Not an Earthquake After All, Just a Nightmare: A Cancer Journey

Not an Earthquake After All
This is Part II of my story. To read Part I, click here.

Lou, my husband, not only had an inoperable tumor on his lung, he also had a brain tumor that had metastasized to the cerebellum.  It was all through his blood stream and would continue to settle where it wished.

“How long do I have?”  Lou asked.  “8 to 12 weeks” she said gently.  2 to 3 months??  This could not be real.  We walked to the car, and I said, “We take longer than that to plan our trips to Michigan every year!”

Lou said, “Babe, if she would have said we had longer, I was going to tell you to book us for a trip to New Zealand and Australia immediately,”  (Lou didn’t like to fly any more,  but knew these were my dream trips). “The problem is, I am getting weaker by the day and would be afraid to be so far from home, not knowing what is next.”

It was nice to hear, but it was also a dream down the drain. A dream that suddenly meant less than nothing in light of what we were experiencing.

Before we knew it, we were spending the next few weeks riding to full-brain radiation treatments and, compliments of my compassionate boss, escorted in the mortuary limousine to Ontario every afternoon.  The radiation didn’t hurt beyond a bad sunburn effect, but wore Lou out even more.

I was emotionally drained, but was still trying to put in several hours of work each day once April, our daughter got there to relieve me at home.  She became my rock.  We both were Lou’s. Lou could no longer be left alone.  The anxiety levels were huge and only diminished when I was in his eyesight.  We struggled like this for about a month when I finally just went on family leave.  April continued to be there a part of every day.

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/ragsac

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/ragsac

The more I learned about Lou’s cancer the more discouraged I became, so I purposely stuck my head in the sand as much as possible.  After all, it was my job to keep all of our spirits up. I started looking for our miracle.

I spent evenings and late nights researching and buying everything that sounded like it could help or heal Lou. We would beat this thing by doing every healthy thing that made sense and praying hard for God to make it work.  We would start right after radiation.

When radiation was complete, the doctor said Lou needed to start chemotherapy of the chest the following day.  “What will that buy me in time?” he asked.  “No more than 2-3 months,” she said.  “Not a good trade, is it?” said Lou.  “We won’t be doing that.”

“Then I will start you on Hospice tomorrow,” she said.

Hospice.  I knew what that meant: this was it.  I began to realize every time my head was resting on Lou’s shoulder it was a time bomb and it was probably going to go off sooner than later. We had so much to talk about, yet Lou was getting less and less verbal.  He was internalizing a lot of what he was thinking and feeling and the increased medications were making him less sharp.

This was becoming a nightmare of epic proportions.

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Nico_Campo

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Nico_Campo

Lou sat down with me when we got home. “There will be no protocols to follow, no zapper, no cleanses.  If you want to juice or have me do other natural things to keep up my strength as long as possible, I will drink whatever you put in a glass.  But send the rest back if they will take it.  Otherwise, dump it.”  With tears welling up I said, “Why won’t you let me try?” He said, “If I die anyway, you will always blame yourself. This way, I am just in God’s Hands, not yours.”

Always, to the end, thinking of me first, looking ahead 8 moves and moving the pieces in his mind and foreseeing the outcome. I had always trusted Lou to study the moves of our life and give me his logic. Now, in spite of all I wished for and had bought to help him, his answer was “no.”  And once again, though this time it broke my heart, I trusted him.

Have you been in a similar situation?

Did you insist on trying what you thought would help, or did you let your loved one decide?

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Have you been faced with the news your loved one is now on hospice?

Did it make you feel like giving up?

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Do you know someone who is walking this walk right now?

How can you show extra support during this holiday season?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Molly grew up in and around funeral homes her entire life. In 2009 she began working for O'Connor Mortuary and found a bridge between her passion for writing and her interest in grief and bereavement. In 2016 she earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. She is honored to be able to write about these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective.

39 Comments

  1. Christopher Iverson says:

    In God’s hands…Lou’s genius! I love that he took care of both you and April even unto death. Your grace to Lou was trusting him and his decision. I love seeing you smile and I know Lou played the greatest role in keeping your smile alive.

    • Anne says:

      Chris
      He sure did. Still does. His greatest desire at the end is that I would once again find my happy place in life. Maybe I need to go hang out at Disneyland or something.

  2. Jenn says:

    Anne, again your words draw such a clear picture of pain, love and an amazing insight for those who may be experiencing the same pain. I feel so in the moment when I read it and heartbroken at your loss and in awe of the love you two shared. I thank you again for opening up and sharing your story.

    • Anne says:

      Jenn
      I am thankful for all of our good years. The last one sucked but we had to get through that too. Lou’s desire was that I would be happy again. I am naturally a positive person, so I am waiting for that to kick in.

  3. Neil says:

    Hi Anne –
    I have not walked the path you and Lou have gone down. I am grateful that you have allowed us to be in you life during the good times and the bad times. I cannot even imagine the pain you have experienced during this last year. I have been with friends and family during illness and death, this has been my life.

    • Anne says:

      Yes, Neil,
      Being at the Remembrance Service with everyone and sharing with all the families helps me know I am not alone. It just feels like it at times. I am sure every one of them can relate to that feeling.
      love
      Annie

  4. Michael Thomas says:

    Hi there Annie
    Thank you once again for letting us dive in. I know this holiday season is going to be tough without your prince, but this O’connor family is ready to fight some dragons for you too Merry Christmas Annie

    Love, Mike

    • Anne says:

      Thanks, my friend. I wish you could go into the afterlife and just get him back, mr dragon slayer.
      Love,
      Annie

  5. Greg Forster says:

    Anne,

    Your words are powerful, visual, compelling. I can see you being with Lou. I can see you two walking back to your car the first time enclosed in a bubble of shock. I can feel the quiet of your house. Holding back with all your strength but wishing to explode and be given the permission to do so…but then again…ever so rational…never daring to do so for fear of what painful additional memories that this might have caused.

    While you were still able to attend to your duties at work, I saw a lady, yes, affected, but also demonstrating quiet, intelligent grace and the determination to move forward to face a future that was neither wanted nor deserved, but expected, and way, way too soon….but it was there…it was not your call to change it…but it was your call, the two of you, together, to face it…and face it you did…totally head on with not a sideways glance.

    All of us here at O’Connor desperately wished that we could have given you more than our warm hugs…for you gave us something more….a window into a life full of value, determination and Love.

    Thank you for that,

    Greg

    • Anne says:

      Greg,
      Well, you made me cry. I guess because you really did nail it on the head what you felt you were “seeing”. We did what we had to do, but God, I miss him. I tell God and Lou that every day. I thought it would be easier by now, but it sure isn’t this month.
      Love,
      Anne

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