In November 2016, a few days after arriving at Benefis Peace Hospice in Great Falls, Montana, my wonderful husband, Doug, became confused and agitated. He’d been living with penile cancer for thirteen months and was near the end of a very painful journey, yet until that evening he had maintained his usual jovial demeanor. I quickly pressed the call button and then reassured him until the nurse arrived, thankful to be among competent and loving caregivers at such a scary moment.
In the four and a half months since my beloved Doug died, I have begun to heal, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Unwillingly at first, I've begun to weave myself together as a new person, knowing very well that my experience as "Annie" will never be exactly as it was before.
This selfie shows me that light is returning to my eyes, and although I would drop everything and run into Doug's arms if he suddenly appeared, I now, once again, recognize my light, the light that exists as Annie, despite everything.
Every day I allow myself plenty of room to feel and express my honest emotions, and I also repeatedly focus my attention on the best of what was, to help me move forward. Today I want to publicly give attention to the best of Doug's medical team, the wonderful caregivers at Benefis Health System in Great Falls, Montana, USA, people who cared for Doug - and me - not only clinically but also emotionally and communally.
"You two really love each other!" ~ says someone nearly every day, whether Doug and I are shopping at an outlet mall, walking hand-in-hand to our car, smooching in the corridor at work, or visiting with his hospice nurse. And it's true; we really, really love each other. And now he's really, really dying.
How can those last two sentences be in the same paragraph, in the same life, in my life?
As I think about the next segment of our penile cancer story, I’m struck by the fact that the last two posts occurred within the same day, and that was in October of last year! And we’re still in the thick of it.
“My husband is in our car outside. He’s bleeding and I need a wheel chair.” To the registration staff my voice may have sounded clear and calm, but inside I was screaming, Somebody do something, now!
The young woman at the registration desk quickly handed me a piece of paper and said, “Sign this. We’ve already filled it out for you so you can bring your husband right in. There’s a wheel chair right behind you. Do you need help?” Thank God for Benefis Health System, I thought. I had called them not more than 10 minutes before arriving in their emergency department, and here they were, jam packed with patients and also ready for us.
After the initial shock and fear had waned, Doug and I decided to expect the best and focus our attention on practical things, things we could control, like asking his parents to watch Kára, our mini-pinscher, and rearranging work schedules for Friday’s biopsy.
What we have here is known as ‘The Shits.’ And that’s how my dear, sweet husband, Doug, and I learned that the cancer had spread to his lung. Doug’s oncologist does a good job of adding levity to moments like this and we all laughed after he’d said it, but we all knew The Shits was very, very bad news.