Yesterday Kirsten underwent what should have been a fairly routine upper endoscopy and colonoscopy. The preparation was disgusting and miserable, as it always is, but it caused her to quickly slide into a much worse, very sick state. She was pale, vomiting frequently, and in significant pain. I wasn’t surprised, as we have learned to expect unhealthy as the new normal due to cancer and adrenal insufficiency. Her body simply cannot adequately cope with physical and emotional stressors.
We arrived at Maine Medical Center shortly after 07:30, and were expecting to be done around 10:00 or 11:00. We checked in at in the Radiology waiting room down in the basement. After the nurse came to get her, I left to get some breakfast and read my new book, “Double Identity.” At around ten o’clock, I returned to the basement and continued reading my book (can a digital file on an iPad mini be accurately referred to as a “book”?). At eleven o’clock I asked the receptionist to please check on Kirsten’s status. She called back to the nurse’s station, where somebody told her that she was not yet awake. “What?!” Not yet awake? She was supposed to be out of recovery by then, fully awake, dressed, fed, and ready to hop in the car. I knew better than to expect a procedure free from complications, but I was beginning to worry. I expected her to be awake at least.
At around 12:30, I asked the receptionist to call again, and that if the answer was that I still could not go back, to please have someone come out to talk to me. When Kirsten’s nurse came out, she told me that Kirsten had a low pulse, low blood pressure, and was very cold. They were doing all they could to warm her, and did not know why her temperature had plunged. There was clearly nothing I could do to help, and after her best effort to assure me everything would be alright, she suggested I go back upstairs and get a little lunch. So I did.
After a slice of boring pizza and some butterscotch pudding, and more reading, and no phone call from Radiology, I returned to the basement. It was around 15:00. This time they let me back to see her. They had given her several emergency doses of hydrocortisone through an IV, and had wrapped her in a Bair Hugger therapy blanket to elevate her temperature. Her vitals were good, and she had warmed. However, due to the amount of medications they had to administer, and her poor recovery, they decided to admit her and keep her overnight for observation.
I went home so she could get some rest, and because Skye had a mandatory ski club meeting. There was nothing I could do for Kirsten. She was exhausted, weak, and badly needed rest. The crushing weight of the past three months seemed at once unbearable, and I found myself sinking into a deep and unfamiliar depression.
This morning she was discharged around 09:30. They brought her out to the car, and we started driving home. I was going to have to drop her off at home and return to Portland for a morning meeting at work. During the drive I asked her what Dr. Millspaugh, the gastroenterologist who had performed the procedures, had said about what he’d found. The upper endoscopy and colonoscopy, like the iliac crest biopsy before, were negative for tumors. That is, of course, mostly good news. It also means we still have not located the primary tumor.
Then she told me Dr. MacGillivray had called her in the morning to give her the results from the lymph node biopsy from last week. He had discussed the pathology report with her oncologist, Dr. Evans, who concurred that she does in fact have cancer in her cervical lymph nodes. The news was overwhelming. I held onto Kirsten’s hand tightly, and drove through a constant waterfall of salty tears, trying futilely to hold back the sobs. When we arrived home, I helped Kirsten up the stairs, and, before returning to work, held her in a long embrace, and cried some more.
Our friends have been wonderful. The many supportive comments they have made on Facebook and via text message are more helpful than they probably imagine. I had a nice chat this morning with Jodi, a friend from the Air Force who is currently serving in Turkey. Talking about old times was a nice diversion from the present. This evening my friend Jeff, with whom I was a web developer at Outside Television, came over with his son Trent. I enjoyed our visit, and Hayley was thrilled to have a buddy with whom she could play Halo 4. I am a very lucky man. Without my friends, I would not have made it this far.