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.

It's a profoundly moving and humbling experience to see so many people galvanized into thinking and praying for us. I am at a loss for words (take a picture!) to describe how I feel. For all that you have done, and how you sat with me and Cathy in this, our darkest of times, I am grateful to the atoms of my being.

You deserve an update, so here's what's what.

Monday was the worst. Cathy was rendered insensible because they gave her enough morphine to knock out a Chrysler. She was able to hear me, but for most of the day, unable to really communicate except with hand gestures that, it turns out, I COMPLETELY mis-interpreted. They gave me a lot of scary information, and I couldn't look at my wife and give her our "can you believe this" look. It was one of the most stressful days I'd ever had.

Tuesday was 100% better. Cathy came off of the morphine and had a kind-of-a-good-night's-sleep. In the hospital, they wake you up every four hours to make sure you're resting, do something horrible, and then leave the room. Been there, done that. But she was alert, and able to talk, and later in the day, laugh.

Medically: she *technically* has pneumonia, in the same way that if I'm holding a box of rat poison, it can be said that I have strychnine poisoning. There are traces in her lungs (probably from when she had it last year) but she has no symptoms other than that. She is being treated with antibiotics and they are making her suck on a plastic toy that makes her lungs open up all the way, but they are fully on top of this and she is in no danger of developing a case like last time.

Also: the catheters are doing their jobs, keeping the pressure off of the obstruction. And thanks to being re-hydrated, her kidneys look and feel "much better" according to the kidney specialist. In short, Pneumonia and dialysis are off the table. Our only real concern is the bowel obstruction.

She's tired, and she's uncomfortable. They installed a Pic line (remember the thing I had in my arm?) to give her stuff because they were out of holes and ports to administer food, liquids, and medicine to her. She looks like the world's worst giant squid at the moment. But she's Cathy again. And we had a good visit after we acknowledged how uncomfortable this all was. By the afternoon, she was laughing at my stupid jokes. We were performing for the nurses. It was us again. The Mark and Cathy show.

That was somewhat squashed by the evening visit from her oncologist. No new news on her obstruction unkinking itself. We've basically got one more day of fingers crossed. If it won't unkink by itself, we have to discuss other options. She has a full CT scan scheduled so that the oncologist can really get a good look at what's going on down there. We will all know more by the end of today, Wednesday.

I was just so happy to have my wife back for a day. We were able to talk about how stupid and crazy this whole thing is.

I came home last night to notes left on the theater and chalked messages of love and support on the sidewalks. I spoke to friends, family. So much positive energy is concentrated on Cathy right now (and me, too) that I felt like I could let go for a minute, take a couple of deep breaths, and just cry to relieve the pressure. I slept last night, for 8 hours. I haven't slept that long in years. I had dreams of old friends, and laughter, and I woke up with energy and clarity.

The Wednesday Update:

Cathy Farted! I Repeat: Cathy has Farted!

 Okay, I think I need to provide some context for this. I got to the hospital on Wednesday to find Cathy sitting in the weird recliner, surrounded by people. She had just done some physical therapy, walking around the floor and also in the room. The PT lady was reading her the riot act about not letting her go until Cathy could guarantee that she wouldn't climb any stairs. Which is ridiculous, as the staircase to our house is epic. Nevertheless, Cathy made arrangements to stay grounded. 

But that wasn't what concerned me. What drew my immediate full attention was the fact that Cathy's nose, chin, neck, and chest were fire engine red, and the color was spreading. Then I noticed she was hooked up to a bag of white goo that was clearly her nutritional supplement. And I got a little mad.

You see, the nutritionist came in on Tuesday to explain to Cathy that she'd be getting goo in a bag because she can't have solid food at the moment. We all agreed that would be great. Then she said, "Any food allergies?"

"Well, I..." Cathy said.

"Soy. She's allergic to soy." I said it matter-of-factly.

What happens if she gets it?" the nutritionist asked.

"She has an allergic reaction," I replied.

The nutritionist took a deep breath and said, "Okay, I'm asking because I have two things I can give her. One is all soy, and the other one has soy in it, along with some other things."

Cathy said that small amounts of soy weren't as problematic, and I said, if those are the only two options, we'll that the one that has some soy, and not all soy, because, you know...Cathy's allergic.

As it turns out, there was more soy in the "some soy" bag than anyone thought. And with it being administered into Cathy's bloodstream directly, it spread like wildfire. Thankfully, the nurses were on top of it. They stopped the white bag of goo and alerted the nutritionist.

By that time, the redness had spread to Cathy's arms. Not itchy, just inflamed, like a horrible case of sunburn. Deep, beet red. Crazy. The nurses were really freaked out; they'd never seen that reaction.

I stepped out of the room so Cathy could have another visitor and when I came back in, they had switched her food to a clear bag of goo. And Cathy was no longer beet red, but merely crimson. I asked the nurse, "Is that the new stuff?" And she said, "Yep, no soy."

Pop quiz: see if you can guess when I got angry? If you said, "Just then," you know me very well.

As nicely as I could, I asked, "If there's no soy in that bag, then why in the ding-dong hell didn't we get that from the get-go? We told her she was allergic to soy!"

The nurse said, "I don't know, but she's coming back to talk to y'all."

Oh, good.

When she opened the door, about an hour later, Cathy looked better still, but you could where the redness still was, like a sunburn. When she opened her mouth, it was to say. "In twenty-seven years, I've only had four reactions to soy."

Now I was at a crossroads. Did I call BS on that, because come on, lady? Or did I change the subject and try to end the conversation? Cathy shot me a look (she's well enough now that she can shoot me looks). I chose door number 2.

With all of that sorted and with no more chance of soy showing up in a bag of goo, we settled down to wait for our oncologist.

You see, the doctor who was in there with the physical therapist was telling Cathy what the CT scan showed. I made him tell it to me, as well. He said: Looking at the CT scan, we don't see the obstruction anywhere. However, her intestines are still asleep. We need them to wake up, and start moving, and we need Cathy to pass gas or have a bowel movement. That means that her intestines are functioning again and she doesn't have another obstruction somewhere.

This all sounded great! The obstruction was gone?! Wow! The guts can take up to a day or more to wake up, and we were sure the oncologist had more to say about this. So, we were waiting. And hoping for gas.

I hung out until 7 pm, two hours later than he showed up on Tuesday. No visit. Cathy's sister drove in from Austin, and had just hit town, so she tagged in for me and I went to visit friends who gave me a drink and let me sit and jabber about other things. I had only intended to stay for a bit, when Cathy texted me this charming phrase:

Passed gas officially!!!!!

I started laughing, and then I started crying. I've never been so happy to hear about my wife's fart in my whole life.

Never mind why I spent the night in Wichita Falls. I'm a grown-ass man. Don't judge. But when I pulled into town this morning, I saw that the front of the theater was even more decorated with letters of well wishes, drawings, messages of encouragement, and hope, and love, and prayer.

We have turned a corner. We can now start talking about coming home. Some stuff has to change, and we still don't know what this does for the chemo, if anything. Diet will be paramount, along with rest. But I'm hoping Cathy can come home by the weekend. Man, that would be so sweet.

Know this, folks: we--I--could not have done this without you. Sometimes it seems like a brush off to like a post and not comment. With the number of messages I received over the past week, it's been nearly impossible to reply. But know this: I read every word. As a writer, I value words most highly, and I considered each message and took it in, and took strength from you words. They did not go into cyberspace. They went into my heart. I shared a lot of your messages with Cathy, and I look forward to showing her all of them when she is home.

Thank you for lifting us up. We felt it and continue to feel it. I'll post more when I know more. Right now, I need a shower and a cup or four of coffee.



James Mendur said...

So glad to hear the improvement. Still sending good wishes to you both.

Adventuresfantastic said...

Thank you for the detailed report.

Jim Adcock said...

Pardon my language but FUCK YEAH!!!!!!!

Brandy Whitten said...

Whew, who knew a mere fart could provide that degree of relief?!

We're thinking of you and Cathy and holding you in our hearts, even when you're stinky and caffeine-deprived or beet-red and sprouting tentacles connected to beeping machines. (Sorry but fuck that dietitian. She made a mistake that needs acknowledged. Not with lawsuits or other calm-disrupting insanity but with an incident report and training to prevent it happening again. If you're interested, the chief nurse in the unit would know if this has happened.)

I love Cathy, and I love you. Here's to her coming home soon, and we're staying tuned to learn more about what that might mean. (No stairs? Yikes.)

J. Juday said...

Farting is great news! Things are working! I have other friends and family who deal with intestinal issues, and can completely get that perspective. And I am super happy to hear Cathy is doing well enough to shoot you looks. That's so heartening. Still holding you both in my thoughts and meditations, you wonderful humans, you.

Barbara V. Evers said...

Hallelujah! It’s amazing how our bodily functions are taboo but almost always the key to improved health. Continuing to pray, as always.

T.Wilson said...

I'm so glad to hear we have fart-sign!

Like all your friends, we feel guilty we can't do more to help ya'll, but know that Martha and I are keeping you in our thoughts and wish you too the best. I can't wait until ya'll are better and this whole pandemic is over and we can BS to the heavens in Fannish Feud again :)

kalamazoo940 said...

Yay for farts! You two have been such a joy to the community with your witty banter and infectious smiles. Sending prayers your way!