As many of you already know, Joe has taken a turn for the worse, and unfortunately it looks like there is no turning back this time.
This past week Joe has been in a lot of pain. When he went in for his infusion on Wednesday, his white blood cell count was high, his heart rate was high and he had a low grade fever. All signs of infection. The doctor loaded him up with antibiotics but told him to go straight to the ER if he started to feel worse. By the time Friday morning rolled around, he was definitely feeling worse, so off to the ER we went. On our way to there we both thought that this was the quickest way to get the GOOD painkillers, and get some of the pressure taken off of his stomach by way of another paracentisis. We THOUGHT this would be a fairly quick (at least by ER standards) trip to the emergency room. We never would have thought that once Joe was admitted, he likely won't get the chance to leave.
The first half of the day in the ER on Friday went by pretty quietly. In the afternoon, they did a paracentisis. During the paracentisis, air/gas started coming through the tube. Apparently, this was a red flag for the doctor and a CT scan was done to get a better idea of what was going on. On the CT Scan they detected a perforated bowel, and a surgeon was immediately called in.
We had met with this surgeon once before after Joe's initial diagnosis, and new that he was a very straightforward sort of guy. In no uncertain terms, he told us that this was not an ideal situation, and that there was a chance that once they got Joe opened up, the cancer would be too invasive and they wouldn't be able to do anything. If that was the case, there were no other options, and the perforated bowel would make Joe septic. Lastly, the surgeon said that the surgery would take 3-4 hours.
This was all happening so fast. Just two weeks ago, we were boating Up North, enjoying the Cherry Festival, and Joe had gone fishing and ACTUALLY caught a fish (this was a big event because he does a lot of fishing but not a lot of catching!). I couldn't (and really still can't) wrap my head around how he could be feeling so good just two weeks ago, and now be feeling so bad and needing emergency surgery.
Joe was taken back for surgery around 7. It had already been a long day, and I knew that the night was far from over. My emotions were all over the place. Joe's sister, Elayne, and I were a mess of nerves as we waited for the doctor to come get us. We knew that the longer it took, the better, because that would mean that they were actually able to perform the surgery. Close to 8, the waiting room attendant came over to tell us that the surgery was over and the doctor would be right out to talk to us. My heart dropped as I looked at the clock and saw that it had only been an hour since they started. That could only mean one thing.
Once the doctor finally came out to talk to us, he told us what we had already figured out. The cancer was everywhere, and if they had done the surgery, he would have died on the table. The only option now was hospice care. I can't even describe my emotions at this point..fear, sadness, anger, confusion. You name it, I am sure I was/am feeling it. The most overwhelming feeling was dread. I dreaded telling Joe. Could there be anything worse?
Once we were finally able to go back and see him, the nurse told us that the surgeon gave Joe the news that they weren't able to do anything. Seeing him the first time was horrible, beyond horrible really. I couldn't describe my emotions when I was told that he had to have emergency surgery in less than ideal circumstances, and I REALLY can't describe how it feels to know that they couldn't do the surgery and there are no more options for him.
Fast forward 24 hours, and I sit here tonight in hospice care and watch Joe relax peacefully. They are keeping him out of pain and taking great care of him. We don't know if it will days or maybe weeks before he passes, but are comforted in the fact the he is not in pain. He has been in great spirits today and enjoyed lots of visits from friends and family.
As a parent, I don't think there could be anything harder than having to explain that daddy isn't coming home from the hospital. All I can say is that it was gut wrenching horrible, but Joe and I sat with them and got through it together. I am sure there will be dozens or even hundreds of equally painful conversations in the days, weeks, months and years to come but at least I got to do this one with Joe and he could tell them each how much he loves them.
Lastly, I want to say how proud of Joe I am. He has fought so hard these last 4 months and endured more pain than most of us will ever have to face. On the days that I stress, he calmly tells me to relax and that it is out of our control. He truly believes this and it has brought him so much comfort. Late last night/early this morning he told me that he wasn't scared of dying. He is so brave and so strong and I am so lucky.
Some pics from our weekend Up North just two weeks ago....