Morphine

The calendar said late May and I needed to finish the school year.  Yet, he now lay relatively helpless in his bed at the mountain cabin.  We had an overlap of time to solve.

Now, three years plus later, it would have made more sense to take off the last two weeks of the term and care for my husband.  But living forward in time, the curse of us all, I was sure the school couldn’t remain standing without me.  I was compelled to finish the academic year.

In an act of kindness, Chad’s younger brother, Peter, agreed to travel from North Carolina so I could work until the last day of school.  Underneath Peter’s offer lived an honest fear of losing his big brother to cancer.  It was easier for him to come to the mountains and see for himself than wait for second-hand news from me.

After his arrival it didn’t take too long for Chad to snap at his brother, too.  My husband felt so rotten, suffering so miserably, and his rants exploded over any provocation.  Fortunately, Peter took his brother’s outbursts in stride, seeming unaffected. I will always be grateful for his kindness and forbearance that terrible spring.

Once school adjourned, Peter left and we were on our own.  Every morning, after his loading of liquid nutrition and pain meds, we were off to the tumor center.  After his radiation treatment, or his chemotherapy we often met with other staff regarding his care.  The dietician took us aside and spent about forty five minutes showing us boxes of canned nutrition.  Neither of us could decide what the hell that was about.  The tube specialist checked his peg tube to make sure is was functioning properly.  Sometimes we saw the cowgirl, and at other times, the chemo oncologist.  I liked her enormously.  She dealt with us in a way that said “I know this is awful, and I will do my best.”

Over time the torture in his throat reached new levels of agonizing, searing heat.  Both of his physicians along with an array of nurse practitioners wrote all sorts of prescriptions for pain medications.  On his shoulder, Fentynal patches, crushed in water and injected through his tube, hydrocodone.  And injected straight through his peg–morphine liquid.  Chad also had a gargle of morphine suspension to hopefully trickle down his throat and put out the fire.  Oh, and melted percocet, too, right up the tube.

This descent into medicated hell set the stage for our “new normal.”  Living with Chad’s outrageous pain and altered personality wasn’t too easy. And a new dark age of fear and morphine closed in around us.

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