Loss is not just the topic of parts of my blog, it’s the reason for the blog itself: if I still had a husband, I’d discuss my thoughts with him, as I did for three decades. But his death last year has simultaneously given me a lot more thinking to do, and taken away the partner I used to think with.
The ramifications of death are numerous, and I expect to write about quite a few of them over time. Here I want to stick to the bare facts, as background for whatever comes next.
My husband and I were married in the 1980s, had two children in the 1990s, and had the good fortune to both get jobs teaching at the same small liberal arts college in the early 2000s. So we were colleagues for the past several years: it was one of the best times in our marriage, though hectic and not without stresses. Our son went to college; our daughter was finishing high school.
Early last year, symptoms that Ed had been interpreting as being due to kidney stones became increasingly harder to ignore. Usually an active healthy man, now he became quite ill and finally went to a doctor, who prescribed antibiotics and muscle relaxants but was clearly worried and said to come back very promptly if there was no improvement. Five days later we were back and he sent us to an imaging center for abdominal scans. As we were driving home from getting the scans done, the doctor called my cell phone to ask us to come see him: not a very good sign. When we got there he saw us at once: also a bad sign, as this was a walk-in clinic with usually a pretty long wait time. He came into the room, sat down, and said, “I do not have good news for you.”
My husband was going to die. Not someday, like all of us, or possibly within a few years, like someone with a scary diagnosis: he was going to die soon.
We went straight into the hospital, where further scans told us more about the extent of the illness. The original bladder cancer was large and of very long standing (in retrospect, probably a decade). The metastases were pervasive: tumors densely speckled his lungs; they showed up in his bones from head to foot; his lymph nodes were involved, and as we already knew from the first scan, there were several lesions on his liver.
Chemotherapy was presented as the tool for anyone who wanted to live longer. Ed wanted to live longer: he said yes. There would be four rounds, then follow-up scans, after which we would meet with the oncologist to discuss how effective the therapy was being.
We did the four rounds of chemo, but he was failing very fast. We transferred to Hospice care shortly after the follow-up scans (kidneys, peritoneal cavity, pancreas, adrenal glands). My husband died beside me, in our bedroom, at the end of May, on the day that had been scheduled for his evaluation appointment.