I hate one day in every month

I hate the reason this memorial garden exists. But it gives me a place to sit and remember my wife and who she was.

I hate the reason this memorial garden exists. But it gives me a place to sit and remember my wife and who she was.

Days that hurt

I hate the tenth day of the month–any month. But I especially hate November 10 and December 10. I hate the fact November 10 is Worldwide NET Cancer Awareness Day. I don’t want to, but it falls on the tenth of the month and that day has a double sacredness to me in November.

…I love the possibility NET Cancer Day helps create.

Today is the monthly anniversary of Jane’ death. It also marks the seventh anniversary of the last even remotely normal day of my life. Worse, this year, it stands one month away from the seven-year anniversary of Jane’s death for a man whose life runs in sevens, not decades.

The last sane day

Seven years ago today, Jane and I went to bed early. The next morning, we faced the difficult rush-hour drive into Boston to Dana-Farber. We’d see Jen Chan, Jane’s oncologist, get another round of blood tests, wait for the monthly Sandostatin shot to thaw out, get that injection done, see a dietician. It was supposed to be a routine day. It wasn’t.

…that day has a double sacredness to me…

There was trouble with the blood draw because they couldn’t find a vein that would work. Jen was concerned about the build-up of fluids in the abdomen. The meeting with the dietician went well, but then we discovered Jane was leaking a clear fluid from the injection site. When we got home, for the first time, I had to carry Jane up the stairs. That had never happened before.

The beginning of the end

The next morning, Jane’s heart surgeon called. He wanted to move the surgery to replace the valves in the right side of her heart to Monday. They’d been damaged by the cancer. We’d planned to do that surgery after the holidays. Now…

It was supposed to be a routine day.

Saturday, we had that long conversation everyone needs to have. We did it once a year in January. This was an extra one–a more difficult one–the real one no one really wants to have. But we both stayed optimistic. This was a precaution–not a good-bye.

Sudden decline

Sunday, I had to help her off the toilet. That had never happened before. We arrived at Brigham and Women’s Hospital that afternoon. She didn’t have it in her to walk to admitting. I pushed her wheelchair to the desk on her floor and to her room. I can’t describe how that felt–how it feels, even now. She had always refused a wheelchair before.

But we both stayed optimistic.

Monday, they took her into surgery about noon. Part of me wishes she’d died on the table. She could have. The heart was more damaged than they expected. The brilliance of her surgeon saved her. But six hours of surgery became 11. I got to see her after midnight–unconscious and with tubes and wires flowing everywhere.

Aftermath

I loved her and I fought for her. And then I let her die. I planned the funeral she refused to believe she’d need. I buried her and settled her affairs. I stayed strong for her family and our students. Two months later, I started to cry. I haven’t really stopped since.

Sunday, I had to help her off the toilet.

But everyone else had moved on. They thought I had, too. No one saw the tears. No one saw me walk into the grocery store and start shaking. No one saw me walk out the door. I worked as I always had–though not as efficiently. I wandered the house aimlessly. I didn’t sleep. But slowly, I learned to cope, if not to heal.

Seven years in solitary

I understand solitary confinement. Every widow and widower does. You go from constant human contact to almost none in an instant. You join support groups, have coffee and meals with friends and children. But at the end of the day, you come home to an empty house filled with silence and memory. For all that you fill your life with other people and other things, a part of you no longer exists.

No one saw the tears.

Something has changed in you and you can never go back. You can only live with it and keep moving forward. So you change grocery stores, go to different restaurants. You paint rooms and redecorate. Sometimes, you move. You find work that has meaning for you. You cope–but sometimes–even years later–you just cry for no better reason than it hurts too much not to.

A day of hate–a day of love

November 10 marks the last sane day of my life. It marks, too, the last day I could–if even for a minute–pretend  NET cancer wouldn’t prove the end of our life together. I wish NET Cancer Day fell on any other day of the year–and I’m glad that it doesn’t. In a very real sense, for me, it falls on the perfect day–a day of remembrance that lets me fight back.

…a part of you no longer exists.

I hate that other people face what Jane faced. I hate that we don’t have a cure. And I hate the idea that too many other spouses face the same solitary life I live if nothing changes. But I love the possibility NET Cancer Day helps create. It helps me deal with the second worst day in my year.

 

Posted by walking with jane on November 10, 2017

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