2016-06-30
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December 20
Gil's ankles are puffy, the left worse than the right. He's getting a Doppler and an MRI today to see what's wrong with the hip. The pain has gotten steadily worse.

December 26, At Washington Hospital Center
Last year almost to the day we were in this very hospital for Mona's birth. Everything was in full ripeness, new, and we felt safe and lucky.

A chain of seemingly small events got us here. Gil panicked during the first MRI last Monday and couldn't go through the tunnel. We rescheduled for Thursday--a real circus of phone calls and mix-ups. On Thursday he took all three of the Valium his doctor prescribed. In the waiting room he could barely respond to anything except his name. I sat through the MRI with him, and could hardly stand it myself. It wasn't the noise, exactly, or even the arctic menace of the vast white machine. It was something in the room itself, an unpleasant charge that made me feel like my poles were being switched. Gil felt those two worst things together: utterly passive and still lethally terrified. Afterwards I took him home and he lapsed into a deep sleep.

Friday was a lost day, then last night he roused long enough to go to dinner with his family for his parents' fortieth anniversary. Luckily it was at a Middle Eastern restaurant whose walls are lined with pillows, because he slept most of the night. Today he fell asleep in his oatmeal, and during Mona's nap he said in an odd, distant voice, "Could you check and see whether I let Mona out of her crib, and whether she is safe?" I checked, with a stone in my stomach, but she was safe, fast asleep.

It was obvious there was more going on than too much Valium. So we're back in the hospital again.

Gil came to just now when the nurse stuck him with a needle, said a big, characteristically Gil "OW!" and lapsed back into oblivion. Is it any wonder I started to cry when the resident asked me if we had children and I said, a daughter, one year old, and she was born here. Isn't it pathetic, too, that I am so oddly contented at the same time, sitting with my feet up and this journal in my lap, with hours of relatively free time ahead of me and so much of the burden for Gil's practical care, for the moment, shifted onto professionals far better qualified than me.

December 30, Mona's birthday
Gerry is in Northampton, missing all the excitement. Steffi's sister Judy is here, and they graciously managed the logistics of moving Mona's birthday party to the hospital. We held it in the lobby, ordered up Chinese food, served a rum cake and made the best of things. Impromptu guests, aside from family, included the family across the hall from us on this ward, and René, our midwife, who brought her husband. Mona tore around the lobby, more intrigued with the other patients and visitors than the pile of gifts we worked through on her behalf.

January 1, 2000
We were home again, watching "Young Frankenstein" with Gil's family, when the ball fell and the century passed.

Something has been missing in Gil since the Valium sent him down. I feel annihilated along with him.

January 16
No time to write for more than two weeks. Each time we think things can't get worse, they do. Gil's physical problems continue to multiply. And as he gets sicker, he slips further away.

I spend a fair amount of time wishing things were different. Mornings mostly. Mona stirs at 5 or 6 for milk and usually can be put back to sleep for an hour or two. Then I'll come back to bed, lie stiff as a board attempting relaxation while my mind spins out the lengthening list of undone tasks. Or I will slip up beside Gil in something that passes for snuggling, though as the months have worn on and his pain and other symptoms increase, I've sidled up ever more gingerly, wary, watching that I don't disturb his fitful sleep, at the same time desperate, willing him into our day with me, willing him and me back in time.



Editor's Note: In the last week of January, tests showed Gil's cancer was not responding to treatment. Together, he and Lisa made the decision to terminate therapy and call in hospice. Gil died peacefully at home in Washington on January 29.

Read Lucky, from "Living with Cancer" or choose another column here:


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