Friday, January 13, 2017

This Day

This day is just this day. It holds no promise beyond it's existence. I grapple with the pain of loss, hooks at the heart, profound depths. I don't want this. I did not ask for this. I did not deserve this. Yet here I am, bedraggled seaweed drying on the rocks at the edge of an infinite ocean.

Where are you my love? You're supposed to be here. Why aren't you here?

For some reason a year later I am reliving time, remembering what I couldn't. I'm grieving. I am a widow.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer there are doctors. Our family doctor, Sylvie delBianco from Wakefield went beyond the call of duty. She took care of us. She took care of us with such compassion and strength and soul that you cannot imagine the depths of her commitment to her patients; to her profession.

Early on in a cancer diagnosis there is not a hope in hell you're going to accept it. It is just… unacceptable. This is not real. This is not happening. They've made a mistake. They don't know what they're doing. We need more tests, different doctors, different hospitals. We need this not to be true. George was healthy for godssakes! He biked to work and back, a tidy distance every weekday. He had a stress test just in August and they said he was an athlete. He was strong. Healthy.

We saw a lot of doctors in the beginning. Their job it seemed in retrospect was to tell us there was no hope. It takes a certain courage I suppose to look another human being in the eye and say it was only a matter of months. Or weeks. For them to die. But looking them in the eye was sometimes not how it happened. Instead the doctor would stare at the computer screen and talk to it instead; as if George was only incidental. One doctor began explaining the statistics for bile duct cancer. No one had seen it here in the region in at least the last 30 years. There was another woman in Ottawa coincidentally who had been caught earlier and was undergoing surgery, he explained. He then went on to explain the nature of the tumour in convoluted language. George, whom I have loved 23 years, has never been angry. He is not an angry man. But he got angry that day. That day he said, "I am not a tumour sitting in this chair. I am a human being." This actually quite upset the doctor and so I know he learned something that day. George always had a way to teach people things. He could cut to the core with infinite precision.

Still despite it all. Despite it all, we had hope. We insisted on scan results being sent to Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, even Europe. But they all said the same thing. At the cancer hospital, his doctor recommended chemotherapy. Palliative chemotherapy. When we went in to discuss this with the chemo doctor she came quietly into the room, pulled a chair up to George until they were almost touching knees and explained things to him honestly but compassionately. If it was her, or her father, she said, she would not do it. He would be sick most of the time. He would have to come to the hospital 3 times a week. It would not save him and prolong his life only a few months.

George was growing extremely weak. He needed a wheelchair now to traverse the corridors of all these places. I would kiss his bald spot and say "onwards" and we would arrive at yet another room for yet another doctor. He was getting weaker, thinner, sicker by the hour it seemed to me. I could not look some days. George eventually said he did not want to go to another doctor to hear yet another horrible thing. And so he came home to die. It was February.

I learned later that the woman in Ottawa also with bile duct cancer had the "whipple" procedure done. It is a massive operation removing all the bits that can possibly be removed with a dismal success rate. The cancer recurred in her. I do not know if she is still with us. I am sometimes grateful it was never an option for George. The price of hope is sometimes horrifying.

Where are you my love?

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