Posted by: Rob | August 15, 2008

Tuesday August 15, 2006

This is a continuation from yesterday.

The morning finally arrived. J had stayed up with her mom pretty much all night. Having made the drive the previous day, I was tired and managed to grab a couple of hours of sleep. F slept too, probably for similar reasons as I, as she had driven down as well.

Between the girls and I we managed to attend to Shelley’s morning needs, get our belongings packed and get all of the equipment and paraphernalia loaded back into the truck. Shelley was hallucinating quite a bit; she kept seeing “animals” and was convinced that a shrew was in her black duffle bag. She also spied a shrew in the hinge of the truck door as I lifted her into the passenger seat. I tried to tell her that there was nothing there, but she was unconvinced.

We left motel village and went over to the nearby mall, North Hill Centre, to get some breakfast at the food court. I don’t remember what the kids and I had, but Shelley insisted that she wanted something from Edo Japan. Edo Japan was an old favourite of hers, but she hadn’t had any in a while as her diet had been self amended to exclude many of the things that are believed to “feed” cancer. I didn’t see any harm in this one time, since the previous night had been so rough, for her to have something from Edo.

Cancer really does take a toll on a person’s physical appearance. That sounds kind of trite, I suppose, but I only say this in retrospect. When you are there every day, the changes that disease wreaks on a loved one are a bit imperceptible, and we – at least I – didn’t really notice the extent of the transformation. (No, that’s not entirely true. I did notice. It was unavoidable really.) But the extent. Now that’s the difference. And it came home in the manner of the stares we received from strangers as we wheeled Shelley into the mall food court. A mix of stares, too, I might add: curiosity, pity, hostility, contempt.

After we finished eating, we got back into our vehicles and drove over to find the Integrative Medicine Institute. It’s just south of 16th Ave NW (the Trans-Canada Hwy) and just off of 14th St. NW. We found a place to park F’s car and I drove up to the building front to unload the wheelchair and to get Shelley from the truck and into the wheelchair. We took along Shelley’s black duffle bag too, in case we needed pains meds or something.

As we waited to see the naturopathic doctor (ND), I noticed something that I hadn’t seen before and it gave me a sinking feeling. Shelley was looking a little jaundiced, the whites of her eyes were tinged with yellow and even her skin tone has a yellowish cast to it.

The cancer specialist ND came out to meet us; we introduced ourselves and then we all followed her back to her office. She asked us what she could for us. Shelley was much too exhausted to speak for long and so I jumped in and gave her Shelley’s history verbally.

After listening to my lengthy recounting, the ND paused and then she asked Shelley what she could do for her. Shelley struggled to speak. She told the ND that she felt she had been given the bum’s rush in terms of the care she had received. She felt that she had had to do the management of treatment herself and that now she was tired and she just wanted someone to help, to take the lead – she hadn’t had anyone do that. She just wanted someone to make it better.

The ND announced that she wanted to speak with Shelley alone. The girls and I got up and returned to the waiting room. A few minutes later, the ND came out pushing Shelley in her wheelchair and they went out on the patio. They talked for a little more than hour. I don’t know what they discussed, but I saw the ND come in to the reception area to grab a box of Kleenex.

After they had finished talking, the ND came and had me bring Shelley back in. She assembled us all in a meeting room.

She told us that there was nothing that could physically be done for Shelley at this point.

She recommended we find some spiritual guidance. She didn’t know how much time Shelley had left, but she told us that we needed to prepare and she told us that we would have to let her go. There were a lot of tears at this point. Despite what each of us individually may have suspected, there was never any expectation other than Shelley would get well again. We were going to lose her?

The ND was the first person in 16 months to come right and say, “There is nothing to be done. Prepare for the end.” Granted, others had “danced” around the subject and the probable outcome, but no one ever came right out and said it. I guess they presume when they start using words like “palliative” you automatically know what’s next.

She asked us if we needed any help with spiritual guidance; she knew some people in Calgary who could help with visualization and other alternative methods of managing pain and managing…the transition.

I remember saying that I knew someone who could help us at home. It was a friend and colleague of Shelley’s – Diane. Her name had come unbidden to my mind. I know it surprised and confused Shelley because she looked at me and mouthed “Who?” I didn’t answer; I said I would tell her later.

We thanked the ND, gathered ourselves up, got ourselves back into our vehicles and headed for home.

As the meaning of what we had heard and learned that day sank in, I sobbed all the way home.

I had set Shelley up in the passenger seat for the ride home, rather than in the back. It was difficult to get her comfortable; her body was pretty much under total assault by the cancer, the results of which made it difficult to find a position that did not induce pain. She was pretty much out of it the whole drive home between the pain meds and having had no sleep the night before.

She started to stir as we were going around Sherwood Park. She needed some more pain meds. I stopped the truck and went to find the black duffle bag. It wasn’t in the back seat. It wasn’t in the back of the truck. Where was it?

The girls pulled in behind me. I went back to ask if they had the black duffle bag with them. They didn’t.

Where was it? I combed my memory and re-traced the day’s movements in my mind. And then I remembered. We’d left it behind in the ND’s office.

I checked the time and made a phone call to the ND. She was still in the office and I explained what had happened with us forgetting the black duffle bag. She found the bag and committed to sending it up to us by courier the next day.

That solved, I then had to figure out what to do as all of Shelley’s pain meds (and other meds) were in that bag. I managed to track down Shelley’s doctor via the hospital. I have to say that having established personal relationships goes a long way in getting above and beyond help from people. I was able to get verbal orders in to the pharmacy that allowed me to get some more pain meds on the way home that would get her through that night and the next day.

We continued on home. Shelley’s mom was at our house waiting. She had come down to stay and to help out with care-giving duties.

Once we got Shelley into the house, into bed and settled and after I had unloaded all the rest of the stuff from the truck, I was able to sit down and tell her mom about the day. We sat on the front steps of the house and I related, through tears, everything the ND had said to us. She cried and hugged me and told me she was so sorry. We hugged and sobbed and just held each other.

Since we had set up Shelley in a bedroom on the main floor (our bedroom, where I slept, was upstairs on the second floor), I had picked up a baby monitor so she could call me when she needed something.

I don’t remember when it was that I fell into bed that evening, but around midnight I awoke hearing my name called over the baby monitor. I got up, put on my robe and went downstairs.


  1. The widow-road is an ugly one. I am so used to making the best of things, and living life, that I forget sometimes how awful it is to lose one’s best beloved. Thanks for sharing.



  2. (((((Rob)))))

  3. I just know this is revenge for dragging out Travels with Friday.

    Seriously, though, you have my admiration. I don’t know how you did it. (((Rob)))

  4. I’m here.

  5. …(speechless)…

    hope that writing it all down helps.

  6. […] August 16, 2008 Wednesday August 16, 2006 Posted by Rob under progressively terminal illnesses, remembrance | Tags: Cancer, Dying |   This is a continuation from yesterday. […]

  7. @Sally: “Making the best of things, and living life”
    That’s my usual motto too. Most of the time I don’t voluntarily plumb the depths of my memories and there are things I’ve worked to “erase”, really, yet sometimes the memories come anyways.

    @Silverstar: I think that one does the things that one has to do. Maybe that’s just a bit of cowboy philosophy I picked up from all that Louis L’Amour I’ve read over the years. Awww, it’s probably a character trait too.

    @daisyfae: I don’t know that writing it down helps. Revisiting the memories certainly brought the sadness back to the surface. I think I had to capture this a bit more before too much faded from memory. It’s part of a commitment I made to tell her story.

    @Kathi: Thank you for being here.

    @Alicia: Thank you for being here.

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