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Pats Cancer Story


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Pats Cancer Story

I have not done this chronographicaly but just from the heart.

[/b]On the 10 of March 2010 my wife Pat was diagnosed with spinal cancer. The events that led up to this diagnosis are as follows.

From the age of about 19 she had a history of back pain as a result of an ice skating fall. In the following 30 years she had 5 back operations ranging from laminectomies to spinal fusions. Back pain was her constant companion.

During December 2009 the back pain became worse up to a point when it was not relieved by most prescribed painkillers.

I searched the internet trying to find a reason for this severe pain and accessed a website South African spinal Society. As if it had been highlighted “Cancer” was listed as a possible cause. The next day I made an appointment with the neuro surgeon who had performed some of the back operations.

The visit to the Neuro Surgeon was on the 10 March 2010

At consultation he ordered an emergency MRI scan of the lumbar spine. I accompanied her into the scanner and was present during the process. I noticed that the operator had summoned the specialist and showed him the scans as they were taking place.

Directly after the scan the specialist approached me and informed me that there was cancer in the spine and the femur.

A full body CT scan was done and a bone marrow biopsy under CT scan was also done.

She was admitted for pain control and to be seen by an oncologist.

The oncologist explained to me that bone cancer was not the primary cancer and that the primary source was being investigated.

My wife was discharged on the 12 March and was seen at the oncologist and the plan for radiation was explained. Radiation treatment started on 15 March and there were 10 treatments planned.

My wife suddenly developed a cough and it got progressively worse. The oncologist didn’t seem too worried and prescribed cough mixture.

The radiation treatment progressed and she was again seen by the oncologist. The coughing was now worse.

On the day of her last radiation treatment she saw the partner oncologist who was very concerned about the cough and ordered antibiotics.

One thing to add which was a positive step is that the back pain was now under control with some days being pain free.

By the time we got home my wife was very ill and it worsened to a point that at about 21h30 I decided to take her to the emergency department of the hospital. After she was seen by the resident doctor she was admitted to the intensive care ward with severe breathing difficulties. They also identified a pleural effusion. This was drained twice. She was in the intensive care unit for 10 days and in a general ward for 4 days. On her day of discharge she received her first chemo therapy.

Oxygen was ordered for use at home and this became her almost constant companion.

In her already weak state the chemo took its toll and she became very ill and was admitted to hospital for nausea and vomiting and difficulty in breathing. She was again drained and the difficulty in breathing eased. She was out of hospital for only a few days when she went for the second round of chemo.

Once again at day three there was the severe nausea and vomiting and the compounded breathing problems due to the effusion.

This time they could not drain the effusion due to low platelets and white blood cells. They were afraid of bleeding and also infection. She was put into an isolation ward and we all had to wear masks and gloves. This led to a series of panic attacks due to the feeling of drowning. When the blood cells started increasing she was drained and a type of chemo Bleomycin was injected into the pleural cavity to resolve the leak.

This worked and she did not develop any further effusions. She progressed in leaps and bounds and was discharged.

At home she started eating a bit better and also spent time watching TV and even knitting. She managed to finish a shawl for our yet unborn grandchild.

I took her into town to see all the soccer flags which were in the main street in lights. We also drove the length of the foreshore and saw all the new additions to the beach front. We even drove past the new soccer stadium and she saw it from right close up. I think this was the highlight of our outing.

The third bout of chemo was done on the Thursday 03 June 2010. She at first did not want to go but after a phone call from the oncology clinic advised her that she had an appointment she decided to go. I took her as I had always done and spent the full 5 hours with her.

She seemed to take the treatment well.

The Friday Saturday and Sunday were all glorious days with her looking good and feeling better.

On Monday 07 June I left to go back to work and she seemed fine. When I got to the workplace I still told everyone that my wife is so much better.

At about 12 o clock I received a telephone call that she had developed pins and needles and cramps in the fingers and hands. As this was a sign that things were going wrong the previous time I told the caregiver to contact the oncologist and advise him. She also developed fungal sores in the mouth.. The doctor advised her to come in and see him.

He gave her some medication and ordered blood tests. The results showed that the platelet count was very low and he ordered an injection to stimulate platelet production. She was also slightly dehydrated. She was sent home. She slowly deteriorated and was taken to the hospital for admission on Wednesday 9 June 2010.

Tests showed that the platelets were still low and her kidneys were also struggling. She received platelet and white blood transfusions but the result was not good.

Her condition stayed very ill but stable until Tuesday 15 June when the blood count dropped to almost zero. She was moved into isolation to protect her from infection and also get a higher care level.

Even with numerous transfusions the situation did not improve.

On Thursday 17 June just after 14h00 she started having difficulty in breathing and nothing that was done improved the situation. We as a family were there with her all afternoon and she even got to see and talk to her son Neil in Dubai on Skype. He had not yet left to come home as there was difficulty in getting a flight due to the world cup

Our minister also came to visit her and pray with her.

Before I left at about 22h30 I rubbed her back, put cream on her legs feet and arms. Powdered her body, cleaned her dentures and helped her rinse her mouth, washed her hands and face and brushed her hair. She said to me “I feel so good now thank you”.

I asked her if she wanted me to stay the night but her reply was “ Go home and rest as you will need to be fresh tomorrow.”

I think she knew that the end was near and she didn’t want me to see her pass away.

I had scarcely got into bed when I received a phone call from the hospital with the terrible news that Pat had passed away.

I went to the hospital to hold her for the last time and say goodbye.

I held her lifeless but still warm body for a long time and then said goodbye and left.

This was the end of Pats short but brutal fight with cancer


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Hi Ronnie,

That is a lovely photo of your Pat - in the sun, a smile on her face. A good image to have in your mind. Washing of the body is such a universal ritual and one filled with love. You did a good deed your last evening with your beloved. I hope you can find some peace soon.

Will this be your first grandchild? I've heard they can do wonders for the spirit. Blessings.

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Thank you so much.

I have two granddaughters one is 13 years old from my eldest daughter and one of 7 months from my son. The third grandchild from my son is on the way and due to be born in December. They think its a boy.

My younger daughter is still to marry once she has finished her studies.

Needless to say Pat loved both the granddaughters with all her heart She had the oportunity to see the youngest one while she was in hospital with the pneumonia when my son and his wife came from Dubai to see her as she was so ill.

The eldest granddaughter has really been a comfort to me.

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Ronnie, what a beautiful telling of such a sad story. Your tending to Pat's comfort the night she passed is touching and should remain a comfort to you. Glad you knew she wanted you to go because she didn't want you to see her pass over. This has been discussed on this website many times. I do believe the person who is crossing over knows what is best for them and their loved one. I think in many cases they get to choose whether to have loved ones there or not. She knew you and loved you and chose the way for you to say good-by. I hope you hold strong during this time of grieving.

Judy in KW

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What a beautiful picture of Pat. So nice to see her in the sunshine, smiling, with the ocean lapping in the background. Wonderful.

What a beautiful last loving thing you did for her, washing her, cream, powder. What a beautiful memory for you, and what a loving feeling you left her with.

God bless you Ron.

Judy in MI

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Your story is very sad but beautiful too. One thing that I have learned is that no matter how horific things have seemed in your own situation there is someone who had it worse. There are just so many sad stories. I know your Pat must have been a very special lady to endure such pain for so long and not just give up. Bless you for standing by her through her journy.

I hope that soon you will find that first inkling of peace. It will be just a start at first but eventually all of the bad memories will fade a little and the good will stand forth in your mind and heart. Until then it will be rough going but I doubt you need to be told that. Again bless you for all you have done and been through.

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Thank you for all the great comments.

Yes I truly loved Pat and have been loking at more photos of her and the family.

Today was a particularly bad day as all I thought about was how much I long for her. The worst is when things are quiet and theres no one around.

Everyone seems to thinkI'm ok but they cant see the hurting inside.

Posting here helps clear some of the tension and build up of sorrow.

Thanks for being there for us


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