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Hang in There

I am sitting low in a wheel chair parked in the hallway of imaging waiting for Kathleen.

Fifty feet at the other end, I can just make out the shitty little OR waiting room that Elaine and I sat in last April, when Kathleen was getting the tumor cut out of her. The OR waiting room is still temporary, and its design almost fosters a sense of anxiety. You are crammed in face to face with other family members closer than a packed Tokyo subway. It was night time then and the lights were dim in the hallway where I am now. It was the end of chapter one of this shitty bubble Kathleen and I got trapped in. As I sit comfortably and somewhat invisibly in Kath’s wheel chair, waiting for her ultrasound to complete, my mind wanders between eavesdropping on the hospital dynamics, and what I would tell myself at the end of the hallway last April knowing where things would go today. Would I do anything differently ?

I never imagined the almost daily imaging that has been happening– among other things. Multiple MRIs, full body CTs, xray after xray and now another ultrasound to make sure there is no blood clot in her legs. And the drugs… Lots and lots of drugs. Drugs to deal with the cancer. Drugs to deal with the cancer drugs. Drugs to deal with the side effects of the drugs of all the previous drugs. Here is just the evening assortment.

Photo 2013-02-25 9 39 54 PM

Her legs are swollen like elephant trunks right now with water. Its the body’s way of dealing with excess fluid (third spacing). We didnt understand at first why all the excess hydration. The Pain and Symptom nurse told us it was to try and bring the twitching under control, which was not a simple side effect of the hydromorphone, but a toxic reaction. Hence, the extra fluids to flush it out. They were confident the extreme water retention was not due to the cancer and organs shutting down as happens when one is near death, but just the drug side effects

Today we met with the main chemo doc. He still thinks its worthwhile to try at least 2 months of FOLFIRI. If he is keen, so is Kath, so am I. If by some crazy chance, it can freeze the cancer where it is, that would be great. We can make a go of it here. But the odds are not that good. Still, considering the hospital is paying for the drugs (about $40k), we take this as a good sign they have some hope it might work.

On the pain front, they are going to try another MRI tomorrow. They had to abort yesterday as the pain was too intense for Kathleen to hold still for 5min, let along 45 min. It was a bit better today on the pain front however. Perhaps discitis?

Last night I was talking to an old gal in the lounge of the cancer ward. She told me she had lost her husband of 45yrs to cancer. Took almost 3yrs. I told her where we were and asked if she had any advice for me. “Hang in there”. Not sure what the hell I expected. Magic words ? Secret ancient Mennonite advice? Hang in there.

In all this, Kathleen, Elaine, Jan and Lisa organized a birthday cake for me at the hospital from my favorite bakery, Nougat. ‘Hang in there’ ? There is no where else I would want to be.

Photo 2013-02-26 7 50 29 PM

Photo 2013-02-26 7 50 52 PM (1)


About In the Cancer Bubble

I am Kathleen's partner of almost 25yrs supporting her through this very tough and rough spot.

16 responses to “Hang in There

  1. judy ⋅

    Hi Mike and Kathleen,
    Happy Birthday brother. secret hungarian advice – hang in there. Looks like a fun celeb . Even the hospital backdrop looks bright. Thinking back on all the parties you guys threw for us, you guys know how to celebrate , even in the midst of adversity.
    Love Judy

  2. Stacee Forrester ⋅

    Dear Kathleen and Mike,
    First off, Happy Birthday Mike. Always nice to have a bit of cake so great that that could be arranged for you, especially amidst all that you are going through. I hope with all my heart that you have a better day tomorrow you two. It sounds quite exasperating and painful all that you endure within a 24 hour period and I wish you the warmest thoughts I can. You are doing a great job of “hanging in there” and know that you are thought about every day and we are hanging in there with you.

    hugs to you and say hi to Elaine,
    love, Stacee and Isobel

  3. kimberly ⋅

    Dear Kathleen and Mike,
    Happy birthday Mike … any day with a bit of your favorite cake is at least a little better than a day without! In addition to “hang in there”, I would say you two are doing a great job of “living in the moment”. Thinking of you both.

  4. anne paterson ⋅

    Happy birthday Mike. Cake from Nougats is always a great cake to have. I too wish you both a better day today. Thinking back over the year too, I know that the pain and symptoms for Kathleen started way before April. Tonight is our annual Zonta IWD event and she wasn’t well this time last year. We’ll all be thinking about her today and wishing she could be there with us. We know that she is in spirit. Give her a big gentle hug from me.

  5. Heidi ⋅

    Dear Kathleen and Mike,
    Our thoughts are with you. Sending positive energy your way….
    Heidi (and Mike and Frank, the dog)

  6. mybestfriendchasessquirrels ⋅

    Birthdays are great….even if they are celebrated in a place, one year ago, you would have never dreamed you would be. I am always seeking life advice and I especially like this lady’s advice as its so simple…..simple advice works best for us humans as we like to complicate things. My stepfather gives this advice….”one day at a time”. I think you & Kathleen have practiced this well….in fact you two are probably so expert that you have now succeeded at “one hour at a time”. I have seen Kathleen cry in one sentence & be joking the next sentence….making me laugh hard……I am seeing “one minute at a time” in action….when I see this. Get home soon or the very least, sneak Betty in to see Kathleen. I am sure she has been looking for her to warm her furry body against. I have explain “things” to Orville and the way he pays such close attention to my explanation has lead me to believe that he truly has mastered the english language.

  7. jacquie and mike ⋅

    happy belated birthday Mike, thinking of you both…
    love and hugs

  8. Nancy Croth ⋅

    Happy Birthday Mike!!! You obviously have great taste in women and in cakes!!! Hugs to you both!

  9. Teresa MacDonald ⋅

    Happy Birthday Mike, sorry the venue is not where you would want to be but you are with the people that mean the most to you and that is just as important.
    “Hang in there” is probably the best advice.
    I am sending hugs and prayers to all.

  10. Jill ⋅

    Dear Kathleen, Mike, Elaine, Jan and Lisa,
    Making the most of every moment and celebrating the special people in your lives is exactly what can be seen through all of your blog posting and photos. I am so glad that you were all able to be together to celebrate Mike’s birthday and be together with and for each other. Mike you so deserve to be celebrated for the wonderful person you truly are. And dear Kathleen, I wish I could reach through my computer screen and give you a big and gentle hug. Love and hugs to you all.


  11. Lisa ⋅

    Happy Birthday Mike! Wishes all your dreams to come true. Kath, I hope you are having a better day. Talked your mom last night and keeping me posted. Love you all xoxoxoxo

  12. Colleen and Terry ⋅

    Happy Birthday Mike! How could it not be with all those ‘beauties’ around you! It’s good to know Kath, your pain is managed better now. To reiterate, you guys are the heroes of ‘hanging in there’! As ever, Huge hugs!

  13. Norine ⋅

    Happy Birthday Mike! The photographs said it all. A celebration with family and friends. Lovely. I am glad to hear that the pain management is better now. Big hugs to you both.

  14. Bonnie Sowiluk ⋅

    Happy belated birthday Mike. Dates are not my strong point, somedays I find wearing a name badge very helpful. Cake makes things better…….. big hugs to all. Now I want cake. 🙂

  15. Fran Fisher ⋅

    Happy Birthday Mike. Hugs to you. Xxxxoooo

  16. Hi Mike,
    It may not be profound, but something I’ve learned while trying to cope with cancer is that the real part of me is fine, it is just my body that is unwell. I appreciate the beauty of this part of me being recognised through all the grot. The essence of the woman you obviously care so deeply about is fine. Talk to that part of her and see your fear of losing her and the sadness of watching her suffer but don’t get caught up in it. It wastes precious time.

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