A Gift

Our modern world has been progressively distanced from the messier aspects of life. Birth is too often something that happens “somewhere else” and until recently babies “born” on television were produced all smiles and sparkles. Death is even more sanitized.
Sure, we see Hollywood deaths, with a suitable amount of blood and gore scattered around. We glance at horrific photos from war venues while scrolling through the internet or perhaps reading a news magazine in the doctor’s waiting room. Awful, we think. So sad. But when it comes to deaths directly related to us, we generally see only the sanitized version. Unless someone is found dead in bed, many die in some facility, and we see them all cleaned up for their final journey.
Where am I going with this? As you’ve possibly read, in May my husband turned bright yellow, and was admitted to the hospital for tests. He had Whipple surgery in June for a tumor on his bile duct. The Whipple procedure is for those who have cancer in or around the pancreas and too often they don’t know until the cancer has progressed beyond help. In that, we were lucky. The luck didn’t hold throughout all of his far too long hospital stay. Last week his doctors did me the great favor of being totally honest with us. He simply was not getting better. His surgery had healed beautifully, but his body could not process the liquid food going through a tube directly into his stomach, and he had trouble swallowing cleanly, so that there was a constant risk of pneumonia. We had to consider Hospice care for the final destination on his life’s journey.
He asked if he could go home, and they told him I couldn’t handle his care. Being me, I had to ask why not. Hospice supports home care. It would be a matter of keeping him clean, and giving him this final expression of our love, to be able to look out the window at the home we had bought for our retirement. If we had two days it would be wonderful. Two weeks would be a gift. I wouldn’t think beyond that.
On Friday they set up a hospital bed in the middle of our living room, and I surrounded it with portable dog pens. On Saturday they delivered my husband into my care. In studying up on malabsorption, a common after effect of the Whipple, the most frequent advice is to feed small meals every couple of hours, and to avoid processed foods and wheat. I had baked a chicken, and had some other plain but healthy fare for him. A friend had brought over egg custard, and we always have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand.
I started with half a grilled cheese sandwich (won’t mention the wheat restriction until I can find bread in other grains). Then chilled pineapple chunks. Then slices of chicken and avocado. Gulp. Gone. On with the egg custard, some berries, string cheese, peach slices. Gulp. Gone. Efficiently processed by the digestive system the hospital had wanted to give up on.
Right now I’m working on a sugarless, crustless sweet potato pie with an oat crumble topping. We’ll probably have fish and asparagus for dinner. The proof of processing might be considered a mixed blessing by some but for me it is another gift.
We’re not guaranteed total healing but that path is so much more clear than it was last Wednesday when we agreed to hospice care. He has at least the hope of a life beyond hospital walls. If it turns out he has reached the final destination in his life’s journey, it will be in a messy room, in front of a picture window, surrounded by love

after he was home two days


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23 responses to “A Gift

  1. Hi Mona,
    I’m so sorry to hear of your husband’s illness. My thoughts are with you and your family.


  2. Thanks, Joy. He just might be getting better


  3. Alysia

    So glad to hear things are looking up, Monica. I have five dogs, so I can relate to the need for the dog crates surrounding the bed.

    You and your husband are in my thoughts and prayers.


  4. Monica, please give Tom my love. I still see him in my mind’s eye playing with Betsy, my first spotty wiener dog.


  5. You brave, wonderful person. If nothing else, you’ve taken him out of toxic hospital surroundings (any hospital – I’m not being specific). I’ve had two friends whose husbands died of pancreatic cancer; home is so much kinder, so much more dignified. A lot of hard work, sure. But he’s worth that. My thoughts are with you both.


  6. There’s no place like home when you’re sick. I find Spelt bread is a good alternative to wheat. Hope things improve for you both very quickly.


  7. Mary Beth Rogers

    A wonderful gift you have given Tom, Monica. It takes great courage to walk this final path, and you are doing it together…..with Hoda kisses.


  8. I love that your husband is with your dogs! I think animals aid in healing more than anyone gives them credit for…

    I’m sending healing thoughts and prayers to you and your husband… I hope his healing continues now that he’s comfortable at home…




  9. trish taylor

    So glad you and he and the salukis can have this time together Sending thoughts of healing and love your way Mona.


  10. Susan

    It is so good to see Tom at home. I see he is wrapped in nice bright colors and has the most attentative of company in an environment that is so much healthier for heart and soul.


  11. I’m so sorry to hear of your husband’s illness. I’ve bee praying for your family. I’m glad that you are able to take care of him at home. It’s a wonderful gift.


  12. Hello, Mona — and hubby! I hate to hear you’re having these health problems, but know my prayers and blessings go out to you both. The pictures of home and his being with family and family pets are gifts in themselves. Praying he remains comfortable and continues to gain those small improvements.


  13. KH LeMoyne

    You are both in my thoughts and I wish you as many days possible together with that picture window.


  14. Tom’s doctor just called to check up on him. She might be even happier than we are to hear he’s holding his own and eating


  15. Jim&Marlene Stoner

    We have you in our prayers Tom. Glad to here your home where you can enjoy your days and nights with your family.
    Take care. cousin.


  16. Francine Infortunio

    My thoughts and prayers are for you and your husband. Home is the best of places.
    Udi products are gluten free (wheat free) and taste quite good. Gluten is hidden in many products but thankfully the labeling has gotten better.
    Good luck and best of wishes,


  17. Mary Fitzwater

    Thank you for photos, he looks so much better! There really is no place like home. I am thinking of you both. Potato starch muffins are not bad by the way if you are looking for flour alternatives.


  18. Mona, I’m so sorry to hear about your husband’s illness. Sometimes I think being at home in familiar surroundings is better than any medicine. I hope he continues to improve. Take care of yourself too.


  19. Cheryl Johnson

    Thank you for being such a good, loving, and caring wife to my cousin. I all so thank you for letting us now how he is doing. I pray he over comes this and gets better!
    Love both of you,


  20. DJ

    Another shoulder here for you !!


  21. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I like that you and Tom are doing things your way. May you two have lots more time together.


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