The last weeks.
I believe we spent at least one night in every room of the cancer unit at Trident Hospital since September. The good days became less and less frequent as Autumn set in, as if her body was synchronized to the seasons. During December she would ask for her phone on several occasions but lacked the strength or presence of mind to write like she wanted to. I believe she was waiting for some good news to kick off another round writing. The first round of chemo back in the Spring had been like a sledge hammer on her tumors. However, successive attempts to control the tumors had proven lacking. We traveled to Charlotte to consult with a specialist about immunotherapy. It is a promising new field in cancer fighting drugs that takes the brakes off the body's own immune system. There was one recently approved drug--of which she took one dose--and several phase 1 and 2 drugs she could try. But we knew time was the enemy. We read of new and exciting new cancer therapies almost every week, but the trick is to stay alive long enough to try them. Whit's cancer was so aggressive it would never allow her that precious time. She has posted on facebook that the only thing she wanted for Christmas was time. But the painful irony would be that on Christmas eve her hourglass would shatter...all the sand running out at once. I was working nightshift and my wife called at 5 am. Whitney was in such severe pain they could not get her into the Patrick's truck. They called EMS as I immediately left work for home. Thirty minutes later I would be jumping into the back of the ambulance as Patrick followed us on the 20 minute ride to Georgetown. The ride was excruciating for her. When we arrived they took her back and performed an x-ray. They suspected a perforation of some sort in her abdomen, but the x-ray did not support that theory. However, a later CT scan revealed that something was, in fact, leaking into her abdominal area. So, it was another hour long ambulance ride to Trident for surgery. We were blessed to have a very good surgeon --even for the night before Christmas. Whitney's oncologist had requested him. He explained that Whit had a fist sized tumor literally explode on her duodenum. It is a short segment of bowel between the stomach and the small intestine. The tumor was actually dead and was empty. This was probably due to it outgrowing it's blood supply. He observed smaller tumors on her liver but none appeared to be significant....for lack of a better word. The next ten days would be very challenging as she still had to finish radiation treatment for her 4 brain tumors. Standing and walking was extremely painful. I thought I had witnessed the maximum pain a human could endure without losing consciousness. I had not. Whitney later said that the pain was so bad she was sure her heart would stop. Ever increasingly, our goal, which was to see her cured, was re-negotiated backwards to mere pain management. Cancer does not negotiate. It sets the terms--physically, that is. On a spiritual level, Whitney set the rules. She never lost control of her situation. I'm not making her out to be some kind of "miss-siah", but her faith never failed. It was like her faith was some sort of basic element out of the periodic table that could not be reduced. No one who knew her could not be affected by that faith.
After about 10 days it became apparent that the healing process was not taking shape as we had hoped. We thought that, with the largest tumor out of the way, the smaller tumors would give us time to get rolling on the immunotherapy. But, inside the liver, the tumors were advancing at an alarming rate. We would take her home for what would be her final week of life. Patrick, her husband, was an amazing caregiver. Whitney actually became terrified of the pain coming back at the level it had the previous weekend. Patrick assured her that that would not happen. He rode home with her in the ambulance and never left her side. Patrick was constantly talking with nurses and doctors to make sure we administered the proper amount of pain medicine. It was a delicate and dangerous balance between controlling her pain and contributing to her death. But, once again, cancer had to settle for Whitney's fragile body. It could not take her soul. A group of prayer warriors would help make sure of that the day after she got home....
Getting late. I'll continue soon. Thanks, Stacy