It’s after midnight. I should be asleep, yet here I am, in front of the computer. There is no reason I should be awake. The bedroom was dark and the fan provided just the right cool breeze and soporific drone. The bed was soft and the pillows were perfect. But I couldn’t fall asleep. Everything that’s happened in the last year and a half was tugging at me. Try as I might, I couldn’t stop my mind from careening from one memory to the next. Forgive me if this doesn’t make as much sense as perhaps it should. It’s late and I’m tired but I have to share this.
By April of 2014 my husband had seen his doctor twice for pain in his neck and ear. He was prescribed antibiotics although there was no indication of infection. They did nothing to alleviate his pain but the doctor simply prescribed a different antibiotic. The pain continued through the spring and summer.
In September the doctor finally ordered a biopsy of a pre-cancerous area of my husband’s throat. It was negative. And the pain continued. Finally, in November, my husband was sent to a head and neck specialist who performed a different procedure. This one found a lesion deep in my husband’s throat. A biopsy was done and, on the day before Thanksgiving 2014, we got the call telling us he had cancer.
The rest of 2014 and well into 2015 was a blur. There were surgeries to implant a feeding tube in his stomach and a subcutaneous port for chemo delivery. He had three rounds of chemotherapy which caused him to be hospitalized for days. The chemo caused his kidneys to fail. He also had to have blood transfusions. He lost a massive amount of weight and he didn’t have much to spare.
There were 35 radiation treatments which burned his neck and throat. I had to treat the burns and change the dressings at home twice every day.
Every two hours I had to crush his medications and put them in water to deliver them through his feeding tube. He could no longer swallow anything so his migraine medication went from a pill to injections I gave him. We had an automatic pump for his feeding and hydration but, quite often, the alarm would go off indicating a problem with either the liquid food or water delivery.
In January, on the coldest days of the winter, when the temperature was a true -15 and the wind chill made it even colder, the furnace failed. Friends rallied and brought us heaters within an hour and our youngest son helped me replace the bad part in the furnace but we were in bone-chilling cold for two days.
The radiation caused thick, viscous mucous to form and my husband was often in danger of choking. I got a suction machine and checked on him even in between medications. By that time he was in a hospital bed in the living room because he had to sleep in a semi-upright position to avoid choking or aspirating the mucous.
Following the end of treatment we realized that the aftereffects would go on for a very, very long time. Finally, in the late spring, he had his feeding tube and chemo port removed. We thought things would start to improve.
Then our youngest son started having pain in his abdomen. On June 12th he went in for what was supposed to be a routine surgery. The surgeon made a mistake and my son developed peritonitis. He ended up having 8 surgeries between June 12th and late August. He had to be rushed, by ambulance, to a hospital an hour away because our little local hospital couldn’t handle his level of need. We nearly lost him three times last summer.
And yet, through it all, we were there for each other. During the time my husband was having his treatments our son and his girlfriend took on grocery shopping in the worst part of winter. Our son frequently drove his dad to radiation, which was five days a week. They took care of our dogs when my husband was in the hospital.
When my son was so very sick I tried to do as much as I could to help. I thank God for his girlfriend who is family. She took on changing the dressings on his many surgical incisions. She stayed with him nearly every night he was hospitalized throughout the summer. She made sure he ate and took his medicines. And, by the end of summer, my husband was a little stronger and we were able to help them more.
I read a lot about families dealing with serious, possibly fatal illnesses. I learned of couples who separated due to the stress. I discovered that many families are torn apart by events like we experienced. Yet we grew closer. We laughed when we could and worked hard to hold each other up. I learned that we loved each other more than I thought possible.
Tonight, when I first began thinking of the last year and a half it made me sad and angry. But as I continued to muse on the trials we faced I realized that, in spite of the emotional and physical pain and fear and in spite of the stress and lack of sleep that could have caused us to tear apart, we faced it all and came out, in the most important ways, ahead.
So, for all my contemplating, I guess I realized that I wasn’t awake because of the bad things but because I kept remembering the good things. And I am so eternally grateful that I have the family I do.
Thank you for letting me ramble. And goodnight.