Saturday, February 5, 2011

Clarity of the Situation

While Rick was receiving his second infusion of chemo, I went off to learn how to stick a needle into an orange; training for Rick’s arm.  Rick’s red blood cell count was low which was causing him anemia and therefore, he had little energy.  Rick needed an injection of Procrit once a week.  I practiced with a needle on the orange and then on Rick.  This is one of those burning shots.  It has to be given in the fat under one’s bicep.  I had to pull on his fat and get a pinch of skin and inject it into the pinch of skin.  It was very painful for both of us.  I would cry each time I had to give it to him.

I took the opportunity to speak to the nurse about the pain he was having in the back of his neck.  She alerted Dr. Death.  Dr. Death sent him for an MRI in a facility a block from the hospital.  This would be next week’s outing.

While we were there, Rick also received another dose of Aridia which helped to coat the lesions in his bones, preventing more bone loss.  He was started on the chemo and then they moved the bag to a pouch on his waist with a pump so it would continue at home. 

Rick was also given Dexamethasone which is an oral steroid that causes the shrinking of the bone marrow; it helps in alleviating some of the pain.  His schedule for chemo was four days on and then three weeks later return to the doctor for the next infusion.  The Dexamethasone was four days on and four days off.

I kept reminding Rick this infusion wouldn’t be as bad as the time before.  The nurses knew my gig immediately and came around to saying things my way.  Rick was feeling the effects of the chemo before we got in the ambulance, metal mouth and nausea.  By that evening, he was “gone again.”  Chemo Rick was back.  I could tolerate the attitude and mean-spirit a little better this time around, feeling fully certain that it was the chemo and not Rick.

People began to visit him but to be honest, it was hard to deal with.  We were in the middle of a crisis every day.  It was nice for Rick to have some people to talk with but it wore him out.  In addition, I think it is hard for a patient to accept visitors that they haven’t heard from in a long while.  A friend he hadn’t seen in perhaps five years came to visit.  It was nice talking sports with him; however, Rick said later, “Where has he been all these years?  Do you only show up when you think someone is dying?”  I guess there was no good answers to these questions.  It just is; what it is.

Doug continued to come for physical therapy and was pleased with Rick’s progress.  He was working hard at it each day and Doug was pleased to see the difference. A rhythm emerged in our day.  I would get Rick his breakfast and help him get cleaned and dressed.  Then I was off to the boys’ rooms to get them going and I would run them to school and babysitter.  I would return and usually Paul had come and was chatting with Rick over the paper with coffee.   I would leave them and go off to school.

Our next major outing was the following week; Rick had made it through the worst of chemo round 2.  The ambulance was bringing us for the MRI next to the hospital.  We waited until they called us.  I went into help him get into the gown and then went back to wait.  When Rick came out in the wheelchair after the tests, he was shaking his head from side to side, as in a big NO.  I waited until they wheeled him to me.  “They’re calling the hospital and want me to go back to radiation today to speak to Dr. Johnson,” he said with repugnance in his voice.  Here comes another sucker punch.

Off we went to our unscheduled visit to the Radiology Oncology dept. of Fairfax Hospital with our new MRI films for Rick.  We waited in the waiting area and were chatting with the nurses about how Rick was doing when Dr. Johnson came and invited us into his viewing room where there were many films set up on the wall.

Dr. Johnson explained that the radiologist at the imaging center was being extra cautious by sending us to the hospital.  He said he knew about the lesions and that was why he had ordered the radiation treatment in the first place.  He was very calm and showed us the films. 

This was the exact moment that I knew Rick would die.  His entire rib cage was riddled with holes.  No wonder it hurt to breathe.  He showed us the shots of his spine from the side.  We could see the large lesions that had caused the bone to push against the spinal cord.  There were holes up and down his spine and all over his skull.  I don’t think Rick realized what he was looking at but I could see the hopelessness of the situation.  Dr Johnson said that this was like looking through a microscope at the bone.  The x-rays only showed a blur of the area.  All I could think was his bones were disentegrating and there would be nothing left to hold him upright.  I want to scream and run away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dr. Johnson decided on another round of radiation for Rick to help relieve the pain in his neck.  This would help the neck to heal.  Rick agreed and so there would be another adventure in radiology oncology.

Rick, you will be leaving me; it is only a matter of time. I want to run away from all this.  I don’t want you to die.  Please don’t leave me.  I don’t want to live without you.

1 comment:

  1. I would be so hysterical if I had to give a shot. I'd be fearing that I would do something wrong and kill the person. You were a brave woman but then again you didn't have a choice. It's funny how they say life is about choices and in some cases that's true. But life is also a lot about surviving what life hands you and moving on.

    Rick was blessed that you were able to separate his drug induced behavior from the loving, kind spirited person that you knew and loved. I'm sure that even if he didn't say it in words, he so appreciated your unconditional love.

    How you handled seeing all those MRI films with Rick and knowing what they all meant is beyond my comprehension. The holes in Rick's bones must have just been like putting knives into your heart. Your story tells a story of incredible courage and strength. You inspire me!