Our Great Cancer Adventure is nearly over. We don’t have much farther to go together, hand-in-hand. We stopped skipping hand-in-hand a while back, and settled on a brisk but cheery walk. A few weeks ago, we had to slow down the pace again to a nice saunter. The last couple of weeks, we’ve been barely shuffling along. Now, I stumble awkwardly forward, proud but tired, carrying her on my back. And family and friends pick me up each time I fall to my knees. But we are still together, still smile, still joke and we still hold hands. Just not for much longer now.
Maggie still wants to be chatty but something unknown has stolen her angelic voice. She can offer nothing but faint whispers which causes her (and me) great frustration. She still has so much to say. Each word steals a little breath from her, too, of which she has so little to spare. But, despite the struggles, she certainly hasn’t lost her sense of humor. She’ll trade a little breath for a laugh.
I called Hospice yesterday because Maggie was having a lot of breathing-related anxiety. Rather, NOT-BREATHING-related anxiety. They sent over a nice lady who explained to me, yet again, that I should Maggie morphine every hour if needed. No need to tell me twice (just four or five times.) Since then, nearly every hour, morphine cocktails. And it’s helped tremendously. She also told me, like others who have come before her, that her lorazepam needs to be on a fixed schedule. So, now she gets it every four hours, day and night. Together, the morphine and lorazepam are helping keep Maggie from having anxiety by both slowing her breathing and calming her mind. It’s working. A calm, drugged Maggie is much, much better than a scared Maggie. Just typing that makes me cry.
The drugs heavily sedating Maggie which is tough to see. Her eyes roll and her eye lids droop. She fades off in mid-sentence or, less conveniently, in the middle of taking one of her pills with the pill still stuck on her tongue. I have to help her keep her focus if I need it. The drugs are also causing her to be delirious. We had a variety of go-nowhere conversations last night that had multiple unexpected twists. It’s hard to see that happen. The first time it was disturbing. She was coughing and somehow was trying to explain how she needed to get the stuff in her lungs out for her mom and into HEB or Randall’s. Since, we’ve talked briefly about having a motorcycle side car, rock salt, more caffeine, and other topics. The conversations make me sad. I struggle with my own internal, crazy dialog: “Stop giving her the drugs so you can have your old Maggie back.” Geesh.
Maggie’s knee caps are cold, ice cold. And her feet, too. The Hospice nurse told me yesterday that when the body starts to shut down, it starts with the knee caps. Apparently, the brain doesn’t see them as vital parts. It’s a sign, she said in a hushed but urgent voice, that we need to make sure all that is unsaid between us is said. I smiled through my rolling tears and told her that Maggie and I have nothing to say because it has all already been said… daily… since we met. As I said this to the nurse, a sudden feeling of warmth and tranquility washed over me. I realized that no matter when It happened, it didn’t really matter. It didn’t even really matter if I was there when It happened. There is no doubt in my mind that Maggie knows exactly how I feel. And I know how she feels, too.
Mary, Nickie and Lori all spent the night here last night scattered around the house. They have been and are being very helpful.
I know many, many people would like to come visit with Maggie. I do not want to keep you from coming but, if you do, please, please keep your visit very short (5 minutes or so). Maggie is having a tough time and needs lots of rest. What she does not need is another room full of people right now. It’s just too much for her. Thank you for understand.