The first year

It's been almost fifty one weeks since Hillary died.

This year of firsts is almost over. First Christmas without her. First kid birthdays on my own. First Mother's day, Father's day. Long weekends. The end of school, the start of school. My birthday. Hillary's birthday probably doesn't count this past year as I think next year will be the first one where I try to make a tradition that we can keep to.

But a few things have to happen first.

Fair warning, the next few posts here aren't going to be a lot of fun. I've been dreading these two weeks for a few months now.

A year ago today, Hillary had an oncology appointment in the mid afternoon. As always, I accompanied her. The amount she had been sleeping had been going up dramatically over the past couple of weeks and as of the last day or two, we had started to notice some definite mental degradation. This scared me.

As those of you who knew her would not be surprised to know, Hillary went into every oncology appointment with her notes ready and questions prepared. I largely listened and very, very rarely would clarify a point. Sometimes she would understate a symptom. Other times I'd point out something that she might not have noticed. But the oncologists were talking to her and I was backup.

At the previous appointment, I had talked a bit more. Hillary was on opiates at that point and was still trying to get the dosage right.

On this day, I don't really remember how much she spoke. I do remember that, for the first time ever in a doctor's appointment, the oncologist was looking at me and asking me questions about Hillary. I never talked to her about this afterwards. I don't know how much she noticed. But it shook me.

We parted ways. Hillary with my and/or her mother at that point to go home and me on my bike, headed downtown. I had started going to a support person support group a couple of weeks before and wanted to go back. Actually sitting down with a few other folks who had spouses with various terminal cancers was... not nice, but comforting or something. Shared experience is a thing and it's valuable.

On the ride toward town, I got a phone call. The callback number was the oncologist's personal number. He had left a brief message asking me to call back. I did and got the desk. Some of the numbers from the bloodwork were worrying and they wanted her back in the hospital.

A couple of brief calls later and Hillary got checked into the ER. She would not go home again.

I went to the group. I told some stories. I listened. I mentioned that I was actually going to hospital afterwards as Hillary was there and was looking at the first stages of possible liver failure. It was my second and last support person group.

From my talk with the oncology department, I had some information and things to research. There were, of course, multiple things going on as you would expect in a person with advanced cancer. The worrying one this time was hypercalcemia.

I read enough to get a decent handle on things. Combined with what I knew of her advancing cancer, my rational brain largely realized that this was probably it.

When I got to the ER, I talked with Hillary. She'd had a few hours of IV fluid at that point and had stabilized a bit. She was still fairly fuzzy, but more coherent than she'd been for a couple of days. I started giving my usual run down of what I'd learned.

I described it in the way that I had so many other symptoms and cancer things over the last year. In general terms, never giving any information on statistics or prognosis. Noting it was normal and expected to happen at some point with this cancer. What might happen to her in the short term. I talked a bit about the treatments for the symptoms.

I then hesitated. Statistics were not allowed. From everything I knew at that point, her odds of surviving another month was, at best, a coin toss.

"I know you don't want statistics. But this one is serious."

"Serious? How serious?" She looked at me. Maybe she saw something on my face then, "Like, this could kill me?"

"Yes. Possibly really fast."

I let her think. I don't remember what we talked about afterwards now. This was the part that has been burned into my memory.

Ultimately, she never really did have much more to say on the topic. I guess she left her words up to me.