Jim wasn’t feeling well. There was no one thing he could pinpoint, he just didn’t feel good all over, he said. He always had a hearty appetite, but now he was eating less than usual. When he woke up with a headache and sore throat, he thought he had picked up a bug of some sort and it would soon pass. Then he developed blisters on his gums and soft foods were all he could tolerate. Noticing that he had lost several pounds, on top of everything else, I suggested a visit to the doctor might be in order. He declined saying he would “get over it” soon enough. Jim continued to go to work that week without fail, without complaint and came home each evening totally exhausted. His work ethics and dedication were second to none. No way was he going to let some flu-bug get him down.
We often say when a man refuses to see a doctor that it’s ‘a guy thing’. Really, it’s a human thing and in many cases we procrastinate out of fear. It’s easier to stick our head in the sand, pretending all is well rather than admit we are truly sick and in need of medical attention. Friday morning Jim woke up suffering shortness of breath. He went to work, but finally asked that I make an appointment for him with our physician. Monday was booked, Tuesday’s are our doctor’s off day, so Wednesday afternoon was the earliest appointment I could get.
By Monday Jim’s blisters had healed, but now he was so short of breath that laying down was pure agony. He had to remain upright to breathe and his recliner became his bed. That day he finally called in sick. On Tuesday, after days of soft foods and in spite of his labored breathing, Jim was ravenous and suggested we order Chinese food for dinner. We stuffed ourselves into a blissful misery that night, enjoying every mouth-watering bite. This was the last meal we shared together.
X-rays showed some fluid on Jim’s lungs and around his heart. His blood work however, came back with no ‘red flags’. The doctor suspected Congestive Heart Failure, sent Jim home with strong medications he was to take for two days and return to the doctor Friday morning. He told Jim if there was no improvement, he would be hospitalized. Jim didn’t make his appointment. I had him in the emergency room by 7:30 that Friday morning. By noon he had been rushed by ambulance to a hospital 70 miles away, where he would receive the specialized care he was in need of.
All of this took place within a two-week period.
Up to this point I have been rather detailed and I have done so for a reason. You see, many of the ailments Jim suffered during these two weeks were actually symptoms of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), which he was diagnosed with a week after his hospitalization. AML was already wreaking havoc in Jim’s bone marrow the day he saw our physician. Blood tests did not begin to go awry until the day after he was admitted. AML is a vicious disease. It can come on quickly and left untreated it can kill within weeks, in some cases. Jim’s poor body was so sick that the treatment for AML would have killed him. Because his immune system was greatly compromised, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) had also joined the myriad of ailments and was rapidly destroying his lungs. My sweet guy was leaving me and I was helpless to stop him.
Two weeks after he was hospitalized, my precious husband passed away. Neither of us saw that one coming.
Twenty-two years, over in a blink. Who would have thought.
Holding you I held everything
For a moment wasn’t I the queen
But if I’d only known how the queen would fall
Hey who’s to say you know I might have changed it all
And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance
I miss you, ‘Squirt’… I love you forever.