Losing Kath

Love lost, read and found

The winds of change

You don’t always see change coming, but it comes just the same!

Just as yesterday saw a beautiful day in the sun bring the last of September to an end with little sign of change in the air, I woke up this morning, as did we all, and everything echoed change. October 1st 2014 started as grey as any day this year so far and gone all of a sudden were the blue skies banished to yesterday and in with the décor of gloom and the imminent persistence of rain as far as the eye could see.

Today was a timely reminder of ‘change’, a theme I have been mulling over since more than just yesterday.

Two years ago today ‘change’ was evident in many forms and none of them were wanted. Change can come in gradual steps slowly inching creeping forward undetected or come suddenly and unannounced but by the time you come to notice it’s often too late then to halt its progress. Such is the nature of change.

Cancer in the cells is the worst kind of change but they aren’t the only things that distorted by cancer and painted with change.

By the end of September 2012 all we had had for six short months since Katherine was told she was sick, was nothing but change and we had the pick of it! But it doesn’t matter how much you hate change when you’re feeling sick, you’re just in the thick of it! Everywhere we would turn was nothing but change, no escape and we were just sick of it!

The cancer cells were dividing and in the changes they wrought they also divided the ‘we’ into a ‘her’ and a ‘me’ and as much as we hated the changes in her, I was struggling as much with the changes in me. The changes in Kath were of course systemic and unavoidable but the changes in me were just symptomatic of the changes around me in all. It is easy to think in life if you are unfortunate to be brushed by its impact, cancer to be a contained disease localised in the anatomy of one of life’s loved ones. Not being contagious it cannot jump from one to another but it’s malevolent nature and malignant reach still has the way to infect change in everything else around you.

For weeks upon weeks as Kath and I were being told of each new challenge and serious blow to her terminal well-being I was battling to stay on top and clued up with each change, what it all meant, what things would be and how could these things be happening to my wife, my family and me. Receiving information with daily new implications became a burden too heavy to carry but heavier still to unload. Keeping up with the doctors and all of the changes all of the time is very hard when you are still struggling to accept what each change might actually mean.

Keeping people up to speed and bringing them along with you is too much hard work and emotionally exhausting when you are drained already and struggling to keep up yourself.

So much just kept on happening and the changes were just too many to be counted when I couldn’t even see most of them coming! When they started to come, they came thick and fast and in so many directions it gave us nowhere left we could run, and when the changes are more than anyone can take, all you look for is an escape.

When you are told you are dying and your illness is terminal there is only so much talking you feel you can do, and when those listening ask more and more there is only so much hearing you are left willing to hear. Kath was sick of being ill and we were both sick of everything her illness came to impact. When your family and friends indeed your whole network in life, as naturally they would, all want to help and show how much that they care and do all that they can and support in every way that they know and advise in all they think best, what you find is that every part of your life has now changed. When you are sick and sick to the hilt of being sick, and you know your life is counting down and all that there is left is to remain constantly sick and slowly decline, everything in your life seems only to want to remind you. When you are sick and scared to death of the changes you face and the gloomy prospect ahead you get to a point where no-one else can help you. You decide what’s left in your life and apportion the roles. Hospitals, doctors, Chemo, blood transfusions, Hospices, injections, medication, morphine, district nurses, consultants, surgeons, palliative care team,  and whatever else in that vein, these are all the things that are going to allow as daily reminders of the fact you of dying! Everything and everyone else in your life, it is your role to lighten the load and to help one escape for a while so that some of the little quality left of life is not spent only talking of impending gloom. Our family and friends remind us of everything that we love in our lives and that is something we must strive hard to not let cancer change. If we allow cancer to take over even here, then the changes we will see will only divide the ‘you’ and ‘the ‘me’ from what we called ‘us’ in a time before change brushed our smiles with a last innocent breeze and only the harsher incoming gales labelled ‘the winds of change’ and with change as it is, once we recognised what it was, it was later too late to change or escape.

Cancer’s forecast can read – One day it’s clear and sunny, the going is good and life feels like it’s plain sailing all the way. Then one day or even the very next day you wake up and everything has changed overnight and it’s now cloudy and grey and the gloom and the rain have set in to stay. The going’s suddenly tougher and in traffic everything grinds down to a halt until all you can feel is like you know you’re going nowhere fast. The days start getting shorter, with light levels dropping and darker, longer nights are fast approaching, and before you can adjust to the change of pace and change of expectancy levels in what you can do and in the people around you and of course all of the hopes you still have left in your life despite in incoming gloom, as you continue to struggle to find any escape, they suddenly turn the clocks back and shorten the day and suddenly the darkness is right at your door.

On October 1st 2012, Kath and I went to the Royal Marsden Hospital to meet with her consultant. She was the one who knew it all and yet we had met with her only a handful of times since the very beginning, when she was the one who told Kath she had 18 – 24 months left to live. Sat here just six months later, we waited with abated breaths what she would tell us of all she had collated from so many others. (The following is just a gist as I can’t remember the exact words used).

‘Regrettably there’s been a change! The cancer has not responded favourably to the treatments and has unfortunately advanced to other organs in the body and it’s time to think about what quality of life you might want for the remaining time your family still has together and if in light of the cancer’s progression, you might want to stop the harsh impact that Chemotherapy is having and making you go through. It is hard know exactly but on the face of it, I believe you only have a few short months left’.

We bitterly cried for a while and when we could talk enough to ask more, Kath asked,

“Will I be able to make it to Christmas?”

To which the consultant replied, “You have a few short months, so just maybe.”

Then I had to come home and change all that I had planned and all that I would have to say to everyone else and all of our escape strategies bit the dust with the change of the forecast and October’s winds of change!

This is how in 2012, October started and how September was swept away along with the one and a half years we thought Kath still had to live for. It felt cold and it felt blustery and the only thing that hadn’t changed was the chance to put off escaping.

My girls would have to know. My wife, I had to face, was dying of cancer.

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