I remember our ride home after Rick received the official diagnosis of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer on November 21st. He remarked he never saw cancer coming as he did not know of any family member having cancer. I commented that with his Dad having a heart attack in his 50s and passing from Alzheimer’s in his late 80s and his Mom having Dementia had he ever thought about how he might pass? (I used to travel on business when I was a single mom so every time I would be driving to the airport I always thought about ‘what would happen if …’).
My wonderful husband replied that he thought maybe he would ‘eat it’ in a mountain biking accident (we went through many fire drills from spills!) but he was “kind of hoping to die in my 80s from Alzheimer’s and have the sweet ride your Mom has with you”. If I hadn’t been behind the wheel in traffic I would have pulled over and hugged him so hard! I thanked him for the compliment, I was so touched!
I also said to Rick that with an accident or heart attack there would be no warning and with Alz/Dementia a person may think they had more time to wrap things up but then forget about those important topics the next day. I commented that with a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis at least his next chapters could be intentional as far as how he spent his time. Rick began talking about our sons, of how we would be sharing the news with them and with his family. And then he rested while I drove. Just outside of town he asked to stop at Macy’s to buy new bed pillows. Rick was forever buying new pillows, stockpiling them in our attic before I could see them. But at that moment I heard in my head “Let him have anything he wants!”.
It was surreal walking around Macy’s. While Rick was seemingly on a mission to find the bedding department I was seeing the housewares Christmas gift displays as artifacts of consumerism, while a voice in my head was screaming “HE HAS STAGE 4 CANCER!!”. As I followed Rick squeezing pillows as if he were shopping for ripe peaches it seemed like he wanted to be doing something normal. It made me want to do a normal thing with him, too. Since I was already holding one of his pillow choices after 20 seconds I quietly said: “Pillow Fight” and we did have a subdued pillow fight in Macy’s. We used to be really goofy that way. But in the last 90 minutes our world had changed.
This picture was December 26, 2019 at the Infusion Clinic for Rick’s 3rd chemo treatment. Rick had not gone public with his cancer diagnosis, so this picture was just for us. I remember feeling extremely close, like we were attached. We were still so optimistic because his cancer markers had come down after 2 treatments. Rick, who had never spent time in a hospital before in his whole adult life had already gone through so many complications & procedures in the last 35 days, all with great courage & humor. I see those qualities in this picture.
I know I have never felt so focused in my entire life as I was in those 3+months and I treasured every time Rick would say “I feel like I have my life back” when we had our last weekend adventures or he could still enjoy time with his nerd buddies. I would have moved Heaven and Earth if he would have asked- even if it was to do something insanely normal.