July 4, 2003, was the beginning of our journey “on the road” in our motorhome. The end of the road came on June 28, 2013 when my love of 54 years passed away.
We had decided to take a break from the routine of doctor appointments and treatments to travel in our little CRV to Illinois via Montana and South Dakota. Daughter Laura and son-in-law Steve live in Montana and we were anxious to see the additions to their home. We spent a couple of lovely days with them and then headed to South Dakota to renew our drivers’ licenses. After a successful 30 minutes at the DMV we celebrated with dinner and wine then returned to enjoy our jacuzzi suite.
Next stop Illinois where we were meeting up with our kids to help my Mom and Dad celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. We arrived a week early and discovered that their TV was on the fritz so we all decided to buy them a flat screen TV as a gift. Jim spent a couple of days rearranging their stereo system and installing the TV.
All along the way on the trip Jim was not feeling very well. Stomach upsets, abdominal pain, very tired. On about June 18th he got hiccups that came and went and lasted a long time.They lasted for hours and were so bad he could not talk. Abdominal pain became worse. On Thursday the 20th he was in more pain and when I asked how bad it was he said an 8 out of 10. OK…we are going to the urgent care.
Urgent care could not identify the problem but it was obvious that he needed help so we went to the ER. He was admitted to the hospital in the early hours of the morning with potential gall bladder problems. After several hours of CT, Ultrasound, MRI pictures a radiologist said it looked like he had a blood clot in his liver. And the only cancer that showed up was what we knew about in his lungs (which was being treated and was decreasing in size).
While he was in a lot of pain at this time he was started on drugs to dissolve the clot and of course pain meds. So for a couple of days we thought he was in for a long haul of treatments but the clot would dissolve and we would fly home and he’d be better. But the heparin and other drugs to dissolve the clot did not work! And the pain got worse and there was no solution. On Thursday the doctors told us that the situation was very bad. No surgical options and no meds working.
A staff doctor from ICU came by to determine if Jim should be moved to ICU. He took me in the hallway and was very blunt. They could continue to try to prolong his life but what would the quality of that life be. The doctors advised that we put Jim on hospice care. This meant that all blood tests, antibiotics and meds would be stopped. Pain med levels could be increased so he could be somewhat comfortable.
With the kids around us I explained the situation to Jim and he said he did not want to be kept on life support. He did not want to live like that.
Jim passed away at 8:35 on Friday night, June 28. There’s so much more to this story…like how our son played Jim’s favorite music on his phone all day to comfort us…like how wonderful the doctors and nurses were to us…how our daughters stood strong beside me and gave me the strength to be strong for Jim, and how our son Jim cared for his Dad putting chapstick on his lips, giving him sips of water….and son-in-law Tom provided all kinds of physical and logistic and emotional support,,,and how the grandkids all called on Skype to talk to Grandpa for what we knew was the last time and sweet Evan called to tell Jim to get better soon and that he loved Grandpa.
Nothing I write can convey the agony of that week. After 8 years of battling cancer the suddenness of his passing was unbelievable.
As I held Jim’s hand and his breathing slowed to nothing the baby lullaby played on the PA system. A new baby was born as Jim left this world. Maybe there is a little boy growing up surprising his parents with an old soul. I choose to believe that Jim’s soul flew off into the stars going where no man has gone before.