For the past two weeks, I’ve been off work. This is made possible by a really wonderful program Jamie Lewis, CEO of where I work — Burton Group — put into place: employees have the ability to donate their vacation days to another employee. When I put out a request for donations to the company, my fellow employees responded with more days off than I could have ever expected.
Knowing that I have several weeks of time at my disposal has removed a huge mental burden.
I tell you what: Susan’s ordeal with cancer has taught me that given the opportunity, people love to do something good for other people.
And hey, if your organization in the market for in-depth, IT research and advisory services to executives and technologists, now you know that in addition to being stuffed to the gills with tech geniuses (me excluded), Burton Group is also a company with its heart in exactly the right spot. And that counts for a lot, I think.
Anyway, after Susan’s collarbone broke, I decided I needed to take three weeks off work, just to spend time with Susan. Mostly, this was because I was panicked that this was the start of a cascade of new problems, and that I needed to take care of her and be with her before the inevitable ramping up of pain medications made it hard for her to focus on the present.
It’s been a terrific two weeks. We haven’t done anything major: just hang out, talk, watch MythBusters (our whole family’s favorite show), and take afternoon naps.
Yesterday, though, things go rotten.
Over the past couple weeks I’ve been perfecting a technique of moving Susan into a sitting position without exerting any strain on her arms at all. I do this by putting one hand under her back, another cradled under her knees, and then swiveling and lifting her in one smooth motion. As I did it yesterday, I actually felt a little rush of pride because I had handled it very fluidly; I assumed it would have made the painful transfer as comfortable as possible.
Instead, Susan started gasping and squeezed her eyes shut. She couldn’t breathe and felt like her ribs were being squeezed.
I got her oxygen machine back on and to her to let her recover before I moved her to the wheelchair. But she wasn’t recovering. She still hurt, bad.
We had to decide: was it better to just lay back down in bed, or finish the transfers out to the family room so she could be with the family? We agreed it would be better to go to bed, but that’s not what she wanted to do.
So I moved her, and she tried to act like it wasn’t that bad. But we both knew it was.
All yesterday, then, I loaded Susan up with morphine from an eyedropper. Even at four times the amount I usually give her, it wasn’t making a dent in her pain. It was, however, making her nauseous, probably because she simply could not eat.
So I sat with her and tried to distract her by reading aloud The Graveyard Book, a Neil Gaiman novel we both started a while back as an audio book, but never finished because we got too busy.
It is so frustrating / enraging to watch your wife suffer and be at a loss as to any way to help.
We always knew things would get worse. We thought that the time of relative ease and stability (I sometimes think of what an odd yardstick we’ve developed for “ease” and “stability”) would make us readier for the bad times.
But they don’t. I don’t think anything really gets you ready. I don’t think that if there were something that got you ready for this that I’d want any part of it.
Help Me Fight
People are of course always asking how they can help, and to tell the truth I often have no idea what kind of help I need. But here’s something some of you may be able to do, if you want.
As you know, one of the ways I’m coping with all this is by trying to convert it into something good: raising money to fight cancer. I’ve got ideas and plans for some really great new giveaways, but a lot of them involve travel, and that’s one nut I have not been able to crack.
So. If you have a lot of frequent flier points, or are sitting on a free flight coupon or otherwise have ways of making it possible to give someone else a round trip ticket, and you’re willing to use your power of flight for good, email me.
I’ll have more updates soon. Meanwhile, thanks for your support. I owe all of you a lot.