Sonya wasn't too happy about us leaving Cathy behind at the Hospice Center. This is her as I was driving out of the parking lot. Her way of saying, "You left a man behind, dude!"
Trust me, Sonya. I know. And I'm not happy about it, either.
Cathy continues to hang on, her heart beating strong, her mind struggling to connect, to understand, her lungs working, her muscles flexing. She's willing. But her body is slowly killing her. It's the worst kind of torture to see her slipping in increments that could be measured in centimeters, and there's not a thing anyone can do about it.
What makes this doubly galling is that Cathy's own body is cutting off her food supply. And Cathy has never been one of those people with hang ups about food or eating. She loves to eat, and she loves good food. She's always appreciative of anyone who cooks for her. Our first date, I made her chicken parmesan, and she was so impressed, she married me three years later.
Now she can only swallow liquids. And her stomach immediately goes to work, trying to break everything down, but the colon is not having any of it. Because of the blockage caused by the cancer. So, the food sits in her stomach, and her body brain says, "Something is up on Digestion Level 3. Send more acid to deal with the problem." And like a good machine, her stomach floods itself with acid, like how you pour the whole jug of Draino down the pipe to break up that horrifying hair clog. Only, this clog won't budge, and so here comes more acid, and eventually, the stomach says, "Okay, this isn't working, let's send it back up the chute."
I'm making light of it, because I can't punch it. I'm so pissed off and I can't do anything about it. All week I've been having minor (very minor) panic attacks, and it's forcing me to stop what I'm doing and calm down. I've felt like I'm spinning my wheels over here, and every day, Cathy gets a little more anxious, a little more confused.
And yet...and yet! She keeps having bowel movements. I've never been so happy for shit in my whole life.
See, the BM means that her body is getting SOME of the fuel it needs. Not enough to get her out of the bed, mind you, but enough to keep the lights on and the plumbing working. Everything is still humming along. The BM is proof of that. It's almost like a reassuring telegram at this point. Whenever she has one, whoever is with her sends out the general message: "She pooped!" and we all cheer and let out a breath we didn't know we'd been holding.
This is bullshit. All of it. This one thing--granted, an important thing, but still--this one thing is all that is keeping Cathy from continuing treatment, signing up for clinical trials, etc. I can't stand it that this is how the story ends. It's the most hollow, most unfair, most dastardly ending that only Life In 2020 can offer up. It's very hard for someone like me to accept. I've always had real problems with control, and the need to control, and these past two years have just about slapped it out of me, as we had to surrender so much control to the care and feeding of Cathy and the knocks that our personal health gave us both. I get it, The Universe. I control nothing. Got it, message received.
But this is a bridge too far. If the cancer overtook her, and there was nothing else we could do, at least we'd be sort of prepared for that. This? A bowel obstruction? It's like the cancer said, "Ah hah! I see what they are doing! Well, we'll just see about that. I'll gut-punch her and that'll show them they can't mess with me!"
I wish I was a super hero. I would have figured out a way to use whatever power I had to fix Cathy.
I wish her own stomach wasn't an accomplice to the cancer.
I wish I had better news.
|Visiting friends in Austin, circa 2013. A pretty good picture of both of us. |
Not necessarily flattering, but really accurate.