This incident happened Sunday night into Monday, when this post was originally written, but we were not ready to post it until now.
Gail arises each night once or twice to use the bathroom. This is a new development since the illness invaded our home. One doesn’t think about the fact that cancer has attacked very important parts of her digestive system and the results are unpleasant. I usually awaken briefly, listen to her throw off the covers, and quietly make her way to the bathroom. In a while, I hear her softly sit on the edge of the bed, sometimes putting eye drops into her dry eyes, and then getting cozy under the covers once again. She always touches my skin before going back to sleep. I guess it’s some kind of re-assuring sign we give to one another before we drift off again. It’s always been this way.
We enjoyed a good day yesterday. Most of our children are visiting, so we enjoyed church together. The message was on marriage and Nate offered married couples an opportunity to renew their vows, so Gail and I took him up on it, along with a large number of other couples. What a joy to look into my beautiful wife’s eyes and say those precious words once again, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth, till death do us part.” No one ever plans on experiencing the down side of those commitments, but life sometimes has different ideas. Interestingly enough though, our relationship presently has a sweetness beyond anything we’ve ever experienced. I feel so “one” with her.
Gail’s chemotherapy was removed around 2:30 pm on Sunday, and soon thereafter we headed to Lancaster for a cookout with the aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins on Gail’s side. What used to be a small gathering, is now a fun-filled, chaotic cacophony of children’s voices. I love hearing the little munchkins living in carefree imaginary worlds where adult issues are still years away from reality. I remember those fun days when I was a kid. I always looked forward to family gatherings.
Back home, we played our favorite family game, Scattergories, until near midnight, then snuggled into bed knowing that we didn’t have to get up early on Memorial Day. All is well in the Hamilton house – until around 3:30 am.
I heard Gail getting out of bed as usual, but this time I heard something else, something disturbing; she was moaning. I looked into the darkness towards the bathroom door to see a shadow stumbling in the darkness. I threw off the covers just as she began to go down. All I could see was her shadow falling to the floor and I was immediately gripped by a smothering sense of fear. What could be happening? She had been feeling relatively good all day. Her CT Scan showed no additional tumor growth, and we spent the customary second Friday with chemicals flowing into her port. There were no extraordinary problems since Friday, and she had experienced relatively little pain – considering the fact that her pain threshold is very high.
She was now laying on the floor totally passed out. I ran to turn on the light and when I looked back upon my wife’s beautiful figure, I saw a pale, crumpled person laying on the floor covered with sweat, and totally unconscious. A dozen terrible thoughts raced through my mind, and yes, even the most horrific of them all, “am I losing her?” How could this be, she was fine four hours ago. “What do I do?” “Gail, Gail!” She slowly returned to consciousness, but a minute seemed like eternity. I slowly gathered her in my arms, but she was so wet I could barely hold onto her. We finally got to the bathroom, where, for the next twenty minutes she slowly came back to life while I held her up and wiped the sweat from her body. The pain slowly subsided while I sat there totally confused and dazed. The awareness that I have virtually no idea how to help her beyond my feeble caressing was smothering. I could feel my heart beating in my chest like voodoo drums in the night.
We went back to bed where I propped her up. The pain subsided and, in a while, she drifted off to sleep as she held my hand and arm saying, “Thank you for taking care of me.” I feel totally inept at taking care of my wife in circumstances like this, and I fear this was just an introduction to more long nights. When I get to heaven, I will ask the Lord why stuff like this always happens in the wee hours of the night, when the day is darkest already.
I laid there in the darkness staring at the ceiling. The room seemed empty and cold. I could not sense God’s Presence, yet I knew He was there. It is good to know something even when you do not feel it. But feelings are very powerful at times and they desire to overcome even God. I was not well-attended by sleep for the remainder of the night. Flashes of various scary scenarios raced through my mind like Indy Cars passing in front of me at 200 miles an hour.
It is nearly mid-day. I feel physically and mentally tired, like a rung out wash cloth. Gail is tired too, but beautiful and peaceful and quietly resolute, as always. I honestly cannot fathom the inner strength and beauty of my wife. So, at some point today, she will have to explain to me her medical explanation of what happened and what more I might need to do. The patient teaching the caregiver. Life is full of paradox.
There is a new rule in our home. Gail will not get up in the middle of the night without waking me first and giving me a status. Meanwhile, our house is full of laughter on Memorial Day 2017. The journey continues.
The late-night incident is now nearly three days past and we’ve enjoyed a good week. Gail believes she passed out because of the sudden intense pain and that there is nothing more either of us could have done. The pain may have been caused by something she ate that day mixed with the inflammation from chemotherapy, or just a result of the mess that exists in her pancreas and liver. In any case, I’ll be happy if it never happens again, and we’re praying it does not. The total surprise of the event was the worst part. None of us like bad surprises, do we?
I would like to comment that once again, prayer, faith, trust, purpose, family and friends allowed us to recover quickly and get back to the new “norms” of our lives with cancer. We’re still waiting for God to heal Gail, but meanwhile we have no question that He was in our bedroom at 3:30 am Monday morning, and we will chock this one up as another lesson.