Monday, July 27, 2020

Cancer: Hospice Week Two Update

I'm going to start this with a strange little coincidence. Cathy was moved into the hospice care center in Wichita Falls about ten days ago. They got her in and comfortable and settled and I hung around outside while nurses and orderlies swarmed over her and did stuff. 

As I was sitting outside, I noticed the tiles in the building were all donated--you know what I mean, where you pay a certain amount and sponsor an oblong tile in the name of a loved one, or just as a donation from a family or an organization. These tiles (bricks?) run two-up all around the walls, like wainscoting, down every wall and across each doorway. Outside each room, however, there is a larger plaque, presumably reserved for larger donations, or to sponsor a room. Here is the plaque outside of Cathy's room.

It says "The Hoblitzelle Foundation" for those of you who can't make it out. I read it and a chill ran down my neck. Let me explain why.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Cancer: Hospice

We tried.
We really did.
Cathy tried hardest. 
But in the end, the pain won out. 

I took her home from the hospital on Wednesday, with the understanding that in order to qualify for this eleventh hour clinical trial that had just opened up, Cathy would need to be able to eat without throwing up. She had to keep food down. Or, well, you know, broth. Soup. Liquid. 

Her family was waiting for her when we got home, and they helped her upstairs and get settled. It was nice having folks around, and Cathy seemed cheered by their presence, if a little tired. She tried to eat something, but gave up. The heartburn and nausea were back. 

We tried to get home health to come out, but a snafu with the hospital showed our visits had been canceled because the social worker thought we were going to Oklahoma City. That was frustrating, to say the least, and so I spent an hour on the phone lining up meds for Cathy to be administered tomorrow. All she had to do was get through the night.

She got about one hour of sleep. The pain and the cramps were just too much. I didn't do much better, but I napped a bit, and then started calling people at 7:30 to get her some help. I was on and off the phone for roughly four hours. In the middle of all of it, Cathy said, "Call hospice." 

When everyone showed up, it was all within a ten minute window. The house was full of health care folks, and it took a bit of sorting out. In the end, this is what we decided: the Hospice people have an actual facility in Wichita Falls, and by checking her in there she'd have constant care. They would get her stabilized and comfortable, and then we could send her home for home care in a couple of days. 

Back into the car we went, and drove back to Wichita Falls. I've come to really resent that drive.

She was made comfortable, in a nice, spacious room, that looks like a nursing home room decorated by a mid-price hotel room. Hey, it beats the hospital. She was feeling better, and we were amiably chatting about I don't even remember what, when she grabbed her nausea bag and filled it. 

I jammed the button and yelled for nurses. They came running and took over as the crap in her stomach poured out of her. I've never been so scared, nor felt so helpless. 

They cleaned her up and changed sheets and all of that, and also gave her a powerful anti-nausea med in her port. Later, at midnight, she would get a drug that limits the production of stomach acid. But even after she threw up, she was feeling better. And I think we both realized at that point that what she did next was dependent on her stomach. She wouldn't be able to eat solid food anymore. And for now, liquids were working, but they may one day stop. And then the clock would start counting down. 

I read to her until she fell asleep. I watched her, until some time after midnight, and then I crashed in the chair. I woke up with a nurse in the room, and Cathy awake. "Hi, Honey!" she said. Perky. Like her old self. She was hungry, and wondered if they would bring her crackers. I told her no. But I get it; she's feeling better now. We had a long talk about stuff, interrupted only by a nurse who said her doctor had ordered some more drugs for her. He wanted to know if he should order a NG tube (that thing that went up her nose in the hospital).  I said no, she didn't want that. Cathy looked at me and said, "Well, maybe."

This is what we are currently weighing. With the tube, she's going to be able to hang on for a while. But she will have to stay in the center. She can't come home with the NG tube. If she takes that NG tube out, the timeline is shortened, but then so is her pain and discomfort. 

The drugs she is on right now seem to be working spectacularly. She has a day or two to mull it over. We've all decided that whatever Cathy wants, Cathy gets. That includes Ginger Beer, as I am under strict instructions to bring some back when I return. 

And that's all I know at the moment. She's resting and she's comfortable--well, as comfortable as she can be in a hospital bed. She's seen a lot of family and she's got more coming. She's making calls and talking to people. I don't know if this is a rally, but I hope it is. I hope we see a few of them. 

I know these posts are upsetting to a lot of you, and I don't want you to have these terrible images in your head as the last memories of Cathy that you have. I'm not going to show any more pictures of her fight with cancer. Instead, I'm going to show only pictures of the Cathy we all remember, the Cathy we know and love. This is one of the photos we took for our engagement announcement. Not a lot of people have seen it. I guess it was a little too mushy. But it's a really good picture. 

I will post again when something changes. Hopefully I can get Cathy home one last time. 
Thank you, everyone, for your friendship and your love. Thank you for your courage and for going through this with me. Thank you for everything, from me and from Cathy. You've all made an incalculable difference in our lives. 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Cancer: Three Days Later

Many of you aren't on Facebook and don't follow me there, so here is the update on our situation. Suffice to say, we are mostly out of the woods now, and Cathy is doing much better. Thank you all for your words of comfort, encouragement and strength and support during this hellish ordeal. It's been a long week. I feel like I've aged a month. But things look much much better.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Cancer: Three Days

Happier Times.
Two years ago, almost to the month, Cathy started cancer treatments. At the time, she had a rare and aggressive form of ovarian cancer, and they were calling it Stage 3, but with a look on their faces that suggested that number could change at any second.

We were terrified, if I may be allowed the largest understatement of my professional writing career. Petrified. But also, weirdly, galvanized. There was a sense—more from me than from Cathy—that this was a temporary state of being. An inconvenience to be conquered, and then monitored closely thereafter. We were getting older. Trade-offs being, now we have health problems. But even though the numbers of recurrence were scary, 48% chance of the cancer returning, we were committed to powering through this. The cancer, after all, showed up at the worst time. Super inconvenient. We were just getting our shit together, after, what? Fifteen years of marriage? But we had time to fix it.

Now we have seventy-two hours.