On April 22nd (Earth day) of this year Mark was diagnosed with late stages of terminal cancer. Mark and I were given very poor odds, but Mark's fighting spirit shown. He was determined to find a way to beat this horrible disease. He had already overcome a slew of other medical issues discovered when Mark was admitted into the hospital on May 16th, less than a month after the diagnosis, with near life threatening concerns. He spent a total of 2 months in the hospital, from May 16th to July 16th.
His care outside of the hospital was me on top of working a full time job. I would get up early and give Mark his 1st dose of medicine for the day and ensure a fresh start to his feeding tube, then take a shower and go to work. I would come home on my lunch to give him his 2nd dose of medicine, bypassing any food for myself. Needing to care for Mark the rest of the night, I would leave work, not able to take advantage of any overtime offered, so I could get dinner ready for the rest of the family, as Mark was only consuming foods through his feeding tube and give him his 3rd dose of medicine for the day. Some days I would take a power nap, other days I just stayed up until midnight for his 4th and final dose of medicine until the next morning when all was started again. These long days were actually easier than the time he was in the hospital.
While Mark was in the hospital, often times he was "nothing by mouth", so I would not eat or drink in front of him. His time in the hospital, I was there every night except for a handful. I would get off work at 4pm, go home, make a quick dinner, change laundry or any quick chores and head back to the hospital (a 30+ minute drive in rush hour)... usually arriving by 6:30, but no later than 7pm. I was his constant with his medical care and his translator when he couldn't talk. I have spent more nights in cots than I have on my couch as Mark slept in a medical bed in our living room or in our own bed since the middle of May. I would get up early (often times before the medical staff was checking vitals and drawing blood, after being woken in the middle of the night for the vitals check), make sure Mark was set up for the day, having everything within reach, as ice when he was allowed to have ice chips. I would rush home, take a quick shower and be at work by 7:30am, to start the routine all over again. On weekends I would leave for 3 hours (on a rare occasion 4 hours) a day, to run home, take a quick shower and do any quick grocery shopping.
Mark went through 14 doses of chemotherapy (8 chemotherapy sessions total). On the 21st of September, the day after his last chemotherapy session, we received a call from the doctor his liver looked off and they wanted to do a CT scan before his next scheduled chemotherapy appointment. We schedule that CT scan for Friday, September 28th. He had an appointment to have his PICC line changed the day prior. He was very off that day, not feeling well at all. I contacted his doctor in the morning asking if they could do blood tests at the same time as changing is PICC line. They agreed. Even though Mark wasn't feeling well, he was able to converse.
They did blood tests and gave him IV fluids as we waited for the results. He perked up more after the fluids. This time the tests showed not only was his liver out of whack, his kidneys were too. His doctor stated he had already done a direct admit to the hospital and we needed to head that way after leaving the appointment. He sounded like this was something they could figure out and he once again would recover from. Based off the conversation, I felt like this would be a 2-4 week hospital stay then Mark would be back home.
We got to the hospital after the registration desk had closed, so we were told to go directly to the floor he was going to be staying on and they would do all the paperwork. Mark was like, "we have time, come back this way, Carrie, I want to show you something." I pushed him all the way back to the entrance we had just come in. He shown me this picture (one I had looked at many times thinking Mark would really enjoy it, but he had not seen). He said one day he'd like a framed picture like this. At that moment I snapped a quick picture.
Blood tests showed improvement of the kidneys the next day, but the liver was worse. We were still able to converse with one another. He was still an active member of his medical treatment. Another 24 hours had passed and his kidneys were in a decline again and his liver was worse. The following day showed a continuing decline and his ability to communicate, yet alone even stay awake was dwindling. By Monday they had moved him to the ICU and we were having the "there is nothing more that can be done medical" and the "comfort care" conversations. This was supposed to be a relatively short stay, not a "this is the end, say your goodbyes" moment. But the reality was very bleak.
On Oct 2nd at 4:03 PM Mark laid to rest for the final time, less than a week after he was again admitted. I watched the man I love actively die. He went down hill so quickly, as I watched his cheeks sink in more as the day progressed, and his eyes roll further back in his head. I knew it was a matter of time. He and I were the only ones in the room and I knew I needed to help him find the peace it was okay to let go. I put on Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up", not expecting the next and final experience I would have with Mark being alive. Mark instantly raise his head up, opened both eyes wide. I saw a glimpse of my Mark. I even told him "there's my Mark." We mouthed the song together, maintaining eye contact the entire time. As soon as the song ended, he laid his head down for the last time.
Now we are in a situation of having to plan a memorial and address his remains. The monthly income in the home really doesn't cover the bills, so there is no discretion funds for this expense. Mark had no life insurance policy and no monthly income. The struggle is real. Any support for these next steps would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you so much for reading parts our journey of our journey over the course of less than half a year. Prayers for a healing heart and the strength to deal with all that follows is always needed. Thank you so much.
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