Last Thursday, Andrew had his second dose of chemo. We thought the first dose was bad; Andrew said this was much worse. He was incredibly nauseous, despite how they had lowered the chemo dosage and given him additional anti-nausea medicine on top of the super heavy-duty ones he was already taking. (Just to give you an idea how heavy-duty, Emend, a pill he has to take the first three days when he gets chemo, would cost $100 per pill without insurance. He takes three other pills on top of that.)
In the evening, Andrew would awaken me with his dry heaves. It continued throughout the night. The drugs keep him from actually vomiting so that he doesn't get dehydrated. His saliva has turned into a thick, viscous substance more like flem, causing him to gag every few minutes. He also feeds himself purely through the feeding tube.
On Saturday, he was so worn out, he didn't even have the strength to go to the sink to feed himself his formula. Even water makes him nauseous. And since the only taste he can taste is bitterness, the only thing he can drink is orange-strawberry Gatorade. But at this point, he was mostly getting his fluids through the tube. The next day, Sunday, I was hoping he might start feeling better like last time. He said, he felt even worse. The nausea finally began to improve Tuesday, although he continues to be still nauseous today (Wednesday).
Watching your husband suffer, you suffer as well, but not in the same way. I believe that as close of a view of his suffering you may see, no one truly knows what the depths of physical suffering is except for those who have passed through it themselves. I cannot truly know what my husband is feeling, even if he had the strength to talk (which he doesn't). And if the medicines don't give him relief, if I go for a walk or leave the house, I enjoy a relief he is unable to. He continues to writhe. My distress is in watching my beloved in so much pain. My distress is when he walks up the stairs as pale as a corpse and images of him leaving us rush in.
I used to worry that if things do not go as we desire, where will we live? How can I raise our children without Papa? How will I manage everything without him? How will I sell the house on my own, etc. One night early on, I pictured building an apartment for the kids and myself in my sister's laundry room in her basement. Somehow, that lonely image is comforting to me. It's not exactly thinking on what's untrue, just as life-insurance or savings for an unexpected set-back isn't. It's not what I place my hope in, just like I don't place my hope in savings. It's just an image, a quick answer instead of questions.
The Week in Solitude
Last week was a bad week.
All the grandmas had left, leaving me with no one to talk to. On top of that, nearly everyone we knew was either sick themselves or had been in contact with a sick family member. In the push to protect Andrew from picking up any cold germs, which could turn into deathly pneumonia, we had self-inflicted isolation.
Normally, I would have at least gone to church alone on Sunday, but since I had a cold, I missed that too. Andrew was also too worn-out for us to go anywhere. And the grey skies and heavy clouds continued to mark the 10-day weather forcast. People here say that every two years, the sun only lasts from July 4th until September. I feared that the spring I was pressing on for might never come. I was so discontent, unable even to listen to light, happy music and had to change the station if a Christion song came on that college roommates used to play, because it made me so covetous for sunny and carefree days.
Talking with my friend on the phone, whose husband also had been very sick a few years ago, was the first step in helping me out of my misery. She shared with me the feelings she had gone through and the sinful responses she sometimes had. She kept reminding me of the gospel though, that the Lord wipes away our sin, and we can leave the guilt behind and start anew. It also helped just to hear someone validate my feelings, so I could sift through them and identify them so I could know how to respond to them.
It has been so long since Andrew has been available to talk much or even go for a walk that my loneliness morphed into something nearly unrecognizable for me to realize what I was feeling. Without anyone staying with us, I had no one to distract me from my lonliness for Andrew. And so, next thing I knew, I felt desperately old and ugly. I felt like I was having a mid-life crisis a few years early.
An author writing about cancer once wrote that when he was in his hospital room, looking out the window, he saw a happy couple walking into a Starbucks, and he longed to be them. I have Starbucks moments all the time. At church this Sunday, I saw a young woman walking past her husband with a pretty, new outfit on. An image of her shopping in the sun, holding hands with her husband at an outdoor mall flashed through my eyes. I had to compose myself. I had to hold in the tears. I longed to walk in the sun with my husband.
I wondered if I'm wasting away what's left of my youth in a dungeon of sunlessness. But Satan would have me complain and be discontent. But what do I want most in life? Isn't it to glorify God? And the only way to do that is to grow in godliness? And has not the Lord matured us most here? The fast track to maturity in misery. Let the Lord do as He pleases. The clouds often come before the sunshine. David was not left in the mountains forever, nor were the Israelites left in the wilderness forever. Learn the lessons, then perhaps the Lord will bring the desires of your heart. When I was single, I was not left to long for a husband forever. Then the Lord blessed me with Andrew and two children on top of that.
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life." (Proverbs 13:12)
And then, yesterday, was a gloriously sunny day. I was unexpectedly awakened an hour and-a-half early, so I started on my routine early. Later, I checked online and the store I had a gift card for was having a sale. After the children had breakfast, my neighbor called, who I was supposed to go on a walk with, canceling. Since I had had a headstart earlier, our morning was free. The sunshine helped Andrew, and he was beginning to feel better. He sent my mother-in-law and I and the kids off to the outdoor mall.
It was so good to feel the warm sun against my skin as we walked past the stores! It was exactly how I had pictured it, minus my husband. But the Lord provided some new clothes for me, making me feel pretty, not so old and ugly anymore. It was so kind of the Lord to provide the perfect morning for me, attending to little desires like that. The Lord truly withholds no good thing from us, even the little things. He knows our hearts and treats us so tenderly, like a husband. The Lord truly is our Everything - our Friend, our Brother, our Savior, our Husband.
For Thou has been my
And a refuge in the day of my distress.
O my strength, I will sing praises to Thee,
For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me