My heart races each time he calls my name. His needs are so immediate. I sit on pins and needles, waiting, watching, wondering what I can do for him, what will he need next? Sometimes, when he sleeps, I go into the bedroom just to listen to him breathing.
Raymond, my partner of 2 years was diagnosed, on the winter solstice, with stage 4 lung cancer that has metastasized into his brain and liver. When we heard the diagnosis, we both sat there in shock. We were expecting to hear that he had an infection or pneumonia, at the worst… but lung cancer? Stage 4? Oh my God!
Since that December morning, nothing has been the same. We have had weekly and sometimes bi-weekly doctor appointments at the cancer institute one hour from our home. Some of these appointments include CAT scans, PET scans, MRI’s, chemo therapy, gamma knife radiation on his brain, trips to the emergency room when his fever spiked to over 100.5 (a sign of infection for chemo patients).
Raymond was a life long, two pack a day, smoker and also worked for the Dupont paint company. He was exposed to chemicals his whole life. When I met Raymond, he was going in to have his second carotid artery cleaned out, the second month we were together. Having an estranged relationship with his sister, I spent the night in the hospital with him. A year later, he had a stent in his leg worked on. The smoking had caused many complications with his health.
The last complication happened on March 12, two weeks after a chemo treatment. Raymond’s legs and feet were really bothering him, we thought he had neuropathy as a result of chemo. What the vascular surgeon found (through doppler tests and ultra sound) was that there was no blood getting to his feet. None. The surgeon even came into the ultra sound room to ask the tech to check a few areas. We knew this was serious (Ray could loose his feet) and surgery was scheduled for the following Friday, March 23. This wasn’t cancer related, but it was smoking related.
I was a wreck. I knew that we were taking a risk, with Ray being in a weakened state from the chemo, to have major surgery. He was in the OR for 6 hours. I had to wait 8 hours before seeing him in the ICU and I was shocked when I saw that the doctors cut him from his right groin to his heel and harvested a new vein to properly get blood to his feet. He had a total of 126 staples and his leg looked like he had zippers running the length of it. They also cleared a stent in his left groin with angioplasty which was 95% blocked. The first words he said to me in the ICU that evening were, “Honey, I can feel my toes!”
After 6 days in the hospital he was released, only to have to go next door to Karmano’s cancer institute to have labs done and see his oncologist. I called and told them he was recovering from major surgery and couldn’t this wait, but they said “No, he has to come in.” His oncologist found that the last CAT scan showed signs of growth in the lymph nodes in his lungs, his liver and there was a small spot now on his spine. His labs that day showed he was dangerously low on potassium so he needed three bags administered through IV that same day. We both lay on the bed in the infusion room trying to rest as the infusion took hours. He was released at 8:00 a.m. from the hospital and we didn’t get home until 7:00 p.m. Again, pins and needles. I was so worried that this was all too much for my love.
I am writing this blog as an attempt to vent my feelings as a caregiver, share our story (if only to help people understand the dangers of smoking), and convey the spiritual lessons I have learned through this process. Please feel free to comment or post similar stories. I believe in the power of prayer, and Raymond needs a miracle here, please pray for him.
Spiritual lessons to come on my next post.