I mentioned in a twitter (or X) post recently, that when out for dinner, I will sometimes look across at my wife and just know something is wrong. Unfortunately this is happening more regularly. She will slightly push her plate away towards me, a gesture I know means ‘eat some of this to make me look polite’. She will then sit there hands in her lap, zen like concentration on her face.
This signifies that she is desperately holding down the contents of her stomach. We have had occasions when this hasnt worked. Usually at home, where the impact is more contained, but one memorable moment in Paris a year ago, where she at least managed to get behind a parked car before being very sick. I had to quickly pay, and hope the night of the other patrons at the outside tables had not been ruined.
We will then try to get her to her bed, where a damp cloth, and iced water will ease the symptoms. Typically after a couple of hours she will be strong enough and the nausea has passed enough to be able to manage a small amount of food, but I’m not sure whether a diet of Vimto and Lotus Biscoff biscuits is sustainable in the long term.
Apparently nausea is a common symptom in advanced cancer (https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping/physically/sickness/treatment/controlling-sickness-in-advanced-cancer). Another thing we now have to be aware of and careful with.
She has lost a hell of alot of weight. Her skin hangs off her bones in places, particularly on her arms and legs, where her limbs appear to be nothing but bones, no muscle or fat. Her shoulder blades are prominent, sticking out, and her face looks gaunt. Her stomach is now swollen as though she were pregnant, large and distended, while her breasts have now shrunk away.
Were you to see her for the first time in years, shuffling into a room on swollen ankles, you would be shocked at the change. Outside of having chemo, she looks the ‘illest’ she has done during the whole time of having the disease. She seems to have aged considerably in the last 9 to 12 months, drawn around her face and neck. We have to make sure she is helped into the car, in case she bangs her head on the door frame.
A persistent cough and flem on the chest is another concern, and this is taking a while to go away. To hear her sometimes struggling to breath whilst coughing having eaten very little tears my heart apart. She has turned before my eyes into a little bird, in need of help that I cannot always give. I dont have the ability, no one has the ability to shift many of these symptoms she is experiencing. All we can do is try to help ease them. I try hard to make sure she is comfortable, whilst also trying to give her as much dignity and space to be herself, but it is getting harder and harder.
When she gets tired she can get forgetful, which can mean things around the house being half completed, or her embarking on a trip out, but not being strong enough to get home. I worry, but know that I cannot force her to stay at home resting, I have to watch fearfully. A coffee with a friend is a great thing to do, but I know that conversation and the stimulation of being out will mean she is asleep on the sofa for the next few hours when she gets in. Goodness knows what my children think.
I have caught my son copying me, and protecting his mothers head as she gets into the car, offering her his hand to steady herself. He is only 11, and shouldnt have to do these things, but his kindness shines through. My daughter has passed her driving test, so now she can help with lifts, taking some of the burden from me. They are both a great help.
I said at the start of this year, that I couldnt see my wife being here for Christmas. I am a little more optimistic now, but still feel that we may not have her much longer. We keep praying for a miracle cure.
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