How simple our lives seemed now looking back. The joys, the sadness nothing seems as important as today is. The unexplained pain was soon to have a name. Not a name we picked, but it was chosen for us, for him.
Don is only 55. Some are babies others much older, but it is never a name any of us dream of hearing today or even tomorrow. But we didn't pick it, it picked us. Pancreatic cancer is the name his pain was given.
The day did start not the same as the others, like most would tell you. His pain had happened several months prior. But, this cancer is elusive as most are, but even more lethal than many I am told. I got ready for work, but my husband of 31 years was not feeling well and in pain. He was actually laying over the side of the bed. He had just been to the doctor, but was going again today. I asked him if he would be ok, he replied yes, I will be fine. So I went to work, only to receive a call from my husband telling me the primary doctor's office had called and told him to go straight to the Emergency Room. He was in too much pain at home by this time, so he called me at work. I immediately left and took him to the ER for those initial tests. On the way to the ER I noticed his yellowing eyes. I thought how many times have I seen those eyes, from patients. Thinking it could be pancreatic cancer, but I am thinking, no I am imagining the worst because I work in healthcare. It is usually the simplest, most common thing, not the worst always.
I know life has its ups and downs, but ours had been down before. We have two schizophrenic children, how much more down could it really be. My husband was already disabled from horrible back pain. Among a few other health problems with his heart and recent diabetes. He was my rock. With two schizophrenic children you really need a rock or should I say boulder. Even with his pains, my pains were always worse to him. That is what marriage is all about. Knowing the others pain is worse than your own, to give you the drive to care for each other like no one else can.
I suffered from depression already and extremely painful joints and muscles that I see a rheumatologist for. On those days when I would be exhausted from work, his own pain would be put away to take care of me. Some people don't find that love or caring for a day, much less a lifetime. How can we be so lucky? Even with our troubles we were happy and still are, but it is more of a happy struggle now, with the C in the picture now.
I struggle now, just to survive from day to day watching C take over, knowing the inevitable, but having that glimpse of hope that something might change. I find it hard to sleep, function, even shower some days. But I listen to him breathe and know he is with me so all is well. Knowing I love my children with all my heart, but hey I needed him more than C did. Why did it have to pick him? I mean I really don't want it to pick anybody, but why him of all people, and the meanest C there is I am told.
Maybe a year, maybe a little less, maybe a little more was what the doctors told us. Here we are 15 months later. The time frame we were given was initially a nice one we were told later. It was more like 3-6 months. Eleven months tops with the most aggressive treatment available with the fittest of patients.
The first Christmas with our unwanted guest, I decorated from ceiling to floor for my husband's last Christmas. What happened between that Christmas and the one that just passed I don't know because it was all I could manage to put up a couple of tiny little trees. It is like it takes over your mind after awhile. Leaving you tired even when you are not. I can't explain it, I guess it could be called depression too, but I'm calling it reality for now.
Don and I met while I was still in college. Many people plan their weddings and futures together, but we were always breaking the mold. We only knew each other for a few short weeks and decided to elope on the spur of the moment. We had a lifetime to plan, or at least I thought we did. We have been so fortunate to be together for 32 years, but it is never long enough. Plans to retire together, and rock on the front porch together all this can change in the blink of an eye.
Now I find myself looking at Don as soon as I wake up from a nap. I am looking to see if he is still breathing. Sometimes if he is not breathing deep I have gotten on top of him and shook him and yelled his name. I am supposed to be caring for him, but sometimes I think he is still caring for me instead. He says, "do you have to wake me up by shaking me all the time?" No one knows what is like not to just casually look at your spouse, but to look for signs of life unless you have lived that one. I don't think I ever imagined a life like this until it happened.