Sunday, January 16, 2011

Meeting the Grim Reaper

We were home and Rick was a ghost of himself, experiencing the pain, the shock and fear of the day.  My parents were on their way from New York to help out.  In the meantime, a home health nurse arrived at our door to go through another long process of forms, medical history and minutia.  She finally left around 10 p.m.  I helped Rick into bed.  He was shaky, pale and in horrendous pain.

He did go to sleep but was really having trouble breathing.  It seemed that every breath was excruciating for him.  I was worried.  It was at about that time that my mind became the safe place to talk.  I didn't feel comfortable expressing my worries to Rick.  He didn't want to talk about anything; he just wanted it all to go away.

Ten thousand thoughts were going through my brain at once.  What if he dies?  What if he lives? What if I can't support us?  Will we lose our house?  What will become of the boys?  Somewhere inside came the voice of my prayer... God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  This would become my mantra for a very long time.

We left the urgent care facility with some pretty heavy-duty pain killers.  Rick was still in pain.  None of it seemed to touch the pain. I called the doctor back at the Falls Church Center.  She said that she could only admit him to the hospital for pain management.  He was adamant; he was not going.

By three o'clock in the morning, I couldn't stand it any more;  I thought he would be dead by morning.  I called her back; she told me to take him to the hospital that she would arrange for it. Rick was so angry with me.  He didn't want to go to the hospital.  "Please Jane, don't take me, please!" He didn't want to make this real. I was panicking; I had to bring him.

My sister-in-law, Karen was there in ten minutes to drive us; Paul stayed with the kids.  As we were helping him out the front door on crutches, my parents arrived.  I could see the shock in their faces as they looked at my sweet husband.  There was something about seeing my own parents reacting to the situation that brought the gravity of it all slamming into my head.

We were off down the road to the hospital.  The night was a blur...I had to leave him to go back to the boys.  All I could think of was that they would wake up to my parents and freak out.  Karen dropped me off and I dropped into an empty bed, set the alarm and closed my eyes to the nightmare I was in until I woke to the alarm.

The boys were aware that something was up; something was different. It was Monday morning and I got them going and took them off to school and the babysitter's and then drove to the hospital.  When I arrived there was a gaggle of family all standing in the room.  Rick gave me the "death stare" when I walked in the room.  "Don't ever leave me again." he said.  His arms were covered in bruises; each area was where they tried to draw blood. "I can't believe you left me here."

Dr. Aloisious Passan walked in the room.  He was an Indian man not imposing in stature but surly in demeanor.  In his defense, he just walked into a room with about 10 relatives of a man to whom he would deliver dire news.  He examined Rick in a dispassionate manner and began to explain to him what Multiple Myeloma was and the next step of having a bone marrow biopsy.  His face was solemn as he told Rick that he would be moved to 9 West, the oncology ward and placed in a private room because his white blood cell count was high and his immune system was compromised. Exit, Dr. Death.

My Rick was a quiet man but had a grand sense of humor.  His family knew that his sharp wit would come at unsuspected moments.  As we all stood around his bed, crying and contemplating the news, Rick looked at all of us in the room and said in a solemn voice, "There goes the Grim Reaper."  We all burst out laughing so hard that we couldn't stop once we had started.  There was Ricky to set the moment right.

All those who would be "rocks" for us in the coming weeks were there in the room.  His brothers, Paul and Stephen, Karen, my brother Danny and his fiance, Chris.  I sat with them and cried with them and hugged them, all the while thinking about my babies at home.

I had to leave him again.  Jack would be home and all I could think was that I needed to tell him that his father had cancer before one of his cousins told him.  Rick was okay with me leaving because his family was there and his mom and sister were on their way to the hospital.

I drove home on the Beltway and headed for the Toll Rd.  I don't want to do this.  The concrete jersey wall was looking very inviting to me as I drove.  Turn the wheel and you won't have to face it. I was on my way to my sons and what choice did I have?  They needed me and I couldn't take the easy way out.


  1. You have a great way of connecting to your readers. I felt your fear and pain. I wish I could have been there to comfort you.

  2. Without flinching, you draw me into the nightmare. I feel as if I'm there beside you, but unable to offer any kind words and support.