Today is Valentine’s Day.
Frankly, it’s not a holiday I’ve especially observed – at least not since I was giving out a valentine to each of my grammar school classmates.
But this year, it’s taking on a special meaning.
While I have alluded to it a few times, I haven’t posted much about what my husband and I have been going through the last few months.
Mostly it’s what Jim has been going through, which is dying of cancer.
In early December, he began home hospice care.
When pressed, our oncologist told us that, based on her observation and experience, Jim had a month or two to live.
A few weeks later, she backed off that estimate a bit, telling us it that cancer is such a crap shoot that you never know.
So I was hoping that we would get the full “hospice six” – people go into hospice care when they’re likely to live no more than six months – and that, now that he was off chemo and radiation, Jim would feel reasonably good. We hoped that the recovery from the effects of chemo and radiation would be fast, and the growth of his cancer would be slow.
We knew that one was racing against the other, and we knew that the cancer would win.
Still, we hoped: for a few more months, for one more trip.
Things chugged along during December.
Jim felt pretty good, we got out and about on occasion – not very far, but a nice lunch out is a nice lunch out. It didn’t look that far-fetched that we’d get to sneak in a trip to New York City.
Then, right after Christmas, Jim had to have an infected wisdom tooth removed.
As if things weren’t crappy enough!
So we thought, maybe not a week in NYC, but a couple of nights in Cambridge.
Then he developed a lung infection.
Which he recovered from quite nicely, thank you.
But then, it seemed, every day, he was getting a bit weaker, eating a bit less, sleeping a bit more.
And now we’re nearing the end.
Solid food stopped being of interest a couple of weeks ago, and since then it’s been Ensure, yogurt, apple sauce and ginger ale.
In the last couple of days, it’s been apple sauce, ginger ale, and popsicles – this was a suggestion in the end-of-life booklet our hospice nurse gave us the other day.
Jim’s going through about five popsicles a day, so he hasn’t completely shut down. But each day, he’s weaker than he was the day before. The other day, he told me that he won’t be going downstairs again.
When he’s not sleeping, he’s using what energy he has to remind of things – send in his 2013 IRA contribution so I can get the deduction; remember that this one credit union account limits the number of checks you can write on it each month; make sure the back hall heater is turned on if the temperature plummets to single digits.
The other day, he spent a while doing some preliminary planning for a trip he wants me to make to Ireland with our nieces.
He plans, I cry. (In the shower, when I head out to run an errand, when I talk to anyone on the phone, when I watch him sleep….Sometimes in front of Jim. He keeps telling me that the only bad thing about dying is knowing how sad I’ll be.
I tell people that he’s ready, and I’m as ready as I’m every going to be. (Which I don’t imagine will turn out to be all that ready.)
I’m writing this on Saturday, February 8th, looking up every couple of minutes to watch my husband sleeping.
The Olympics are on in the background. Ice dancing.
Every once in a while, I check to make sure he’s still breathing.
He has been through so much…
But, but, but….
It’s not like it’s all doom, gloom, and last-minute-details (although Jim has always been a detail man).
Throughout what has been a long and challenging illness, Jim has pretty much remained himself. He’s funny, he’s curious, he’s irreverent, he’s straightforward (is blunt a truer word?), he’s curmudgeonly. We’re still laughing about things – just now chuckling about the China Bowl restaurant. (Inside joke.)
Both Jim and I are fans of what is now called The Great American Songbook, and one of our favorites has always been My Funny Valentine.
Seems like the right day for it…
My funny valentine,
Sweet comic valentine,
You make me smile with my heart.
Your looks are laughable,
Yet you’re my favorite work of art
Is your figure less than Greek?
Is your mouth a little weak?
When you open it to speak,
Are you smart?
But don’t change a hair for me,
Not if you care for me.
Stay, little valentine, stay.
Each day is valentines day.
Happy Valentine’s Day, hon.