Anger is a scary emotion. When something frightens you to your core, anger can surface and you are left to deal with the absolute feeling of helplessness. This is where I was these past few days…helpless. Anger was a part of my emotion, yes, but never consuming. If I let something like this take over my being…then cancer won. Scared? Yes…terrified might be a better way to explain my core. Hurting…yes…my heart is broken. Helpless…yes, because I cannot do anything medically to help him. Physically and emotionally I am there for John but what else can I do to take his pain and illness away? Hurting…yes, because he is the one on this journey though not alone, the only one who can bare the physical burden of this cancer. All of these things seem controlled when I am with him….I feel strength shine through. I feel a sense of optimism that all of this is really just a bump in the road.
The bump started on Tuesday afternoon. I went to work that morning because John pushed me to leave the hospital to get out for a little while. I came back in the afternoon to find John, still in his hospital bed, but with his eyes welling up with sadness. I went to his side and asked, “What’s wrong sweet angel?” He began to tell me of the morning parade of doctors who came into see him and of course, all the news he received from his primary oncologist and lung doctor. “We are getting transported to another hospital for surgery,” he said. I think we always knew this surgery would come, but we did not realize the whirlwind that was about to transcend upon us in the following days. We sat there and discussed what this surgery might look like before and after…he has had the larger drain in him before, but has never had the powder substance blasted into his chest cavity. This option was discussed when we first learned of the fluid months ago, but the lung doctor stated it might not do John’s particular case any good….I guess it was worth a shot now and had to be done to control the pain caused from the fluid buildup and draining. The sticky powder was going to help his lungs stay attached to his chest wall and hopefully, clog the sources of bleeding/fluid. John and I sat there and talked further about his next options. John said the oncologist told him he was already on the strongest form of chemotherapy available and we could give the lower form a chance, but it was mainly up to us to decide what to do next.
As we sat there consoling each other, the transport team came to the door, scooped John up and left. I followed closely behind in our car having to navigate on this extremely large hospital’s campus. I wandered in the building with our bags in tow and was pointed in the right direction by hospital staff. It seems like I walked for miles until I finally found him, calmly sitting on his hospital bed, staring at the door…waiting for my arrival. I crawled in bed with him (which is a surprise when it comes to hospital beds because they are usually very small, but luckily this one was a little wider than most) and we held hands until we both fell asleep. Even though we were woken up every thirty minutes by staff or John’s continuous back pain, it was one of the best nights of my life. It had been a long time since John and I were able to sleep so close to each other. Though I stay every night with him in the hospital, the amount of machinery or the size of the bed prevents me from being next to him. This night was different and so calming. We needed this night for our tattered spirits because the very next morning was the surgery. The night quickly came and went, and there we were…prepped and in the surgical waiting area before John was to be taken back. I held his hand and all we could do is stare at each other. We mouthed “I love you” countless times and tried to make each other laugh in this intense moment. Finally, they kicked me out for him to be taken back. I kissed him several times, made the nurses promise to take good care of my sweet husband, and walked back to the waiting room. Each step still echoes in my mind…it was such a disheartening undertaking to walk away from him that morning. I luckily had my best friend Michelle with me to make the time go by faster and to talk about everything but what was occurring in the next room. A few hours later, he was done and they led me back to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). As I was being escorted back, the woman handed me a card with phone numbers and told me to turn it over to notice the visiting hours on the back. There were four, thirty minute times visitors could go into the ICU. That was it. My heart sank even though I understood the purpose of having strict rules for visitors…I did not want those regulations to apply to me. I walked down a narrow hallway and finally walked into a private room to find John lying there, completely out of it. He was half asleep, waking up from the anesthesia and hooked up to more wires and tubes than I could count. It was, to say the least, completely overwhelming. It literally took my breath away to see how many contraptions were connected to his exhausted body. He came to as I walked to his bedside and smiled from ear to ear. I kissed his lovable face and asked, “…how are you feeling?” He was understandably groggy and kept repeating the same things over and over again. “Why were people yelling at me?” … “What is happening?” … “All I want to do is lay down with you baby.” I just kept rubbing his head and telling him I would see him later that night for the next visitation time. I said goodbye and cried as I left the hospital to head home. I washed the smell out of our hospital saturated blankets and clothing and got back in the car to go see John again. I went in, thinking he would not remember seeing me earlier in the day but surprisingly he did. This time, the nurse allowed me to stay an extra hour by his side. Still connected to machines, John and I held hands and talked of memories we have shared since the first time we met. We laughed, kissed and just enjoyed each other’s company. I did not want that extra hour to end because I knew I had to go home and sleep alone for the first night since we were engaged. It was the longest night of my life….even though I was in our comfortable bed I could not sleep…I would reach out to the other side of the bed like I normally would to feel nothing. He was alone in the ICU and not next to me where he should have been. It was incredibly difficult.
This morning, as soon as I could, I made my way back to the hospital to sit with John until he got a regular room where there were no restrictions on who and how long visitors could stay. We finally made our way to our room in a newer wing of the hospital midmorning without the company of several cords and tubes in John. With all this trauma, still comes pain….so they luckily hooked John up to a morphine pump he controls himself. It is all to keep him comfortable and to concentrate on healing rather than the pain from the surgery.
Right now, as we are in this moment, we will see how this procedure goes before making further decisions. Yes, there has been growth in the chest by his lymph nodes and tumors. There are other options to try to fight this beast and John will be the one who ultimately decides what direction to go in next. With many tears, pains, procedures, hugs, kisses and hospital stays….we are continuing our struggle as best as we can. These past few days, by far, have been the craziest since this all started almost seven months ago….a complete and utter whirlwind. Thankfully, we had each other to go through it with and to live another day to continue this fight….together.