Stunned I stared at the oncologist. Fear’s icy grip clawed its way into my heart and dug in. It was literally breaking. The room began spinning and my head continued with its pulsing pain getting stronger with each beat. It was as if my head was in a vice. My hand involuntarily went to the human person who makes me brave, my beloved – my heart and soul mate. My heart shot up a wordless prayer to the One who makes me brave, my Savior and my friend. My thoughts began to focus even though the room was still spinning with the migraine and shock of what the oncologist was saying. Three doses of heavy chemotherapy all at the same time to be administered ASAP. This, according to the oncologist, would extend my beloved’s life by six months to two years. At what cost?
This was not our first go round on this insane ride. We had done our homework. We were not going to do chemo. Chemo killed. Just to check I reigned in the frustrated comments my brain involuntarily shot out. Isn’t chemo really bad for you doc? The last time he did chemo it was at a low dose. It was in conjunction with radiation and it was markedly awful. The soles of his feet peeled off about two centimeters because of it. The nerve pain was pretty bad. The radiation was like popping yourself in the microwave. He still had not recovered from all of that! Not to mention the two surgeries. The first surgery was to remove his rectum where he ended up looking like he came out on the losing end of a really intense sword fight and wearing an ileostomy bag. It was a long, somewhat nerve-wracking eight-hour surgery. The second surgery six months later was to remove the bag and put him back together – but definitely missing an important piece of anatomy important for daily functions. And now, after all that, you’re telling me that he’s going to die!? And that chemotherapy in high doses is your best and ONLY option!? My mind was screaming NO!
Yes, the oncologist smiled kindly. He really was only doing what he knew. He went on to affirm what I already knew from way too much research about cancer and the limited treatments offered in North America. Chemotherapy would definitely affect his quality of life so there was that to be considered. “It causes your liver, kidneys, eventually all of your organs to shut down…” the oncologist was saying but I couldn’t hear anymore. His voice became a drone of crazy making words in my ears. He may as well of been speaking in an animal tongue for all I understood him to say. My thoughts were yelling at me, at him, at anyone who heard which were really only God and me. ‘Shut down his liver and kidneys? Isn’t that what we wanted to save? Oh my Lord! Help us! What kind of insanity is this? They are trying to help us and all they can offer is poison???’
Even as my brain was yelling I was deep breathing. ‘He’s only trying to help Laurel. He doesn’t know there’s other options Laurel. Breathe. Just breathe…’ And then the song, “Just breathe” went running through my head. Calming.
The doctor was almost done. Now he was talking about giving Glen a port for the three way chemotherapy. We numbly followed him out and I headed to the door, trying hard to steer Glen out. We needed to think. I was not going to sign up just yet to poison my beloved. The nurse at the reception desk stopped us.
“We need to book you an appointment for putting in your port Mr. Hildebrandt. What time is good for you? We need to get this done as soon as possible. I just need to consult with the doctor. Can you please have a seat in the waiting room?”
Being raised polite we smiled and acquiesced, walking into the waiting area. My eyes focused blindly on the white painted support beams, flashing over to the pink chairs and the little stash of books in a revolving book case. My mind was forming words so fast I could barely keep up. Mostly it was, “We need to make a run for it. We need to get out of here.”
After endless seconds of rapid thoughts I held Glen’s hands, looked him straight in the eyes, and said, “Let’s go. We’re not doing this. We have to think.”
Just then the nurse called as back. The booking was done as if it were a routine thing to come back for a port for poison. I guess at the cancer clinic it was routine… We booked and walked out the door. Almost there. I could see the truck.
“I forgot my paperwork in there,” Glen said. He squeezed my hand and handed me the truck keys. “I’ll be back in a flash.”
I gave a numb nod, a vacant smile, and headed for the truck. The tears started rolling. My horse friends were messaging me barn messages and I couldn’t see my phone. I began speaking into Siri… something about cancer…terminal…shock… With my counselling background I knew I was going into shock. It’s a fascinating thing to go into shock and know exactly what’s happening to you. I was like an outside observer yet still very much attached. I was being hit with the first stage of grief – shock. I was already rapid cycling through to numb, to deep pain, to looking at an empty future without Glen, to huge denial and back again to shock – leading rapidly to anger. Anger at what was in front of me. Anger at the why’s that have no answers. Anger at the healthy lifestyle we already lived because of me living with Lyme Disease for forty years and Glen starting this cancer journey in 2015. Anger that others can eat chocolate and sugar and get fat and not have any consequences…At least that’s the illogical logic my brain was screaming in that moment. The tears became sobs. Heart wrenching, terrifying sobs of loss and pain so deep that I couldn’t breathe and figured I would never breathe properly again if I lost someone I love so much…
And then Glen was at the door. I gathered my ragged thoughts. I gulped in breaths of air. I smiled. And then we collapsed in each other’s arms in tears of disbelief. And the rollercoaster journey began again…

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