By now, my previous writing gives a clear indication of the complexities of a nasty cancer, and speaks to the ebb and flows of emotions. At times I felt like I was caught in a tug of war between two different worlds–the world of pain and suffering, and the world of “Love.” While cancer was capable of ripping my heart out, my words remained the same–“I love you more.”
Dr. Moore Sr. explained to me that with Annie’s heavy tumor burden, broken bones, and lesions from multiple myeloma, she was going to be in considerable pain; and all the pain medication she was on was how multiple myeloma patients in Annie’s condition were treated.
He made it very clear to me that Annie had a very aggressive cancer, but hopefully over time the upcoming radiation treatments and the new chemotherapy would start destroying the tumors and relieve some of the pain. I think his thoughts were that if he could keep her around for a while, and get her on Revlimid, we still had a fighting chance for some sort of remission. Her treatments and pain control were going to be very aggressive, but they had to be.
I knew that over time her pain medication would build up in her body tissue with the potential consequences of a fatal overdose. For me it was a real balancing act, as excessive amounts of narcotics often lead to labored breathing and sometimes completely shut the body down.
Once again as her caregiver and husband, when asking for more pain medication, I had to be fully committed to her care. Pain control was paramount to my humanity, and this new level of care I was going to provide for Annie was all about love. When you really love someone it’s amazing what you can do when the chips are down. Annie was on all sorts of medications, with many different side effects, but I knew that if I paid attention I would detect any impending emergency and deal with it.
At the moment, everything surrounding her cancer always seemed to be difficult or offered many challenges. I was starting to get angry at how inhumane this disease really is, but I was not going to give into it. I was going to get stronger, more knowledgeable, and help her fight this wretched disease on a more level playing field.
Each day, Annie received her last doses of medicine at 12:30 A.M. She would have her generic medications, a Xanax, a sleeping pill, and her morphine. Sometimes in the night she might need an extra morphine, which meant I definitely couldn’t lie down as I had to be aware of her breathing at all times. I didn’t mind, as Annie wanted to live, and as long as she was willing to fight, so was I.
Once she had her nighttime medications, I knew if she was going to have problems, it would be during the first couple of hours. I would usually sanitize the kitchen during the wait as I had a good visual of her from there. On the nights I felt she was safe, I’d lay on the sofa and rest, which was usually around 2:30 A.M. On the nights that her breathing became labored, I would sit in the wheelchair beside her bed and stimulate her by talking to her and rubbing her head and neck. What that basically did was annoy her. Sometimes her pretty little eyes would come open, she’d look at me, and I knew what was coming. In her weak little voice she’d say, “Would you leave me alone? I’m trying to sleep.” Further, “Now look what you’ve done, you’ve woke me, and I won’t be able to go back to sleep.” Her predictable words always made me smile, knowing my mission was accomplished. We now had normal air movement again. Sometimes, I would do that on and off all night. That was such an important part of caring for her. If her labored breathing became too low over a period of time, her vital organs could become oxygen deprived and start shutting down, or her breathing would simply get too low, and eventually stop. With that much morphine, anything was possible. It was very worrisome for me at times, but the reward of getting to spend another day with her made it all worthwhile.
With our new and unique sleeping arrangement, when I laid down to rest at night, the last thing I saw before I fell asleep was Annie’s face as she slept silently on her hospital bed. On many occasions when I woke up in the morning I would just lay on the couch staring at her and loving her. Eventually she would awaken, look in my direction, and as her eyes came into focus with mine she’d give me a beautiful smile and say, “Hi babes.”
I always smiled back saying, “Hi sweetie.”
That greeting was replicated many times throughout our journey and created moments of tender love that made me wonder what I could do for her today to make her day just a little bit better.
Her cancer was bringing us together in a way that quite simply created a very new and spontaneous love. At this point we’d been married 37 years, and were now experiencing a love affair that would change our lives, creating a new meaning in our lives for the word “Love.” We always loved each other, but my feelings were that we were now on the verge of capturing something new, exciting, and very rare in the world of mortality: “The Perfect Love.”
Note: Annie was on 200 milligrams of morphine a day, but was still experiencing a considerable amount of pain. My orders were to stay ahead of the pain, which was becoming impossible. I called Dr. Moore Sr. and he prescribed a Fentanyl patch to help cover the breakthrough pain–which is pain that comes on despite aggressive pain control. This was very aggressive pain control, but we were fighting battles on many fronts. The aggressive cancer with numerous bone breakages, and pain were the most difficult.