October 04, 2010
So let me tell you what else was going on last week, now that I can. Now that I'm no longer curled up in an unwashed little ball under the covers. I mean, I'm still unwashed, but it's still better because at least now I'm sitting upright, on TOP of the covers.
You may remember -- or not -- that I casually mentioned awhile back that Jason was sick. A weirdly persistent sore throat turned into the most vicious acid reflux I have ever had the privilege of hearing about over and over again. Having never even HAD heartburn before, he woke me up in the middle of the night to describe his symptoms to make sure that's actually what he was experiencing. I muttered something about having it for nine straight months, grarrrrr cranky smash, and went back to sleep. Since we were at his parents' house, which hasn't contained so much as a single Tylenol caplet since the mid-1990s, he had to go out in search of a 24-hour convenience store in order to find some Tums and Zantac.
They didn't help, so once we got home he went to the doctor. By this point, he was having trouble swallowing and some mysterious back pain at the same time. His doctor didn't like this combination of symptoms and sent him off for an abdominal ultrasound and a chest x-ray. These were scheduled for Thursday, Noah's birthday.
He went first thing in the morning, but around lunchtime they called because OOPS, they accidentally did an abdominal x-ray instead of his chest. OUR BAD, LOL. Come right back. He did. Then I went to get my hair done.
When I came back, he was sitting on a chair in the living room. Ezra was on his lap, Noah was playing with his Legos and being AWFULLY patient for a kid who hadn't gotten to open his birthday presents yet. But judging from Jason's face you would have thought the boys spent the last hour and a half screaming non-stop and attaching fireworks to the dog's tail.
He walked me to the kitchen and delivered the news: There was an abnormality on the x-ray, behind his esophagus.
Usually, I'm good at times like these. I'm good at staying positive. That bad things aren't going to happen because bad things aren't going to happen. Because they aren't! They just. Aren't. I won't let you dwell on the what-ifs. I won't let you talk about how bad the general prognosis for esophageal cancer is because...SHUT UP, that's why.
This time I just sat down and cried.
We took Noah out for pizza and cupcakes, as we'd already promised, trying so very very very hard to focus on his birthday and block out everything else. A simple "How's everyone doing tonight?" from our waiter made me laugh, right before I fought the urge to slide under the table in a pile of boneless goo.
How were we doing? Which disaster do you want to hear about first? Or can I just order the pepperoni?
The next morning, Jason got up and went for a CT scan. He came back and I hadn't moved out of bed. The sitter was with the boys, I was supposed to be working, but I couldn't. He didn't want me to write about him until we knew more, so I just laid there, occasionally fielding text messages from my mom about my dad. Still in the ICU. More tranfusions. It's pneumonia again. Antibiotics aren't working. Diverticulitis in his colon. Congestive heart failure causing too much fluid in his stomach.
She needed me up there, but understood that I needed to stay put. At least until we got the next phone call. We should know something by noon, I told her.
I gave up on working or doing anything remotely useful or productive. I fought the visions of doom and death and widowhood as hard as I could, but I failed most of the time. Cancer was officially coming to decimate my entire family, to trample everyone I loved. It was unstoppable and it didn't matter if you were a good person or a bad person or young or old or had babies or dreams or plans or someone who needed to not ever be left behind. It didn't matter, it was fucking cancer, and it was goddamn everywhere.
Noon came and went. No phone call. Jason called his doctor, then the radiologist. Then we waited another hour before he called again.
"The worst," he said, "will be if we have to wait until Monday to get the results."
"Your worst is better than mine," I thought glumly, but did not say.
Finally, at 4:45, the phone rang. It was neither the doctor nor the radiologist. It was a random receptionist at Georgetown University, calling to let him know that some radiology lab was faxing over his medical information to a doctor that no longer worked there? Over and over again? FYI, and stuff. You should probably call them and make sure they have the right fax number.
"WHAT THE FUCK?" we both screamed in the general direction of the ceiling fan.
A few frantic phone calls later, the doctor had his results. It's a cyst,, she said, a congenital thing that's just gotten really big all of a sudden (six centimeters!) and is pressing against his esophagus and causing all these weird problems. It will need to be looked at with a scope and removed and all that, but. BUT. It's just a cyst, nothing more.
Jason looked at me and gave me a thumbs up. I decided it was okay to leave his side for the first time that day and take a shower, finally.
The next morning we were packed up and in the car, back on our way to Pennsylvania to visit my dad again. During our visit, he stablized, moved out of the ICU and was given hope to go home either today or tomorrow. He's doing better, save for...you know, the dying of cancer bit.
Yesterday was their 35th wedding anniversary.
I don't know what he'll decide to do about chemotherapy, though we had a long, good talk about it and why it's okay to stop. He asked me to promise to take care of my mother and burst into tears, right before his heart went into tachycardia simply from the thought. I held his bruised hand as hard as I dared and crossed my heart with the other.