Sunday, October 28, 2012

Things are things...

Last week has been one for the record books.  I started Monday trying to get caught up from last week with charting and paperwork and work stuff.  I made it to exercise class but because I am a snooty old bag, I didn't like the class and decided that I would find something else to do on Monday mornings.  Needless to say, nothing went as I thought it should.  Tuesday came along and I started to have these weird shooting pains in my head.  I knew I was on the verge of a headache...probably a migraine, and went along just hoping not to have a stroke.  I ended up in bed at 6 pm thinking I could sleep it off.  Well, that didn't work.  I had the same issue on Wednesday, Thursday and felt a little better on Friday.  Jim and I went to our friends 50th birthday party at a restaurant and  wouldn't you know it...into my second margarita...the headache was gone!

We had a great time and celebrated a milestone in a friends life that we have known for 25 years!!!  

But,  the marching band had a competition and I was committed to make soup for about 75 and it was to be ready on Saturday.  When Jim and I got home, we cut up ingredients and put the soups on.  We made chicken noodle and beef stew for the gang.  We set the alarm hourly to get out of bed and stir it...hoping it would be edible by morning.  The alarm went off for good at 6 am and we got up, he left to hook up the trailer and get it loaded for the trip.  I got the soup ready for traveling...still feeling pretty good and thankful for that.  I drove down to the high school where the kids were going to play and BOOM...I started to see white spots before my eyes.  I had to pull over because my vision was going fast...here comes that migraine I have been waiting for all week!  When Jim pulled in with the instruments, he took one look at me and knew I wasn't right.  I went to lie down in the front seat of his truck but it smelled weird and I had a nice gagging session and moved to sitting on the wall outside.  After about an hour, it all passed and I was as good as new.

It was a great morning, the kids put on a great show and we fed them like little kings and queens.  As lunch was winding down, I sat in a camp chair to eat my lunch, twisted my rings around so they were comfortable, looked down and was stunned.  My middle diamond on the anniversary ring that Jim bought me on our 10th anniversary was gone...a big hole in the setting with the two little diamonds still intact.  I was speechless, yes, me...speechless.  Jim looked over and asked me what was wrong and I couldn't speak.  

We looked and looked and looked... anyone who was in the area heard the story and they looked with us.  Finally, I felt guilty that these parents who had come to watch their kids were spending time looking and I told them that I am giving up.

The loss bothered me all day, but not in what I thought was an appropriate way.  I felt ashamed that I hadn't paid attention to my ring, that I didn't know the diamond was loose and that it could fall out...I wasn't being responsible.  I apologized to Jim for being so scattered to which he replied, "I knew that when I married you."  I told him again that I was serious...and he said one of the wisest things he has ever said to me..."Terry, it's just a thing...if it means that much to you, we can replace it."  

Today, my cell phone had a text on it from my patient's husband...it read..."Hi, Terry, she's having more pain today and we would love for you to come over and see us if you can."  I was on my way to the grocery store, exhausted from yesterday and kinda mad at myself still.  I texted back "On my way" and headed over.

This patient is one of the younger people that I am caring for and it is getting really close to the end.  She has been home from the hospital for almost a month... "borrowed time" we talk about since they never expected her to have this much and this kind of time.  

I knocked, walked in, washed my hands at the sink and sat at the chair next to the bed..."what's going on ?" I asked.  The patient explained in a slow and exhausted voice..."I have this pain in my back, kind of like a softball is wedged  in there and I can't move any way to make it stop."  We talked about when this started, the quality of the pain, what helps if anything (the "nurse" things)  and then came up with a plan.  I found myself asking the questions that, with this patient, I dreaded..."Have you seen and talked to everyone you wanted to?  Is there anything else you feel like you need to do before you go..and the last one, are you okay being sleepy?"  She answered them all without hesitation..."I'm done, I've done it all... and I'm kinda tired of being in limbo."  I looked across the room at her husband...noticed the tears in his eyes, and he gently shook his head to acknowledge that this how she feels.

We increased her medication for pain, I talked about all the things we can do to keep her comfortable and if she doesn't want to be sleepy, we can deal with that too.  They listened, reviewed the plan with the medications and it appeared to me, that they felt some control and comfort with the situation.  I asked her if there was anything else I could do or say to make things better...to which she replied "no."  Then she asked my why after all these weeks of being comfortable, she was having pain.  I replied as gently as I could that  it was probably the cancer, growing in areas that cause this kind of pain and she nodded that she was sure that was it.  

She wanted to know what it was like to die...when it gets closer to the end and what she will feel like...some of the best and worst conversations of  my life.  I told her that she would get sleepier...more tired.  I told her that she would probably begin to detach from the worries of this world and hopefully when the time comes, she will go to sleep.  Her husband and I told her that he will be okay...not okay really, but he will go on and get out of bed every day and do what he has to do.  I mentioned what a wonderful man she picked and how he is taking such great care of her these days...and we all started to cry. 

When my visit was almost over, I asked if I could come tomorrow to see her and she agreed.  As I started to leave, I had this intense feeling of wanting to pick her up and hold her...rock her...but instead, I asked her if I could give her a kiss on the forehead...to which she said "sure" and  I walked out. 

As I was walking to my car, I thought about the weekend and how sad I was about losing a diamond, a thing...a replaceable thing for a ring on my finger...then I thought about this husband and how he was going to be sad about losing his wife...the love of his life.  

I may be able to buy another diamond (after we pay for college) but I will never have that night at the restaurant with our dear friends, the late night cutting up onions, laughing with my husband about how old we are getting while cooking for the band kids or watching them perform the show twice. I am also sure that I will never be able to sit with this courageous couple in the darkest moments of their life together, and have the honor of offering love, solace and control when they need it the most.

A diamond is a thing, albeit a pretty thing...but the rest of the weekend is what my life is about and if I look at it that way...it keeps everything else in perspective.

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,


Ms. Moon said...

And did you think about how I lost the diamond out of my engagement ring on the night we all went to see Bruce Springsteen?
Oh, Terry. Sometimes I miss you so much that my heart just aches.
You are SUCH a good woman.
And I love you.

Elizabeth said...

Your post made me cry. Thank you for your generosity -- I actually thought of you today at our end epilepsy walk as the UCLA marching band (or alumni band) was there!