Lost My Best Friend And Partner To Colon Cancer December 22, 2009

It was 2004 and things were really exciting in our lives. Mac was getting his masters in counseling, and I was in grad school studying educational psychology. We were housemates / best friends -- former partners, and had "raised each other" in the 1980s. Even though we'd formally broken up, we were never able to be apart for very long ... I remember so well how he made me feel. It was unconditional love, joy, acceptance, and total support. His embrace was like nothing else -- like no one else -- like being blanketed with pure, sheer love. He made me smile like no one else -- a smile that came from deep in my heart and straight from the soul.

Then one day, shortly before a big exam, he couldn't take the discomfort any longer in his belly. Going in to the ER, he learned that day he had advanced stage colon cancer. They were able to resect the colon, but the mets on his liver were such that they could not be removed. That night, at the hospital, I cursed at God -- if there was a God, why didn't he or she protect this man from this horrible disease? I was livid. And I began bracing myself for the loss.

The following weeks and months meant helping Mac through the most excruciatingly uncomfortable sessions of chemo -- nausea, vomiting, and being unable to enjoy a lot. But Mac pressed onward and wouldn't give up, and in between chemo, he'd frequently shower me with meals knowing I was studying and wouldn't eat, and with small gifts or kindnesses ... he was there for me and was my number one cheerleader in finishing my doctorate. He was able to enjoy some things in life that I couldn't give him, going on trips with his friend Mary Pat to Spain, Florida, California ... although it was bittersweet seeing them, I knew this was his only chance to do these things and experience life and living. So I was happy for him, and Mary Pat was a key part of his support system.

After about 4 years on Avastin / Xeloda, the treatments were getting more and more difficult to get through. The anti-nausea med's weren't working. There were times when his blood sugar would get out of control (he was diabetic), and he'd end up in the hospital. The chemo also began damaging his heart, and he developed congestive heart failure, adding more oral meds to the mix, with a new chemo regimen proved to be too much for his body and for his spirit. The treatments stopped holding back the liver mets. By August of 2009, he developed ascites -- fluid building up in his belly because of new tumor growth in the lining of the abdomen, the omentum. They began a different chemo regimen, which controlled some of the ascites, but things were getting harder -- days and days without leaving the house, and food was becoming less and less of interest. Then there was pneumonia, in late October, and a hospitalization. Then a bout with severe low blood sugar about a month later, and another hospital stay. By December 11, Mac was getting weaker -- he'd begun falling. The tumor was now hard and growing, distending his belly. Sometimes, he'd ask me to massage it, deeply -- the tumor by this point was pressing against all the other internal organs. Yet there he was, and I never stopped seeing him ... the tumor was the tumor, but it was not who he was. The cancer could take his body, but it could not take who he was, how beautiful his soul and heart and mind was.

We got closer and closer that fall, and I told him about how abusive my relationship had been with Bill, a man I'd been with -- Mac and I knew that in an ideal world, neither of us would have been seeing other people. But we were home, finally, and our hearts were each others' home.

The night before Mac died, he'd been transported home in an ambulance. They laid him down in his bed. By this point, he couldn't talk, but he could hear, and he was conscious and very uncomfortable. I could sense he needed to be turned on his side, to help him feel less of a choking sensation. I got in the bed, and held him, cradling him really, and told him that we really should just tell Mary Pat and Bill (the other guy) to get lost -- that we should be together. He nodded, struggling more now to breathe. I then whispered in his ear "it's OK, you're home now. your home is right here, in my heart. In my heart, you'll always have a home. He began relaxing just a little, and I made up a visualization -- a story, of him making it home to Georgia, of picking ripe peaches off the trees, of feeling the warm sun, and meeting his parents, embracing them in total love and forgiveness ... all is love, all is forgiveness."

The house was filled with friends and people whose lives he touched -- an executive director, a drug addict he'd counseled, nuns who worked in the community. It was like a spontaneous celebration of his life -- wine flowed, pizzas were ordered, and everyone had their chance to say goodbye. He died just a few hours after everyone left. Totally loved.

FormerDoorMat FormerDoorMat
51-55, F
Feb 13, 2010