The so-called “Murphy’s Law” is the adage that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
I don’t buy it. Yet, sometimes, our best-laid plans slide sideways.
After Mark was admitted to the hospital about ten days ago, we waited for endoscopy results to see if they would reveal any clue about why his nausea was so unrelenting. Despite multiple anti-nausea medications, he couldn’t eat or drink anything without vomiting it back up almost immediately. He was wraith-thin and needed IV hydration.
In hospitals, it seems as if nothing moves very quickly. The morning after the endoscopy, I went early to the hospital, to wait with Mark for the doctors to tell us the results.
We waited. The nurse paged the doctors. We waited longer. The nurse paged the doctors again, but said she had no idea when they’d actually appear. We waited another couple of hours. Mid-day, I dashed home for a few minutes and, sure enough, that’s when the hospital team appeared in Mark’s room.
And so it turned out that Mark himself, in a remarkably cheerful voice on the phone, told me that the doctors said that there was no more treatment to be undertaken. The tumors had invaded Mark’s stomach, and his stomach no longer functioned. His stomach was destroyed. “It’s the end game,” he said.
It’s a cliche, but there are moments when time really does stand still. I can see myself, absolutely frozen in the bathroom, holding my cell phone, staring into the mirror, having no idea what I was going to do next.
Dr. T, one of the hospitalists, called me a few minutes later. He explained the test results in more detail, including why a feeding tube into Mark’s stomach or IV hydration wasn’t going to work. There were long silences in our conversation. To his credit, he didn’t rush me.
Of course there is always the biggest question, the question you don’t want to ask but have to: How long does he have?
Dr. T didn’t have a good answer. That’s the question, he explained, that doctors are really bad about answering. He said maybe six months; no, maybe three months, maybe less.
We won’t get our year together after all.
And so it seems we’ve turned the final corner, though all we really know is that in the not too distant future, Mark won’t be here. We have to focus on saying what needs to be said, to each other and to the people we care about. Mark has to be made as comfortable as possible in the coming weeks and months.
During these past months, denial has been my best friend, and I haven’t looked the future full in the face. We knew from the initial diagnosis that the prognosis was grim. Statistically, Mark had a death sentence from the very beginning. But up to this point, I always held out the sliver of hope that the next treatment would work, that a new drug cocktail would be the one to do the trick.
I just can’t imagine life without Mark. We are like two trees that have intertwined and grown together, leaning on each other, through all these years. I’m a capable woman. I can file my taxes and manage my money and keep my household. But what about all the small things that have tied us together all these years, that have made the two of us into a “we?”
I mean, who will kill the spiders?
I am not terrified of spiders but I don’t like them. As long as they stay outside, I can ignore them. But when they invade the house, I always shriek for Mark, who comes running with a paper towel and a smirk on his face to dispatch the offensive critter. My hero.
I guess I can learn to kill my own spiders. But I’m not sure I’ll ever really believe, when I turn over in sleep late at night, that Mark isn’t right there with me, just a touch away.