Tuesday, June 21, 2016

#SOL 16: The Death Knell

from my art journal 6.18.16
(gesso, newspaper, acrylic paint)

Tonight I boxed up books for recycling.  12 boxes of books. I went through hundreds of books deciding on the ones that did not hold sentimental value. Devon then carted the boxes outside. There must be more than 10,000 books in this house and each one seems to be a story that hurts to remember. Tomorrow is recycling and I am trying to put this house in order.  I also organized the walking aides Rob left behind: a cane, a four-pronged cane, two folding walkers, a rolling walker, and a transport chair. They are in the garage and will be ready for pick up on Friday by a Vietnam Veterans group.  Each walking aide tells the abbreviated story of the progression of the cancer as it wrapped itself around my husband's spine, slowly and surely compressing it. Wobbly in October. Unsteady in November. Unable to walk at all by the end of December. On Thursday, I'll pack up the clothing Devon has outgrown and the odd pieces of clothing that remain of Rob's and these too will be donated to the Vets.

For some reason all this cleaning and organizing has me remembering when we first learned Rob had cancer.  The phone call came on the morning of August 20, 2015 at 8:30. I answered and handed the phone to Rob. Our family doctor was the first to tell Rob that he had cancer. Lesions on the spine. During those first few weeks, we walked around knowing such a partial story. We were cancer neophytes. It would be four weeks later before we would learn that the cancer Rob had was stage 4. What we did not know was that each passing moment marked the last time Rob would ever see that month.  There would be no more summers for my husband. No more springs.  We passed through those seasons never knowing that he would not see another. Not knowing he was even sick.

Rob learned he had stage 4 lung cancer in the early fall and he was dead before spring arrived. He lived for two seasons. That's all. And during that time he was so very sick fighting staph infections, undergoing thoracic surgery and then spinal surgery that he was taken from Devon and me well before his death. He was only able to receive one chemo treatment because of the infections and that one treatment was not enough to stem the rush of the cancer through his body.

Before he died, Rob asked me to pursue legal action as he and I were equally sure that his life had been cut short due to the surgeon who placed an infected port into his chest on September 14th and the infectious disease doctor who cleared him for chemotherapy at the end of October declaring that the staph infection had been cured. A week later Rob was back in the hospital as the staph infection had not been cured and now there was a huge abscess that rested close to the right ventricle of his heart--threatening his life.  An infection that had eaten through his fifth rib. He would suffer a cardiac incident that night and would be transported to the cardiac intensive care unit. All of these infections and surgeries made it impossible for the cancer to be treated. While Rob fought these, the cancer progressed. I'm glad Rob never learned that because his diagnosis was stage 4, there were no legal avenues open to pursue.  I have been told by attorneys that it simply doesn't matter how neglectful each doctor may have been. A diagnosis of stage 4 is its own death knell and the negligence by doctors is no longer actionable.

My husband never had a chance to fight the cancer as he was too busy fighting the illnesses that began with the insertion of an infected port into his chest in mid September.

Who knows what might have happened had Rob had the chance to fight the cancer, especially given the new immunotherapy treatments that are now available to fight lung cancer. Rob had been scheduled for his first immunotherapy treatment the day Devon turned 17. Unfortunately, he could not be given the treatment as he spiked a fever.  Less than a week later we would learn that the diagnosis was terminal. Three weeks later, my husband would be dead.

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