PART SIX – TREATMENTS
A few days after coming home from the brain biopsy the tumors showed themselves. She had taken her shower – the last one she would take without my help – and was sitting on a stool before her bathroom mirror brushing her beautiful white hair when it happened.
She called to me. “Mutt! Something is not right,” she said. “Something is happening.”
Then she began to shake on her right side. I rushed to her and held her up on the stool as the shaking increased. It stayed on the right side, but it was powerful and uncontrollable, lasting several minutes, minutes that seemed like forever.
I continued to hold her on the stool as she wept. I wept with her. It left us both shaken and afraid. We had had a couple of uneventful days since coming home. The tumors decided to remind us that they were still there, and that they could do whatever they pleased.
The next day, sitting on the couch, she had another seizure. It was not as strong but lasted longer than the first one. After it was over, I could see the resolve in her eyes. Her eyes were saying, “I know what this is now. I can handle this.”
The first big decision was to not pursue the surgical option. The second big decision; she would not take this lying down. She would fight!
Thus began this tug of war with the tumors. My Fu fought them at each and every turn. Even so, she lost one ability after another. The doctors added one drug after another to try and control or lessen symptoms, but there were difficult side effects. It was a losing battle, but Fu would never admit it.
We went from walking with a walker as a precaution in July, to needing a walker to walk in August; to using a wheelchair and the walker in September; to being wheelchair bound with the walker used for transfers in October, November and December; to a wheelchair and needing extra physical help to make transfers into the new year; to being bed bound near the end.
She grew more and more dependent upon help. Every motion, every movement, everything grew harder. Her energy level ran low faster. She slept a little more each passing week. She lost language abilities, searching for words that she good and well knew. Her world became smaller and smaller. Even her eyesight grew dim.
But my Fu, she never gave up! She stayed positive, asking me on many mornings, “who can I encourage today?” The growing paralyses on her right side meant she could no longer type or write. So, I would write notes for her to be mailed, emails for her to send, and helped her make phone calls. Visitors came to try and lift her spirits, but she surprised them by lifting their spirits. I marveled at her faith and her courage.
The third big decision was to embark upon an aggressive treatment regimen, starting with radiation and leading to powerful chemotherapy. The radiation was perhaps the hardest thing of all.
She was always a bit claustrophobic. To have radiation treatments for brain tumors means to be strapped to a table with a mask on her face that was also attached to the table so she could not move. Then the entire table slid into a tunnel where the machine spun around her radiating her head and hopefully shrinking the tumors. The treatment didn’t last very long, but that didn’t matter. She could not do it without a pill. We called it her “or else pill.” She had better take it 30 minutes before beginning treatments, or else!
At the same time, she took a chemo pill every night. Later she received chemo infusions every two weeks along with five pills once a month. Miraculously, she got nauseated only once, but chemo, along with the radiation, zapped her strength. They also depleted her blood counts, resulting in brief hospital stays, trips to get platelets, trips to get blood, and endless trips to have lab work.
I tried as hard as I could to take care of her with compassion and tenderness. I vowed to myself to speak only kind and loving words to her. And if she needed something or wanted to go somewhere – her wish was my command.
Our children and grandchildren were there as much as they could be, but this was the age of Covid-19. Thanksgiving plans were canceled because of it. We spent Thanksgiving 2020 alone.
Hard as I worked there were constant reminders of how this was going to end. Pray as I may, nothing was going to change the trajectory. I was on the path toward life without Fu.