Peter and I rapidly learned the hospital would not do anything to you without you telling the zap squad (that’s what Peter called the technicians in treatment room 5) your birthday. Dr. Willowby said it was a security measure against the wrong patient getting the wrong treatment. But with Peters voice getting worse and worse each day telling them your birthday was rapidly becoming more and more of a problem. So I had a tee shirt made with his birthday on it. So when they asked for his birth date all he had to do was point at his chest.
Our supply of wood slowly grew. But Peter more than made up for the slow days on Wednesdays. That was the day Peter had to meet with Miss Nosy. Her primary area of interest and expertise was gastrointestinal. And Peter hated her with a passion. When I asked about her by name Peter insisted on calling her Miss Nosy or Miss Nosy Pants. Every week she would ask the same questions, and every week Peter would give her the same snarky answers. Some of her questions were extremely personal and very intrusive. He was of the opinion that some aspects of a persons life are simply private.
He told me about her and in the process strained what was left of his vocal cords.
“That loony woman seems to think my bowels and my sex life are interconnected. If that ditzy woman doesn’t want to yammer about one she’s hell-bent about yammering about the other. There are some subjects in life that are sacred. Sex and one’s innards are two of them. If that dizzy idiot doesn’t want to know how things are in the bathroom she wants to know how things are between the sheets!”
He asked me to imagine I was in the hospital with some sort of appendix related disorder and she asked me some of the same questions she asked Peter.
I answered as truthfully as I could.
“If somebody asked me about my bowels my initial feeling would be that my innards and their functioning are exactly that: mine . I would add I’m here because of my appendix. I also said that I would be more concerned about having a scar.”
With just a few weeks left of talking at Peter she came to the most astounding observation.
“You don’t like me very me very much do you?” asked Miss Nosy. Peter described her as having oriental features and nail polish so shiny the glare could blind you.
Apparently, Peter just sat in her office and stared at her. He was flummoxed that it took her five weeks for her to figure that out. Finally, he exploded.
“I really don’t get you. My bathroom habits are nobodies business but my own. Has it ever occurred to you that some subjects are private for a reason? How would you feel if a total stranger pestered you for weeks on end about your sex life or your innards? What’s the matter with you?. Have you got some sort of fetish?”
Peter stomped out of her office and never returned.
The Frustration Pile
On Wednesdays got Peter was so cheesed off at Miss Nosy he split a lot of wood. I got into the business of frustration manipulation. I’d drive us home, I’d put the car in park, I’d ask about Miss Nosy ,and he’d go straight from the car to the wood pile. Only Peter preferred to call it “The Frustration Pile”. He was so frustrated with Miss Nosy it looked like we were going to have a small surplus of wood. By the third week, his voice was really bad. It got to the point if he stood beside me he and said four words to me I’d be lucky if I understood one. When I told him I could barely understand him he looked really dejected and brought the iPad out of early retirement. Peter also had a really hard time swallowing anything. I felt so sorry for him. When his throat was really sore he had to resort to Mucositis mouthwash to numb the pain. He tried not to take morphine if he could. When it came time to get groceries from Norland a new item was added to the list. Ice cream cones. They numbed the pain and were tasty. Plus they helped keep his weight at 182 pounds. And he preferred Chapmans as opposed to Nestle. Chapman cones were completely filled. Nestle cones were hardly filled past the opening of the cone. Peter liked the Chapman cones for another reason. Chapmans was a Canadian company. “I’d rather have my money go towards a Canadian company then some American company that has more money than god and most certainly doesn’t need mine.” The scribe with the sweet tooth had spoken.
By the fourth week, Peter was in bad shape. The X-ray radiation had dried out his skin to the point where he looked like Boris Karloff from the original mummy film that was made in 1933.
Plus looking at his skin was just plain gross. It flaked off and his skin (or what was left of it) secreted this yellow puss that was really upsetting to see. Dr. Willowby taught me how to do saline soaks. The soaks soaked up the puss, then I had to apply something called ProShield to Peters’ neck for the pain. I had to clean up Peters neck two or three times a day. The hardest part of the saline soaks was not letting my husband-to-be know that looking at his neck really upset me and was really hard. A nurse at the radiation clinic taught me a trick I could use whenever I had to change a bandage. She told me to look at Peters nose or my hands. When Peter was getting zapped I waited to take him home. I saw other patients and they looked like hell too. But it was really, really hard to see the man I loved going through this.
Another side effect of the radiation was the inability to remember things. Dr. Willowby said this was called “Brain Fog”. Peter hated this part too. Especially when it came to his writing. The muscle fatigue brought on by the radiation was bad enough but when coupled with “Brain Fog” made life around Casa Christopher rather interesting, but mostly frustrating. Try to imagine you’re looking for the car keys. And about halfway through your search, and you end up asking yourself “What’s a car?”. It was sort of like that. Peter was really proud of his memory. Normally he could tell you what you said, the way you stood, and what you wore, or what you didn’t wear which was really, really annoying at times. It also made winning arguments frustratingly hard.
After the fifth week, he started throwing up. First, he would wheeze like he was struggling to breathe. Then he started to gag. And finally, he just threw up. At first, I thought it was something I made. It soon became clear something simply wasn’t right and I had nothing to do with it. I called Dr. Willowby in a panic. He told me to try and put him to bed, and to bring to his office the next day.
We were watching TV together. I was relaxed knowing the treatments were almost over. All of a sudden Peter started to wheeze. Then he started to gag. By now he had run to the bathroom. The sound was horrible and Peter looked it too.
“Oh, Christ. I think my innards just touched my spine. It’s just the dry heaves only not so-”
He couldn’t complete the sentence. Everything he had for dinner just came back up. After that day’s treatment, Dr. Willowby gave Peter a thorough physical. He couldn’t find anything wrong.
“I’ll be darned if I can find anything wrong with him. He’s in rough shape, yes. How many times did he throw up last night?” asked Dr. Willowby completely baffled and rubbing the back of his neck.
“Three times. And he looked very pale and was really weak afterward. But after the first time, there was nothing inside him and so there was no reason to upchuck. And he seemed to hold his stomach like he was in pain.”
Dr. Willowby was puzzled. He put his hands in hands pockets and paced around his office. Finally he came to a stop and held on to the chair behind his desk.
“Take him home after today’s treatment. Normally I’d say to put him to bed as soon as you get home. But its essential he maintains a normal sleep pattern. Let him do what he’d normally do. Maybe he’ll give us a clue as to what’s wrong tonight.”
That night it happened again. Only this time Peter had the good sense to put himself to bed. He was still holding his stomach. And it was only 9:20 in the evening.. I texted Dr. Willowby that it happened again. Dr. Willowby texted me back. I was to bring him to his office after Peters treatment but under no circumstances was he to have any Boost or mouthwash. After I got off the phone I got ready for bed. I got in bed beside Peter and cuddled him. He was shivering.
Peters breath was simply disgusting. I wanted to kiss my man good morning but I just couldn’t do it. Not even a super quick peck on the cheek. I politely suggested that a good shower might do him a world of good. But I warned him to keep his mouth shut and not to let any water in his mouth. He was cleaned, pressed, fed and watered. but every time he exhaled the stench almost made me lose my lunch. I did not look forward to the drive. He looked forward and to the right while I drove. When we left it still kind of cool so the top was up. Thank god for windows. I opened his an inch and the same with mine. The wind whistled a bit in the car but we both lived to chuckle about the whole stinky experience. By the time we got to Dr. Willowby’s office, he gave Peter a slew of tests. Blood, urinalysis, a small hair sample, and asked for a sample of his spit. After the spit sample, Peter asked for some mouthwash which Dr. Willowby gladly gave him. “This is hell. Smells like-“. Dr. Willowby cut him off. “Drink up and less description. We all have a pretty good idea of what you’re trying to say.” The aroma coming from Peter was pretty foul. Dr. Willowby directed him to drink and swish. At last, I could kiss my man. The tests came back within an hour. Everything was normal except for the spit sample. Apparently, some bile from his stomach had leaked upwards into his esophagus or windpipe. When Peter had the ice cream cone it forced the bile upwards irritating his windpipe causing his wheezing and gagging. His body reacted as it normally would when something that shouldn’t be there entered. It tried to expel it.
“That’s the little stinker. Plain old stomach acid. I’ll prescribe a mild antacid for him. It’ll be in pill form. He’s to have it when he drinks his Boost in the evening. How’s his swallowing?” asked Dr. Willowby.
I thought before I spoke. “Still painful but not as painful as last week. Plus he’s trying to wean himself off the morphine. He only takes it when he really has to. Peter won’t tell you this himself so keep this to yourself. A fourth book is already in the works and was when you had to read him the Riot Act. He’s trying to write but finds it hard to concentrate.” Dr. Willowby was surprised when I told him about the book.
“Great! Glad to hear it. I’ll make a point of getting a copy” said Dr. Willowby.
Then I dropped a bombshell.
“You might be in it.”
Dr. Willowby didn’t know what to make of that statement and looked shell shocked. Then something happened that I didn’t plan on. I hugged Dr. Willowby.
“Thank you for saving Peter. For a while there I thought I might lose him.” And that when I kissed him.
….still more to come