I love city lights. Yes, I’m a beach girl and could look out at the water all. day. long. But I love to look out at a big ol’, well-lit city at night. Which works out well because I’m smack in the middle of downtown tonight, and I even have a peek-a-boo view of the Space Needle. I never grow tired of looking at that iconic engineering feat.
I’m at the first of our two temporary homes in the city. Corey’s been here since he was discharged from UW last weekend after an additional week of IV chemo. His parents arrived the night he was discharged and wanted to spend a few days with him so they jumped into the role of caretaker and have been with him at the apartment and all of his appointments this week. They left for home today so this is my first night down here. And I’m flying solo.
I arrived at the apartment late tonight, after spending the day with Corey – in the hospital. He had to be admitted last night with a fever that wouldn’t break. Not a high fever, but a fever nonetheless. As of Tuesday, Corey’s white blood cell count fell low enough that he was officially considered immune-suppressed. By Wednesday, it was at a complete zero, meaning he effectively has no immune system. So a fever, even a low-grade one, is taken quite seriously.
His fever has been stable today but another side effect popped up that had him pretty glad he was in the hospital. After the extra week of chemo (last week), he began getting the GCSF, or growth factor shots, on Saturday. These shots are meant to beef up his bone marrow/stem cells in preparation for the transplant. We were warned that these shots could potentially cause some pain because you’re basically expanding the bones within a pretty short timeframe, but he hadn’t experienced any pain – until last night. Along with the fever, his pain spiked pretty suddenly and it took some pretty strong pain meds to get it under control. Once he got something in his system, he managed pretty well. Until this afternoon.
By about 1:00 this afternoon, the pain was ramping up so he took half of what they offered to give him. About an hour later, he took the other half. About an hour after that, he asked if they could possibly give him more. And that trend continued…for the next four hours. At first, there was a bit of an internal (OK, maybe not so internal) raised eyebrow when he likened the increasing pain to childbirth. I may even have muttered a snarky, “Not. Even. Close.”
But then it got serious. Is it terrible to admit that it was uncomfortable to watch? I mean, this is a guy who will barely even take an ibuprofen if he’s not feeling well, but after a few hours, this was way, way beyond ibuprofen. The pain climbed from a 4 to a 10 pretty quickly and reached a non-stop assault that, honestly, was just hard to watch. I just wanted to fix it. I tried to help him get comfortable, change positions, sit, stand, lean, apply heat, and boy did I pray. After a few hours of knock-a-regular-person-on-their-keister pain meds, his nurse, who had been so great all day, brought out the big guns. She gave him something through his IV that I can’t remember the name of but was “about seven times stronger than morphine.” She said it would hit fast and would probably make him a bit loopy, but loopy was considerably more desirable than the constant assault of pain he was feeling.
A big sigh of relief came (from both of us) after about 15 minutes or so as he was finally able to lay back and get somewhat comfortable. Another few minutes and the eyelids began to grow heavy and the words began to slur a bit. Then, thankfully, he was out and getting some much-needed rest.
After he woke up and had some dinner, we took a s-l-o-w walk around the floor (they get marks for how many laps they do each day) and Corey remarked that for the first time, he felt like a cancer patient.
Not gonna lie, that kinda broke my heart.
We had a good talk tonight. There’s something about suffering that makes us more compassionate and understanding and appreciative of others. There’s a scripture in Philippians (3:10) that says, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection…”. Everyone wants to know the power of the resurrection. But there’s another, less-quoted part of that verse that says, “and the fellowship of his suffering.” Fellowship means companionship, camaraderie, mutual support. We all want to know, witness, partake in the power of Christ’s resurrection… but I think it’s when we meet each other in the suffering, offering tender support and companionship, that we are most like Him.
Corey had received another dose of the good stuff before I left tonight and was well on his way to getting a much-needed good night’s sleep. We’re hoping for discharge orders in the morning and this weekend we’ll move into our more long-term apartment at the transplant housing. Not sure if we’ll have a view of the Space Needle, so I’ll enjoy the twinkling lights of this beautiful city that I’ve come to love as I nod off tonight. As I look out at the windows on the buildings around me, it’s my hope that, with all the craziness going on in the world around us, we can offer each other some “companionship, camaraderie and mutual support.” The fellowship we find there has a power of its own.