It’s a journey

Life goes on.  A week ago I was worrying about my sister-in-law.  Another surgery in the books, and not an easy one.  A full five hour operation, so a lot of anesthesia that can make for a lousy recovery.  She came through it okay, but nothing is ever easy for her.  By day two there were some issues and worries, but here we are just over a week later and she’s home and on the mend.

It was tough walking into the hospital again.  The last time I was there I was with Kevin, my Kevin.  It didn’t end so good for him.  Fortunately, the outcome was better this time.   Still, it was an emotionally draining seven or eight days riddled by recollections of Kevin and worries about June.   And so the memories are all back up and fresh in my mind.  This has been a week of tears.  A week where I have said his name so many times, hoping for a sign, a message, anything.  I miss him.

It doesn’t help that there is also emotion and sadness in my workplace as one of my co-workers goes into her final decline.  Not someone I worked with, but a person I knew of and admired for her spirit and determination.  Her immediate team will be pierced by loss, and that loss is imminent.  I recognize that this news has destabilized me, I feel so deeply for the family she will leave behind, even though I have never met them.  My loss is old, their’s will be new.  It has nothing to do with me, and yet it has the power to make my heart ache.

Kevin used to say he was a man of extreme highs and extreme lows, and he was.  But really isn’t that what life is, a series of highs and lows.  Sometimes it feels like the waves will pull you down and drown you and other times you just float on the surface and bask in the sun.  We are all at different points and that’s all it is.



A First of a Different Kind

There are so many times as I go along that I feel the sense of singleness, of being one and only one.  Part of a set that got broken.  My identity over the 30 plus years I spent with Kevin had happily blended with and comfortably fit into his.  We were as different as different could be, but overall, it worked.

About a week ago I had surgery.  Going into it I felt lost and just a little terrified.  There was no one to sense my terror, to talk me down before the surgery, to readjust my mindset.  Another first, and a scary one for me.  Family and friends were around for sure, but I was not about to bare my soul again, to drag people into my pit of neediness.  So I did what I always have done – I planned for the worst.   I missed Kevin dearly – he always planned for the best and accepted nothing less.  Boy, I sure could have used a Kevin fix.  I know, somehow, despite his aversion to all things medical, he would have found something funny, something to joke about.

I spent a couple of days at hospital and then came home to convalesce on my own.  When I got home I made my way up to my bed and spent a whole bunch of time feeling sorry for myself.  Recuperating on my own, no Kevin around to tell me it wasn’t that bad, I spent time wondering what the years ahead would be like and how much effort I felt like putting into them.  Not the best time to reflect on the future or make any life altering decisions, but when there’s nothing else to do, the mind tends to kick into action, and when there’s pain involved the thoughts that the mind spins are hardly upbeat ones.

I guess I must be on the mend because I had a ‘shame on me’ moment yesterday.  It struck me as to how trivial my bit of discomfort is in the grand scheme of things.  I will mend; however, there are plenty of people I know who won’t. All around me people are going through things on their own, silently – some with help, some without.  Lives get altered everyday, paths change, crises come and go; drama is all around us, you just have to look for it.

The world is a hell of a lot more than me.


I Never Ask

I never ask myself anymore ‘who’s next.’  I stopped a long time ago.  Truly, right now it seems as if family and friends are under siege.  Could it be that we baby-boomers are a defective bunch?  Or is it just that life here in Canada is so harsh that it takes a greater toll physically?  That was always Kevin’s belief, he’d often say, ‘No, my dad couldn’t chose Australia.  He had to immigrate to Canada, where the winter is six months of the year, and the temperature is f***in’ 30 below for most of it.’

Yesterday a good friend told me that her sister had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Not a dire prognosis, but anything with the brain is scary.  Her sister’s surgery is set for next Friday.  In this case everything is happening so fast it makes one’s head spin.  We talk and think about it in clinical terms because it is almost impossible to conceive of on a personal level. My friend has to wait and watch and feel powerless, because she is.  Then there is my sister-in-law who recently found out that her husband (they separated years ago) has been diagnosed with lung cancer, under much the same circumstances as my husband Kevin faced.  What to say?

The thought of anyone else in my inner circle developing a serious illness is a thought that I can’t entertain.  I remember a month or so ago stopping my daughter from talking about worries she had about her infant son.  They weren’t serious concerns, but the thought of anything, of any nature, occurring to one of my children or grandchildren destabilizes me completely.  I find I that swing to the extreme and my fear gets the better of me.  A residual effect from Kevin’s death, I am aware it is irrational, but that doesn’t make it go away.  And so, for my own sanity I never ask nor do I ever wonder who or what is next.

Mine is a troubled mind

Yesterday my sister-in-law informed me of her decision to have surgery.  She’s decided to have the reversal surgery for her ileostomy.  The ileostomy has been an incredibly difficult thing for her to manage and she has never adjusted to it.  I know this wasn’t an easy decision for her to make.  I know she dreaded telling me, let alone the rest of her family.  I know that if it were me, I’d be doing the same thing.  It’s just that it terrifies me.  This family has had more than its fair share of loss in the last few years and, consequently, I have become very risk averse.

My sister-in-law had her initial surgery back in October, it didn’t go well, and the family spent more than a month wondering if she would pull through.  It was draining for me – for all of us. She was in a coma, Kevin (her brother and my husband), was battling his own cancer and wasn’t physically able to visit her.  I wasn’t able to tell Kevin how truly grave the situation was out of fear it would set him back even further in his treatments.  I would try to visit her every day, just like Kevin would have if he had been able to. It was a time of unbearable stress and it is my last experience with anyone having had surgery.  It’s still very fresh.

I know that this is a different procedure, not the same surgery as before, but I can’t help feeling fear.  The things that are precious to me make me vulnerable.  I wish I could just open my arms and sweep everyone in close and hold them tight and make it safe.  I wish for a little while there were no tough decisions to be made.  Life isn’t like that. So we go with it.


The Ileostomy

My sister-in-law’s experience with cancer continues to be quite challenging.  After the initial nightmare of surgery and associated complications, she was released home with an high output ileostomy.  This in itself is quite challenging for the obvious reasons.  She never ever anticipated having an ileostomy, the lifestyle change that it has required is quite significant.  The care and maintenance required are very demanding and she has had more than her fair share of challenges in managing this device.  The ileostomy is reversible but only after she finalizes her chemotherapy treatment.

The chemotherapy treatment has been hard on her over and above the anticipated side effects. With her first treatment my sister-in-law had quite a reaction to the chemo cocktail even before leaving the hospital.  Her hands as well as her neck had turned a bright red – luckily a nurse spotted the reaction and she was whisked back into the Cancer Treatment area and provided with intravenous medication to counteract the allergic reaction she was having. This was her first experience with chemotherapy and it wasn’t even a full dosage, it was a reduced dosage of  75% of the normal amount administered, so likely a good thing she didn’t get the full dose.

She has her chemo treatment every other week.  Shortly after receiving her first round my sister-in-law was experiencing another issue related to her stoma – the opening for her ileostomy.  It was quite swollen and painful, and the fluids passing had diminished significantly consequently she was worried about a blockage.  Prior to getting the next infusion of chemo, she wanted to make sure that there would be no more adverse effects on her stoma as well as ensure that all her medical team was aware of what she was experiencing or if there was cause for concern.  Her GP and surgeon advised her that she should be able to have the chemo on schedule and that she should inform the staff at the oncology suite prior to commencing her chemotherapy.

Once at the hospital for her second round of chemo she duly informed the staff about the issues with her stoma.  No one was overly familiar with what she was experiencing; after consultations with three oncologists on roster that day, a decision was made to reduce the chemo dose to 50% as well as provide the preventive meds prior to administering the chemo.  After the treatment my sister-in-law went home, again with the baby bottle attached to administer more chemo over the course of 48 hours.  Thursday past was when she went to the local hospital to have the baby bottle device removed.  By this time her stoma was quite painful with sores as well as extremely swollen.  When the baby bottle came off there was a fair bit of blood in the ileostomy which was quite worrisome.  A quick visit to the surgeon eased her mind somewhat but not entirely.  He was satisfied that her ileostomy was not blocked since some fluid was still coming out, but thought that she may have developed a condition known as mucositis in the gastro-intestinal tract.  There was also a suggestion that they may have to drop her chemo down to 25% dose since she is so sensitive to the meds. This is where she is at now, trying to get a definitive about the mucositis and a prescribed treatment.  Today seems to be a better day, and in speaking to her she sounds a bit more optimistic and the swelling seems to be lessening.  It’s hard to keep spirits up since every day there seems to be a new challenge but she certainly is trying to look forward and ahead and just get through this.