Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I am not ready for this, but...

I haven't posted for a long time. I was so involved in the year of mourning for my mother that I could spare no mental energy for much of anything else. Then I was traveling with The Spouse, and then it was time to get ready for Pessach. And then --

The Spouse had been in America, working like the devil, from Sukkot until just before Pessach. Two weeks before he came home he went to a convention and caught a cold, which developed into a nagging cough. Chol HaMoed Pessach he went to a doctor, who thought the cough was a side effect of his high blood pressure medication and switched his pills. No joy. Then off to an ENT, who thought it was allergies, and prescribed pills and potions and inhalations. Still no help. Off to the lung doctor, who calls for X-rays.

The X-rays show lots of fluid in the lungs, so back to the lung doctor. He says it's pneumonia, and since we live so far out of town, The Spouse should go into the hospital for a week. We head to the hospital, where they draw blood and check his oxygen saturation level -- about 85. They slap oxygen up his nose ("Up your nose with a rubber hose, hon") and we wait for service.

Later that night they aspirate about a liter of fluid from his right lung and send him for chest X-rays and a CT. We spend the night waiting in a corridor, he on a gurney and I on a chair, while he's being pumped full of antibiotics. The next day we spend in the corridor. Toward midnight of the second night they finally put him into a curtained off area with three other people, an area in which I can at least stretch out on the floor to sleep. We spend another day and a half there, and they released him on Friday with major doses of oral antibiotics.

Sunday May 18 he had trouble breathing, and the local paramedic sent us back to the hospital. This time we get a curtained-off triple room in the ER from the start, and since new X-rays show more fluid in the lungs, they inserted a drainage tube first thing in the morning on Monday. On Tuesday the doctor told us we're moving up to a ward -- oncology. The fluid they had aspirated that first night was sent, as a routine matter, for testing, and came back positive for "growth cells."

While we were waiting for a room on the ward, The Spouse had convulsions and passed out. When he came to, the doctor ordered a head CT. The next day the oncologist comes to see us -- they still can't see the growth in his lungs, but the head CT shows two growths in his brain, and they can also see a growth on his adrenal gland. On Thursday they give him a full torso CT and find the growth -- the size of a man's fist -- in his right lung, and small growths on his mediastinum. Final diagnosis:

Stage IV metastasic non-small cell carcinoma of the lungs
malignant pleural effusion
brain and adrenal metastases

His condition, the doctor said, was inoperable and incurable. His projected life expectancy was 4 months; if all the treatments worked well, he might have up to 14 months.

The next day, Friday, The Spouse was given his first chemo treatment (55 mg cisplatin, 55 mg navelbine) and on Sunday we were moved to Hadassah Ein Karem for whole brain radiation. (Shaarei Tzedek doesn't have the equipment to do radiation.) While there he got another dose of chemo.

After 10 days of radiation, on June 5, we returned to Shaarei Tzedek. That Sunday we came home for the holiday of Shavuot, with an appointment to go back on June 15 for his weekly chemo treatment, and on July 1 we were to go for a new head CT. Other than that, we were free to be at home.

On June 17, at 1:20 pm, he had another set of convulsions and died in my arms, in our home. Up until the end he was optimistic and working, telling his clients he would be back in the States after Sukkot. It was only about an hour and a half before he died that he first said "I'm afraid."


(taken at 11:35 am on June 17, 2008; hard at work e-mailing clients)

Rabbi Benjamin Cohen
22 Nissan 5716-14 Sivan 5768
April 3 1956-June 17 2008

Yehi zichro baruch

10 comments:

Andy Levy-Stevenson said...

There's nothing to say that can stem your grief.

But it's important that Robin and I share with you our love and regard for you both and for your family; and that we mark Benjie's death by saying how sorry we are, and how much we'll miss him.

HaMakom yenachem et'chem b'toch shar avay'lay Tzion vee'Yerushalayim.

paige morgan said...

Oh, my friend, I am so sorry to hear this news. I am sorry that I never met Benjy. You and the teens will be in my thoughts. Love you all.

TNTknits said...

Oh, I wish I knew what to say. I am so, so sorry for your loss. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts.

Iris said...

I have kept an eye on your blog wondering when/if you'd be back. How very hard for you and your family. Keeping you in my thoughts -

Yisgadal, v'yiskadash...

Creative Genius? said...

OH I am so very very sorry to read this post. I have no words of wisdom or anything that could bring any comfort at a time like this (because, really what could I say to bring comfort?!) However please know you are in my thoughts and prayers. I am so sorry!

May his memory be a blessing and my you and your children find comfort in the good memories.

-Alison

Devorah said...

May he forever be in your hearts.

Our thoughts are with you.

Will Pillage For Yarn said...

Oh, I am so very sorry. You and your family are in my thoughts and my prayers.

cecily said...

De-lurking to say that I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

Lucy said...

My heart hurts for you...you will be in my prayers during this difficult time. Be strong.

amysue said...

I am so, so sorry to hear of Benjamin's passing and of course shocked, having seen you both in November at the Biennial. You are in my prayers.
May his memory be for a blessing.