PART FIVE – TERMINAL
Coming to accept a dreaded diagnosis such as Glioblastoma Multiforme is one thing. Learning to live with it is another thing altogether. As her Mutt, I vowed in my heart that I would do anything and everything I could possibly do for my Fu. I would be with her in all things, holding her hand, comforting her, encouraging her – I would not leave her side. As my Fu, she was with me in all things; she held my hand, she comforted me, she encouraged me, and she stayed by my side – for as long as she could.
We knew at the very beginning the outcome. The neurosurgeon at the University Medical Center made it perfectly clear. This was a terminal disease.
That word hit like a sledgehammer. I held her right hand with my right hand while I put my left arm around her. She shook like a leaf. We were both in shock. Do nothing, he said, and she would survive six to eight weeks. If successful surgery were possible and successful treatments done, maybe two years. No surgery, but successful treatments, maybe a year. There was no cure, but maybe we could buy some time.
The neurosurgeon did not recommend surgery. There were four tumors, three in the left hemisphere, one in the right. Two were insignificant but would grow. The other two were in – these are the words he used – an elegant part of the brain. They were in the left hemisphere motor belt, the section that controls muscle movement and feelings on the right side. This explained the falls she had experienced and the trouble playing the piano with her right hand.
She would not survive four surgeries, he said. If we tried, we might find a surgeon who would operate. We felt led to accept his recommendation. It proved a wise decision.
A few months later we met a man at the oncology clinic who had a large tumor in the left hemisphere motor belt. He found a surgeon who would operate. It left him totally paralyzed on the right side. He could not move at all without help. It was so sad. He died a few weeks later.
It was in the face of this terrible diagnosis that Fu showed what she was really made of – true grit. She showed amazing courage and strength of character at every stage of this horrible disease. With every choice she showed me the way, never complaining, accepting each new struggle and humiliation. And a disease like this will humble you.
That is not to say she never struggled. Even a Fu with true grit has fragile moments. That’s where I came in. I would hold her, weep with her, and tell her how loved she was.
She showed that grit time and again as the disease progressed. One particularly difficult moment was when I had to shave her head. Her doctors prescribed a treatment that consisted of placing magnetic fields on her head to try and suppress the growth of the tumors. In clinical trials it had shown some success. This necessitated the shave. She wanted me to do it, not her hairdresser. So, I did. We both cried.
I have locks of her beautiful white hair in a plastic bag in my sock drawer. Isn’t it crazy? I don’t know what to do with it, but I can never throw it away. It’s just a tiny, very personal, physical part of her that I get to keep as I try to figure out life without Fu.