I walk into your room and help you sit up in bed. I hand you the rolling walker. The cancer is quickly spreading.
They took a CT scan yesterday. Dr. Azeem said there is “junkiness” on both sides. I don’t know what that means. Inflammation on left side. Steroids, she hopes, will help with the edema. For constipation, use Senokot and Delcolox. Pushing on the liver is what’s causing the nausea. You are to take Zotram for that. If breathing gets worse or temperature goes up, call 911 and go to the emergency room. She is going out of town for the weekend, but you can tell ER to call her.
You no longer breathe on your own. A tube inserted in your nose feeds you the oxygen. It’s attached to a long cord connected to an oxygen concentrator I have plugged into the hall socket.
You can barely walk.
Twice you have fallen.
The first time you fell, you were trying to get out of bed. I couldn’t lift you from the floor and had to go call the paramedics. You were so relieved when you saw them standing over you and, later, gratitude in your eyes, you called me a “hero.” The second time, you were holding onto the rolling walker when you turned the corner to go into the hall and the shifting of wheels must have caught you off balance. But you managed to fall safely into the armchair, thank God.
And now, the third time:
“I’m going to walk by myself,” you tell me.
You ask me to hand you the walker. Defiant and still hopeful, you are determined to triumph over this disease. I will get well, I’m sure you tell yourself, your faith and hope sustaining you, giving you strength and courage. You believe you’re still in charge of your destiny and your body will not fail you. You are going to do whatever it takes to recover and live a happy life. “Now, don’t you follow me!”
I sit in the armchair, waiting. You hold onto the walker, steel yourself. I hear the cadence of your movements out into the hall. It is ten o’clock at night—an ethereal darkness beyond the bedroom window. I wait. Listen. And then somewhere in the back of the house, I hear what I’ve most dreaded: A thump. Loud. I run to where you are, find you crumbled on the wood floor near where dining room meets kitchen.
“Oh my God, are you all right?” I fall to my knees.
“I’m okay. Just help me up. I didn’t hurt anything. Don’t be scared.”
“Oh my God, oh my God . . . !”
“Sweetie, I didn’t break anything. Try to get me up.”
I put my arms around you, feel your rib cage. A grunt erupts from both of us. It’s as if the power of our voices will bring strength to our muscles and together, through the force of wills, we get you on your feet. And as we stand there holding each other, you breathe into my ear, “I’m dying, sweetie. Tomorrow, you need to call hospice.”