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On Thursday, August 21, 2003, at 2:45pm, my wife of 34 years, Rebecca, died in my arms in an emergency room.

The last words we spoke were in perfect synchronization: "I love you with all my heart."

 

Coping Is Hoping

 

Coping Is Hoping .... When Hope Fails, Coping Fails With It

.... stephen leigh, 2001

People might consider me insane - AND MAYBE I AM.  My response to that is honest and reasonable.  There is no escape from constantly thinking about death when your wife is dying of cancer in front of you.  After 34 wonderful years together, Rebecca died in my arms of cancer.  She was 55 years old and I was 53. 

If people think I'm insane, LIVE THROUGH IT YOURSELF - and then TELL ME

DON'T tell me about your 92 year old Grandmother, who died from a heart attack, or your 28 year old cousin who died in a car wreck.  I DO feel real compassion for you, and for your loss, but these are not fair comparisons.  They're not even similar, with the singular exception of life .... and death.

TELL ME

about 14 months of non-stop chemotherapy and radiation

about numerous emergency hospitalizations, when your wife's fever skyrockets to over 105 degrees

   This is life-threatening.  Read this link which clearly states: "Any fever that goes above 105 degrees Fahrenheit is a life-threatening medical emergency."

about watching the chemicals slowly and progressively KILL your wife, day after week after month

how you felt when all your wife's hair fell out

how terrified you both were when three of her teeth just fell out of her mouth for no reason - and ten minutes later, three more fell out

how you and your wife reacted when all of her finger and toenails turned black (a medically KNOWN symptom of arsenic poisoning)

how you both made it through dozens, hundreds more - horrifying experiences which you had no warning about

about your wife's surgery to re-inflate her collapsed lung, which was a total failure

when the doctors came out of her surgery, they told you your wife had four to eight months left to live

you fainted on the floor, and regained consciousness on a gurney with an IV in both arms

how you felt when your wife was dead exactly thirty days later

how over $2 million dollars in medical bills did nothing - not a thing - to help your wife      

TELL ME about what you know.  Then we'll be on the same subject.  And if you know NOTHING - don't TELL ME anything.   

Do you need some details?  You're already here .... you might as well read.  I have a horror story - 14 months - every day of every week.

 

On June 28, 2002, Rebecca came into our office, and told me she needed to talk to me.  I got off the phone instantly.  She had just received positive results from a biopsy - she had small cell lung cancer.  I fainted, fell out of the desk chair, and woke up on the floor, with Rebecca "ice-packing" my neck and head. 

Her chemotherapy and radiation treatments began within one or two days.

If you don't know it, medical insurance companies pay most of the covered medical bills.  The insured pays a "co-pay", depending on the terms of the policy.  I should make it clear that Rebecca and I had to "co-pay" for every type of medical procedure for the entire 14 months.  Every week - usually every day - was centered around chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  Doctors.  Emergency hospitalizations.  Counseling.  PET scans.  CAT scans.  Hospitals.  Doctors.  Blood diagnostics.  Therapists.  Pharmacies.  Psychiatrists.  More doctors.  More hospitals.

Everything required a "co-pay".  Rebecca kept a filing carton of copies of insurance forms.  It probably weighed 25 pounds.  One day, we went through the carton, and added up the medical costs so far: over TWO MILLION DOLLARS - most of which was paid by the insurance company, the rest of which was paid by us.

No "days off".  None.

And I'll make this clear, too: DOCTORS LIE.  They lie because there's MONEY in it for them.

They know how to say what you want to hear - it's part of their business training. 

"The radiation is working!  Your tumor was the size of a quarter before, now it's smaller than a dime!

That IS a verbatim quote - and I'm more than willing to take a polygraph test to illustrate my honesty - AT ANY TIME. 

 

As long as Rebecca believed (did she really have any choice?) - she'd allow more treatments, and the doctors could keep on billing the insurance company. 

No wonder they all drive brand new BMWs or Mercedes and live in multi-million dollar homes. 

On July 8, 2003 (at about 4:00pm - which I learned later), Rebecca was "out-patient" hospitalized.  Nobody called me to tell me. 

Normally, Rebecca would have called me instantly - but the doctors had already injected her with Demerol, and she didn't even know her own name. 

Rebecca had no idea what was happening, and I HAD NO IDEA WHERE MY WIFE WAS.  The doctors REALLY loaded her on Demerol, then drained about a quart of liquid from the area near her lung. 

When I finally got a call from a NURSE - not my wife - (about 9:00pm), I immediately went to the hospital.  Rebecca didn't even know who I was.  They didn't keep her in the hospital - I brought her home about 12:00 the same night, STILL out of her head on Demerol.  I had to carry her in the house, and she didn't get "coherent" until about 4:00am.

I'm not 100% sure of the exact details, but she had sutures in her back from whatever procedure they used to get the fluid out of her body. 

On July 15, 2003, Rebecca was hospitalized.  Her right lung had collapsed, and fluid was keeping it collapsed.  They inserted a sterile tube - known as a catheter - about 3/4 of an inch in diameter - into her back.  The tube connected to a suction pump machine, which ran 24 hours per day, and filled one container after another with the fluid.  Nurses emptied and replaced the container constantly.  Sometimes, I helped.

Rebecca couldn't even travel SIX FEET to go to the bathroom, because of all the IV tubes and the suction pump connected to her.  She could get out of bed and use one of those disgusting "plastic bag hospital toilets", located right alongside her bed.  She couldn't roll over, or get comfortable - she could only lay on her back, because of the suction pump.

On July 22, 2003, the brilliant doctors decided surgery was the next step.  They decided to medically glue Rebecca's lung into position so it could inflate normally.  The doctors were crazy.  The surgery lasted for about four (4) hours, and was a waste of time. 

On July 31, 2003, Hospice had already become involved, and Rebecca was discharged from the hospital.  The doctors couldn't do a Goddamn thing - and they knew it.  But they damn sure knew how to make plenty of MONEY.  Just bill Rebecca's insurance company.

Do you have any idea - even a clue - what it felt like to sit there - powerless to help the only woman who ever meant anything to me?

I spent a lot of nights in the hospital room with Rebecca - they gave me a roll-away cot.  I don't think I ever cried so much in my entire life.  HELPLESS.  I couldn't do a thing, but watch the love of my life DIE.

You have any idea what it feels like .... what it does to you emotionally and mentally?  I unquestionably do.

So maybe I am insane.  Life with Rebecca had sense, order, logic.  Life without her is killing me - one hour at a time.

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