Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Alive, kicking and off the market!

[This was written by David at the hospital and posted by Gail.]

(This is a long entry; I have been cooped up away-from-keyboard since the wedding. You may want to enjoy it in installments! -D.)

As of this morning, I am still in the hospital due to complications from my chemotherapy. Last week I was switched to a different set of drugs, and Thursday morning was the second 2-hour treatment. Past experience has been that the side-effects are delayed by a few days, and the first treatment was tolerable; so I felt that we should proceed with the second injection despite our wedding being only two days away - after all, the cancer hasn't taken any days off!

When I finished the second chemo, I was given a shot that worked well at suppressing the nausea. That afternoon I went to the Steamtown Mall with my future father-in-law, and I was able to enjoy some food-court Chinese. But Friday I slid downhill, with waves of nausea and mild cramps that made it impossible to eat anything solid. I woke before dawn, and sat in my easy chair with a book and my old cat. The first to join me was Gail's niece Melissa, who came quietly shining down the stairs, and began roaming around the first floor. Hugh must have felt safe on my lap; he didn't hiss at her on this occasion.

For the rest of Friday, my condition got worse. My cramps were becoming so severe and sharp that I couldn't stand upright, or even lie down. Gail was busy preparing for the wedding, but Mr. Edwin and Melissa's grandmother Jean both took good care of my needs - many thanks, Gumpa and GMP! I'm glad that they still managed to take Melissa to the train museum in the afternoon. I rested, and hoped that Saturday would be a better one.

Unfortunately, I continued to deteriorate. The first chemo treatment had not been anything like this; I was unable to eat anything solid, and even a half-glass of water would come straight back up. Sleep was impossible, and I was running to the toilet with bloody diarrhea so often that it was hardly worth it to leave. The nadir was just before daybreak on Saturday, when I apparently curled up on the bathroom floor and passed out. Melissa's knock woke me, and Jean helped me to sip a little electrolyte drink and crawl into bed.

I was determined to see the day through, though. This day and date were very important to me - one year exactly from the day that we had met, a day and weekend that has been so pivotal for me, and so perfect. And I wanted to have our moment, despite the turmoil of the past few months - to be hopeful and happy, and enjoy the day with our families and close friends, and most of all to really be married - to hold my wife's hand, at last, and formally take the vows that we have felt in our hearts for so long.

So with Jean and Mr. Edwin's help, I managed to shave and shower, and they packed my overnight case and laid out my dress blue uniform, which Gail's friend Lucy had steamed and pressed for me. I rested as long as I could, then got dressed and wobbled out to the car; by this time I was getting dizzy if I stood up for more than a minute or two. I was obviously badly dehydrated and anemic, and hoped that I wouldn't pass out. At the historic Lackawanna Station hotel, the doormen helped me into a wheelchair, and I made my way inside to where our little party was gathering.

Our ceremony was set up in a conference room downstairs, and as I was wheeled in we took the necessary precautions; a bucket in the corner in case of nausea, and a route to the nearest bathroom in case of... well, not very wedding-like, but we must be prepared, right? Our pastor, my good friend and Civil Air Patrol chaplain Bob, went over the ceremony with me and my best man (and friend) Chris, and we all got into position; I decided at the last moment that I would stay in the wheelchair, rather than risk toppling over. There was a long delay, during which the heat in the room was raised; it was freezing, or felt that way to me, with my thin blood!

But at last Gail and her companions were at the door, and the harp music began to play. She will say that she looked a mess from crying and makeup, but I couldn't see anything but her, and she was simply beautiful. She sat next to me and took my hand, and Bob began the ceremony. He did a beautiful job, warm and eloquent. (I believe we were his first wedding!) Chris read a poem, Autumn, by Garrison Keillor; a favorite of mine, one that evokes the magic of our perfect October weekend. And then Pastor Bob read us our vows, which we exchanged line-by-line with one another, a nice idea of Gail's. We wrote our own, of course, and Gail posted them in her first brief journal entry here:

Wedding Weekend

The not-so-good news, as she detailed, was that my condition was now too serious to be ignored. I had to go straight to the room to use the restroom and pick up my case; I had hoped to at least go into the reception and greet and thank everyone, but I had to relent. Chris wheeled me out to his car and took me to the hospital, and I staggered into the emergency room - in full dress uniform, boutonniere and all - so obviously anemic and weak that they immediately put me on a gurney and wheeled me into the ER. For the next few hours, they poured I.V. fluids into me and tried to relieve my pain with morphine; the cramps were now like a knife in my gut. Chris showed the depth of our friendship, refusing to leave my side until I seemed to be stable; I chased him out to get some dinner, since it would be hours before I had a proper hospital bed.

And it was, of course; the sun was coming up on Sunday when I was finally installed in a private room in the cancer ward. During that night, my fever had risen to almost 104, and the nurses were packing ice around my neck and back; the fever soon broke, though, and I have had a lot of I.V. antibiotics, scans and tests since then. In brief, it appears that I have a badly irritated intestine and colon, from a combination of the chemo and the radiation; and that due to that irritation, I may have come down with a bacterial infection like colitis.

As of this moment, they want to keep me another day before sending me home and letting me try solid food; I haven't had anything but gelatin and flavored ice since Thursday. At least Gail and I got to spend the night together last night, finally; she was so tired that the hospital staff let her nap in bed with me, and then in the chair in my room, all night. Maybe not the ideal first night for a married couple, but a very happy one nonetheless, for me.