My husband, Dean, and I met later in life at work…our kids were in High School and despite our differences we became wonderful friends. We were both close to retirement from Federal civil service, Dean had already retired from the military years before. I retired in March 2017 after 32 years federal service and Dean decided to retire in Feb 2018. We had a wonderful month enjoying doing whatever we wanted and talking about plans for the future until the last week of March.
We decided to go out to lunch on a Saturday the end of March and Dean drove, as usual, except he drove through 4 red lights, not even noticing they were red and almost causing 2 accidents. I was very upset and was yelling and told him when we got home that he was not going to be driving anymore for a while. I noticed later that his upper lip on the left side was pulling up slightly and had to take a picture to show him because he didn’t understand. The next day he was sitting in a chair, across from the couch, with an open can of soda, and resting his hand behind the can. I asked him to move his hand because I felt he would move and spill the soda…which he did in less than 5 minutes. I was on my hands and knees, cleaning up the soda, and asked him to stand up from the chair, so I could move it, clean under it and move it back. He stood up and I pushed the chair, reaching out with my right hand…and he came straight down on my right forearm. I felt it snap and had to pull it out from under him because he was having trouble standing up. I was in such pain, I confess, I didn’t pay him much attention and went in the bedroom to change so I could go to the Emergency Room. He finally came in and insisted he was going with me; I told him I was going alone and he was staying home. When I kissed him goodbye he was standing in our bedroom trying to fasten the button on his jeans. I came home 2 hours later and found him still standing in the bedroom and still trying to button his pants. That’s when I knew something was seriously wrong!
He talked me into waiting to take him to the Emergency Room till the next day, as I had an appointment to get my cast put on that day. So when I came home I loaded him in the car and we went back to the hospital. They started to get his information and saw his upper lip pulling up, thought he was having a stroke and whisked him down the hall for a CAT Scan. About 10 minutes later I was told they found a mass on his brain and were transferring him to a hospital 35 miles away in Columbia, SC, that had a brain surgery wing and I could go say goodbye to him.
I went home not knowing what to think, calling my Sisters-In-Law, brothers and parents, and doing a lot of crying. I went to see him the next day and he was cheerful but remembered nothing about what happened the night before or my broken arm. They told me he was having brain surgery the next day to remove the mass and they were unsure if it was just a mass or a brain tumor. When I arrived the next morning, he was already in surgery and I waited all day until they brought him back to the room. He was hooked up to so many monitors and IVs and bandages and all I did was cry silently, telling him the surgery went well and he was going to be fine. The surgeon came in and told me that it was Glioblastoma Stage 4 and he would be started on chemo and radiation in a couple of days. When I got home I Googled Glioblastoma and saw what a short timeframe the majority of people have and had to finally stop reading because I was just making myself more upset.
Dean had to have Physical and Speech Therapy almost every day, plus chemo and radiation. I went to visit him every other day, with my Mother, who had come down to stay with me and help me out. Dean stayed in the hospital almost 4 months due to the chemo and radiation but finally came home, walking with a cane for assistance. He had looked up Glioblastoma on the internet and told me that most people only live 12 to 18 months and only 5 % of people live past 5 years; I told him that we were going to assume that he was going to be one of the people who lived past 5 years and if that changed then we would deal with that at that time. He started going to our local Oncologist for treatments every 2 weeks and after about 2-3 months he’d had 3 seizures. I talked to his Oncologist (he was my Oncologist from my breast cancer treatment in 2009) privately about the seizures and he looked at me very seriously and said “You know what I’m going to say but…”. He was right, I knew what he was going to say and he gave me a hug and said he would have Hospice call us and this would be his last treatment because it was obvious he was getting worse.
I have to say that Hospice were all wonderful people. At first I felt that we were just wasting their time. Dean spent most of his time awake on the sofa, watching tv, but he needed help walking and getting up from sitting. The worst was he would get up at night to use the bathroom and not wake me, then he would fall and couldn’t get up on his own. We eventually had to move to a walker but that didn’t last long. I was very worried about his falling, so I asked for a hospital bed and a wheelchair. The only way I could get him to use the hospital bed was for me to promise to sleep on the sofa a few feet away from him, in case he needed me. We eventually had to move to adult diapers and me feeding him whatever he wanted to eat, which at that time was snack cakes and chocolate pudding.
His last week we had a great day when he was like his old self, talking a little to me and I sat in bed with him watching his favorite shows. That night I kissed him and told him I loved him very much and he struggled to say “Love you too”. It was the last thing he would say to me. The next day he was barely conscious and running a low grade fever (so I took off his clothes and just covered him with a sheet). I told him at midnight I had to go to sleep and if he had to leave I would be okay because he took good care of me. I woke up 2 hours later to check on him and he was gone….14 months from his diagnosis. I felt strongly that he wouldn’t want people to see him in just an adult diaper, so I got him dressed in a sweat suit, combed his hair and brushed his teeth before I called anyone. My brother and son came in to be with me that day and stayed over to go to the funeral home with me.
Lastly, his memorial service was wonderful. The military honor guard was there to perform the flag folding and presentation to me, which I cried all the way through. Dean was in a motorcycle club and his best friend strapped his urn to his bike seat and rode Dean’s bike with his ashes from the clubhouse to the funeral home, giving him his last ride.
I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much in my whole life and it still doesn’t take much to make me cry even now after he’s been gone over a year. I’ve lost my best friend and soulmate and cannot ever see myself with anyone else. He’s taken good care of me and I have a nice house to live in and can afford to stay here, but I miss him every single day!
Brain Cancer is such a rotten horrible disease and I just hate it. I hope we find a cure for it because I hate thinking that someone else has to lose a loved one the way that I did.