Above all other kinds of people, writers are aware of the power of words—especially of how one word can change lives.
My husband Jeff and I have been married thirty-two years this coming June. While we’ve had the same ups and downs as any couple, I have always believed that he’s that elusive creature we all seek—my “soulmate.” Our nice little nuclear family world was turned upside down eighteen years ago when his intestines ruptured and the surgeon discovered Jeff has Crohn’s disease. Not only was there an extensive surgery from which he needed to recover, we were faced with a diagnosis that meant our lives would be different from that point forward. (Add to that my diagnosis of lupus a few years later, and we make quite a pair!)
We had to focus on diet and exercise and treatments and keeping his Crohn’s symptoms at bay. But in the back of our minds remained the worry that his digestive system would again rebel at some point, sending him back to face more surgeries. Luckily, he had a fairly uneventful time with the Crohn’s. Perhaps that was why what happened right before Christmas came as such a shock.
I had been home for nearly a week with a wicked stomach bug. There were two days of that illness I flippantly wondered if death would be a better option. Then Jeff developed flu symptoms—aches, fever, exhaustion. He even made a trip to the doctor’s office when his symptoms didn’t clear up after more than a week. While I went back to work, he nursed his “flu” and we just figured he had a wicked strain of the virus.
Then he called me at school and said he was in really bad pain. I got him to the ER with both of us thinking his bed rest had aggravated his hernia and made his back exceptionally achy. The doctor also thought it was a hernia, but he couldn’t reduce it manually. So he ordered a quick CAT scan, thinking Jeff would be heading to surgery to repair the hernia. Instead, the scan showed he’d perforated his colon again and had a massive infection developing around the site. He was rushed to surgery while I could do nothing to help except sit in the waiting room and pray.
After the surgery, he was awake enough we could talk, but we were both in low spirits. We assumed (never, ever do that) that we were simply facing the same kind of recovery as eighteen years ago.
Not. Even. Close.
While Jeff was taken to ICU to recover, the ICU doctor and surgeon pulled me aside to explain that the infection was probably going to get much, much worse. I think I might have been in a little bit of denial (okay, a crap-ton of denial) and figured they were just telling me worst-case-scenario. After all, Jeff was awake after surgery and talking to me. That lasted all of six hours. Then the sepsis kicked in.
Without going into medical detail, I can easily explain what he went through like this:
After my mother died, Jeff and I had a discussion about what we wanted if we were close to death—to be kept on life support or allowed to slip away. He made me promise that I’d plug him into every single machine the hospital had to keep him alive. Well, I kept my promise. At one time, he had twelve different medicines pumped into his system and had enough machines there was very little space for anyone to sit in the room with him.
And then the vigil began.
Since he couldn’t maintain oxygen flow to his body because he kept having apnea, Jeff was sedated and put on a ventilator. Then we had to start dialysis because his kidneys were shocked into not working. Then another emergency surgery because some tissue began to show necrosis, which meant it was dying. Needless to say, I was terrified I would lose him. He surprised us all and fought back. After ten days of “sleeping,” he was awakened, eased off the vent, his kidneys finally kicked back in, and we thought we’d beat the damned sepsis.
But we were in for one more surprise. The surgeon pulled me out of Jeff’s room the day after the vent was removed to tell me the colon perforation wasn’t caused Crohn’s.
It was cancer.
So that’s where we are right now, in a world of fear and tests and chemo and prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. The prognosis is very good, and Jeff is as stubborn as they come. He’ll fight, and I’ll fight right alongside him.
But never forget that one word holds the power to change lives.
One of my former students has set up a Facebook page devoted to helping my husband and me through this fight. Please help spread the word!
My next release is up for pre-order!
Fringe Benefits (Ladies Who Lunch Book 4)
HOT FOR TEACHER!
When life gets tough and love is hard to find, four friends take their troubles to lunch. High school teacher Danielle Bradshaw deserves a happily ever after, and the Ladies Who Lunch are determined to deliver Mr. Right.