cancer hadn't spread to any of the other organs at this point and possibly he could beat this devil named Cancer.
But this was only the beginning of an eighteen-month ordeal that started out with all the platitudes that are fed to the patient and their loved ones. If we do this, we might have caught it in time.
He had his bypass surgery and that led to additional medical emergencies that kept the oncologists from doing what needed to be done or at least started.
Finally, the day came when they started the chemo and radiation treatments. It was decided that both would be needed to stabilize the growth and deter spreading of the cancer.
Over the first year of treatments, our family spent every holiday in the hospital while my husband went through various treatments and tests. He was losing weight but not his sense of humor. He was becoming frail but refused to give up the hope of survival.
On one of his many stays in the hospital, it was explained to us that surgery on the lung was not an option because the mass was too close to the stem that holds the lungs.
The first round of chemo treatments were done and they sent us home to come back for more tests to see the effects of the treatments. In retrospect, I think they were just trying to placate us because the chemo and radiation were having minuscule effects on the mass.
The oncologist decided that a second round of chemo was needed and the process started all over again. Only this time, my husband was getting so frail that he was losing his positive attitude. Finally, he asked what the prognosis was at this point in his treatments. Answer: Six months with treatments, three months without. That was the beginning of the end. My husband chose to stop all treatments and let the villain win.
Where was I in all of this. I would start out my day going to the hospital to drop off the laundry I had done the night before. Then I would go to work for two or three hours. The rest of my day until visiting hours were over were spent at the hospital talking and just being there for my husband. Then I would go home to do the day's laundry and to sleep. I was in automatic mode.
I don't think I ever rationalized or realized what my husband was doing I just spent the time trying to be supportive and loving. The paramedic had taken over and I was doing what needed to be done to keep my patient, my friend, the love of my life happy.
Over the couple of months between realization that this was not going to pass away from him and when he was at home, he took the time to make his funeral preparations and to dispense with his personal possessions. This took a fortitude that I greatly admired. There was no wailing or gnashing of teeth at what had been dealt to him.
He had endured surgery after surgery and even a beta drug test trying to beat the odds. In the end the beast won and he finally accepted medication to control his final hours of misery. Misery that he never let on he was feeling.
Spending the last few hours next to him, we talked. Me verbally and him in silence until the moment when I saw that there was no more rhythm of movement from breathing. My friend and companion had gone home and it was time for me to grieve.