Where The Popsicles Are-49

She can pee standing up.

We were set up at the Radisson, and the anxiety level was fairly high, at least mine was. Joanie slept most of the time, not saying much. The TV was on, but neither one of us was paying much attention to it.

Around seven, I told her we should get her something to eat. I had already fetched 7-UP and ice. We looked at the room service menu, and she decided on trying some pasta dish.

I called it in, and when it came, she looked at it, poked at it, took a few small bites and pushed it away. I asked here what was wrong, and she said there was something about it she didn’t like. It may have been the smell of the food, or it may have been her fear of throwing up. I tried to encourage her to try a little more, but to no avail.

We made it through our first work with the Miami Pouch. Emptying the pouch went okay, and I began to see how we were going to handle this in a non hospital setting. We probably did it a couple of times when we didn’t have to, but I think both of us were so anxious to be sure we did it right, and did it when it was needed. As time went by, we learned.

We didn’t have to do anything with the ileostomy, since there wasn’t any output to deal with. She hadn’t eaten anything to speak of, and I don’t think she was going to until we were safely back home. I think that was in the back of her mind when she pushed the pasta away. If she didn’t eat anything, she wouldn’t have to fool with the ileostomy until she got home.

Sunday morning came, and I helped her with her shower, and while she was brushing her teeth, she threw up. It was a moment of slight panic for me, since I knew we were still dealing with two infections, but then I also thought it was just a gag reflex, something that had happened a time or two in the hospital.

She was really tired, and looked it. She was pale and her hair was long and dull, but there was a look on her face of determination. Nothing was going to stop her from going home.

While she rested, I got a cart and loaded up everything except the medical supplies and drugs we would need when we got home. I took it down and packed every available space in our little Volkswagen so it would be ready for Joe when he came to pick it up and drive it home for us.

Around 11:30 or so, Ed Stringer, Ginny’s husband came to pick us up and give us a ride to the airport. I think he was shocked when he saw her that morning. Not much was said on the ride to the airport. Joanie, the one who ordinarily would be talking a lot said little, and so Ed and I chatted during the ride to the terminal. When we got there, I went and found a wheel chair for her. As tired as she was, walking through the terminal was out of the question. We said good bye to Ed, and went to get our tickets.

When we got to the boarding area, we saw Jane from 3M. I never got her last name, but she had been to the hospital with Nancy Schafer to see Joanie just the past Wednesday. Jane’s husband was an airline pilot, and so Jane went and had her tickets which were bulkhead seats, the ones with extra leg room, switched with ours, to make the flight a little more comfortable for Joanie.

Even with Jane’s consideration, and the better seats, Joanie was still miserable, and her focus was on just getting home.

We were some of the first off the plane in Bismarck, and as we were walking up the ramp  passed passengers waiting to leave, we saw a few people we knew, and I could tell by their expressions they were stunned when they got a look at Joanie. I know that because I talked with a couple of them later. The word has spread that she looked like she was going to die. That wasn’t the last time that a rumor like that spread about her, and my job was to debunk them every time.

Her sister Ann and her husband Jack were waiting for us, and when we got outside the terminal into their SUV, I began to see a change. The tension began to fade, and after we got her home, on her couch with Muffin on her lap and Peaches nearby, it was all but gone. She was relaxed, and her voice was stronger, and I breathed a sigh of relief. We had left Bismarck and the kitties on February 9th, and today was March 8th. It had been a long, hard time.

While her and Ann were talking, and Ann was asking her about everything, Joanie was trying to explain what she knew, and was doing a fairly good job, focusing on the prospect that the ileostomy was going to be temporary.

There was one point where the Kallberg family sense of humor saw an opening, and I couldn’t help myself. I interrupted Joanie and told Ann, “Think of it this way, she’s the only woman I know who can pee standing up without getting anything on her shoes.”

They both laughed, and I was pleased.

While they talked, I went out back for a smoke. We were home and it was good.


About Bob Kallberg

Retired reporter. Concentrating now on recounting Joanie's 12 year battle with cancer, a battle she waged with extreme courage, determination and an indomitable spirit, that, for me, serves as an example.
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