Last night was tough. About 3:30am, Susan started complaining that her catheter wasn’t working right. This has happened before, so I called the hospice people, who walked me through the process of irrigating a catheter.
So. Now I know how to irrigate a catheter. Which I can add to my recently-acquired skills of:
- Changing sheets while Susan’s still on the bed.
- Knowing the exactly right angle to tilt a cup so that Susan gets a drink, without getting drenched
- Being able to figure out what she wants or needs when she can’t find the right words
- Knowing which meds to give her, and when
- Administering those meds via syringe, quickly and without fuss
- Brushing her teeth softly enough that it doesn’t jostle her head side to side, but vigorously enough that she feels like her teeth are clean
- Waking quickly and being able to clear out mental cobwebs instantly
The thing I’m really proud of, though, is that Susan needs and calls for me several times per day. Not because she wants me to do anything for her, but just because she’s anxious or afraid or confused or lost, and she thinks I’ll be able to help. Really, when she’s like this it’s almost exactly like being trapped in a bad dream for her. Sometimes it’s a full-blown nightmare, and then I give her a shot of Valium.
Often, though, she’s just confused: “Where are we? Can we please go home?” And I’m able to tell her that we are home, and I’m with her and everything’s OK.
And when it works — she calms down and maybe even drifts off to sleep — it is wonderful. I’ve just done the best thing I could be doing right at that moment: I’ve saved my wife, at least for the moment.
I hate everything about cancer and what it’s doing to Susan, but: I am incredibly proud of the things I’ve learned so I can take care of her.
Speaking of Proud
I’m also incredibly proud of my two sons — ages 15 and 13. They come into Susan’s room several times per day and sit down with her, putting their hands on her arm and talking to her for a few minutes. When she tries to talk back, they do their best to understand. When they can’t make it out, they’ve learned to read her face and respond the best they can: “Don’t worry, everything’s taken care of,” or “That sounds good.”
And they tell her they love her every day.
Does that sound like teenage boys to you?
PS: I have received hundreds of comments and email messages, all of them incredibly kind and generous. Thank you.
I realize that many, many of you are new to the site, thanks to tweets from Doug Ulman (LiveStrong CEO), Lance Armstrong and a post from Bike Snob NYC. You may be interested in what happens to a blog’s traffic when linked to by a perfect storm of cycling and cancer-hating heavyweights. Well, it looks like this:
PPS: A lot of you have also asked how you can help. Well, if you mean it, here’s how: Fight cancer. Those of you who who have been tracking this blog know that I am pretty intense in my support of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, because I know firsthand of the good they do and the calibre of people they are. So, if you want to help, join me. Donate here. You’ll be helping people who already have cancer, and you’ll be helping find ways to treat cancer. And that matters to me. Thanks.