This wasn’t supposed to happen.
The radiation, surgeries and chemotherapy going back to 1996, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 were supposed to work. They didn’t. I think that’s what made the news from Dr. Thomas so devastating.
The words were like thunder, but the processing of those words took place somewhere quiet–in our own minds.
I wanted to scream, I was so fucking mad, not just at the hand Joanie had been dealt, but the feeling of helplessness I had that I couldn’t make it better. At the same time, I couldn’t scream, couldn’t make an issue of it, couldn’t tell her how I felt it was so goddamn unfair because my job was still to help take care of her, and by getting hysterical myself, would do no good for her, and would, most certainly, make her feel worse. So I kept it to myself, with the exception of when I talked to my sisters or my friend Wayne. Then I could vent. Outside of that, when I was with Joanie, I did nothing but remain calm and supportive of her own positive attitude.
As for Joanie, she took it all in, and held it. She had done this during some of the other difficult times she had faced over the last 11 years, only opening up to me on rare occasions about how she felt. However, now it was more than just one of those difficult times. The stark reality of what she was facing now was overwhelming, and I wasn’t sure what it was going to do to her.
I could only imagine, as we sat at home that night, what was going through her mind. She had just been told that afternoon, that she had already survived longer than she should have, and in effect had months to live. How many, we didn’t know.
It turned out, I needn’t have worried as much as I did. The next morning, when we talked briefly about what was going on, we came back to the same question we had asked each other on that day in May so long ago, “What do we do now?” As far as she was concerned, she was going to beat this thing, and even though I thought she must have known the odds were against her, I agreed with her, and told her that I would be right there with her.
The only other words she said to me that were related to what we had heard, were that she wanted me to make the calls she didn’t want to make. She had done that before when there was bad news. It was easier for me to make the calls to family and friends, so she wouldn’t have to repeat the same story every time she met someone who hadn’t heard the news yet. That was another part of my job as caregiver, and it was an important one. It took a lot of pressure off her at a time when she didn’t need anymore than she already had.
When we got home earlier, I would go outside for a smoke, take the phone along, and make another call or two. Even for me, it was hard to repeat the same story with every new call I made, but these were calls that had to be made.
As a caregiver, I was careful when I talked to people, to not paint to dark a picture. I had learned early on that people often construe any bad news, as really bad news. What I told people this time, was that while they were suspending chemotherapy, Joanie was doing well, her attitude was really great, and she was still determined that she was going to get better. I would tell them that she was scheduled for a thoracentisis in a day or so, and that should help with her shortness breath problem, and that she would be going back to her office, at least in the afternoons after that.
Joanie wasn’t giving up, but I wondered late that night, in the dark, before she drifted off to sleep what she really felt. That I didn’t know, but this I did know, she never stopped praying.
As far as she was concerned, this wasn’t supposed to happen.