Cancer steals more than just the life it threatens. It steals the life that could have been. It steals the hopes and dreams and plans that have been made. And, if you’re not careful, it steals what joy is left in life.
For the past three months, I’ve literally watched my husband John shrink. He’s physically half the size he was a year ago. His energy has gone from fair to crappy to non-existent. By the time he gets ready for the day, he’s done for the day. Energy expended and exhausted. As his energy has waned, his world has begun to shrink. There are times when he doesn’t even have the energy to watch t.v. let alone go out anywhere. The less he does, the more inside himself he goes. His big, positive, happy, never-met-a-stranger personality is shrinking as well. It’s the most painful thing I’ve ever watched.
We know his time is growing short so everything we do comes with a feeling of “the last time.” Certainly the holidays held that energy for all of us. This weekend, we took a trip to the mountains in Western Washington, to a charming Bavarian-style town called Leavenworth, for a change of pace. I wanted to see if we could create just one more memorable trip to add to so many others from the past seven years. I packed. I drove. I unpacked. He barely had enough energy to walk to the room.
As we cuddled in bed that night, I said to him, “This is the last hotel room we’ll share.” He nodded solemnly and I swallowed the lump in my throat. He kept saying, “It’s just the two of us” but as I lay in bed watching t.v. and listening to him sleep, I thought, “No, it’s the three of us. You, me, and the uninvited guest who’s invaded every moment of our lives for the past two and a half years.” He barely had enough energy to get dressed the next morning and we ended up walking about two blocks up the main street in town (with rests in between) and then calling it a day and driving the 3 plus hours home.
Lately, it feels like I have two emotions. I’m either angry or sad. When I’m angry, it’s really at the cancer and the loss of what I thought would be my life and future. When I’m sad, I cry a lot. For seemingly no reason, but for so many reasons. It’s hard for him and I try not to do it when I’m around him, but I’m rarely successful. I’ve told him how much I miss him, because he’s so focused on just making it through every day that there’s nothing really left over for me or anyone else. Last week, he replied that he missed me too. That absolutely killed me.
He’s starting to wonder what it will feel like to die, how it will happen for him. We don’t know but we’re pretty sure, based on the fact that he’s got numerous “angry” tumors in his stomach and intestines, that he’ll basically end up starving to death. He said today, “I don’t know what that will be like, but I’m guessing I’ll just eventually go to sleep and not wake up. I’m just so sorry about how hard it will be for all of you.”
So am I. Part of me wants him to be free of the pain and exhaustion the cancer raging through his body is causing. The other part wants to hang on to him so tightly that he can never leave. I know he’s fighting the same emotions.