The Hospital, Part One

This is the fourteenth chapter of Love Song by Julienne (ft Cancer). The other ones are listed below.

Prologue – Julienne
Chapter 1 – Meeting Julienne
Chapter 2 – Finding Julienne
Chapter 3 – A Kiss, and a Confession
Chapter 4 – Of Spaniel Day Lewis, Parents, and Dothraki Love Nests
Chapter 5 – Brioche French Toast
Chapter 6 – Halloween with Becca
Chapter 7 – A Ring, and a Conversation
Chapter 8 – Her Woods
Chapter 9 – Christmas, and a Chase
Chapter 10 – Alantimes Day
Chapter 11 – A Dress and a Concert
Chapter 12 – Graduation (or, Freeeeddddoooommmm)

Chapter 13 – The Joy Before the Storm

Here we are. OK.

I start of a lot of these with these semi-parenthetical asides about how hard these are to do or start – sorry about that. Here’s another one. Sorry about that.

A lot of the time… well, most of the time, OK, I guess every time, I’m not exactly sure how to start writing these. I have things I know I want to talk about, but the way they are written is a surprise to me every time. Before I write them, I’ll read our old messages and look through pictures from the time to make sure I’m not forgetting anything. Then I just open up Word, start typing everything in a stream-consciousness style, take breaks when I get super emotional, then come back and continue. Then I read over it once for typos and clarity (such as it is), add pictures (sometimes I know which ones I want to use, sometimes they come to me when I’m typing), and schedule it (usually for 2 pm for some reason). That’s it.

I don’t ever know what’s going to come out. The Julienne post that started it all was like that. It went in a direction I never would have consciously chosen. I reread it last week and it’s so disjointed and confusingly written to me now, which makes sense because when I wrote it I was both disjointed and confused, not to mention distraught, bereaved, and broken. It hasn’t changed much since.

I don’t even know why I’m writing this, other than the fact it’s what my brain wants to say for some stupid reason. I’ll leave it in, even though any half-competent editor would remove it (although I lie to myself that a fully-competent editor would leave it in because it’s emotionally true, and half-competent editors are all hard at work at the latest celebrity ghost-written nonsense anyway, and it’s a lie that feels good to me so I’ll keep whispering it to myself). I think I’m writing this because what I’m going to try to write about makes me feel like a sculptor armed with a hammer and chisel staring at the cliffs of Dover and wondering how the fuck he’s going to carve out the thing he needs to without burying himself in an avalanche.

But I guess it’s like eating an elephant. One small bite at a time.

Fuck. OK.

***

In the days before the 17th of July in 2015, Julienne had been busy with more than engagement party planning and crafts and bar study. She was also wrestling with something very heavy and difficult. Something that bothered her was becoming very real and inching ever closer and she didn’t know what to do about it.

Leaving her family and moving to California.

Of course it was for her dream job, the thing she’d been actively planning her life around for years after she accepted that she would never be able to be a stage performer due to stage fright. It was why Julienne had gone to law school and gotten her double major. It was the reason for her internship. Being an agent for classical composers was the thing she burned to do. And in order to do it, she needed to go to L.A. It was the obvious choice.

Except.

Julienne loved her family. Her parents, her brother and sister-in-law, her niece, her aunt and uncles and cousins and grandfather all lived near each other. In order to do the occupation she desired most, she’d have to move across the country and away from them. She was terrified of that, and it got scarier the closer it approached. Flying back and forth would be much more expensive and time-consuming than from Miami, and we’d be struggling as it was affording it out there. She worried about missing her niece’s birthdays, the arrival of new little ones, and family get-togethers. Most of all, she worried about missing health issues with her parents. The idea of something tragic happening to her parents while she was far away and unable to arrive in time left Julienne shaking and crying.

She honestly didn’t know what to do. She’d opened up to me about it not long after she moved in with me, but it was something that had begun gnawing at her as her time at school came to a close. Julienne waited to tell me because she was worried about my reaction. We’d been planning and talking about California for as long as we’d been together and she was scared that I would think she was flighty or too emotional or over-attached. She overcame her fear and told me because she knew it needed to be said.

Of course, I wasn’t in any way surprised. I didn’t know anyone who had the kind of relationship with her parents that Julienne had. I knew that she thought of her cousins more as sisters and her aunt and uncle were more like friends. I knew how she felt about her niece, and how the thought of having children so far away from everyone else would be hard for her. She when she finally told me, I held her hands and said that I loved her, I understood, and I would support whichever way she wanted to go. I told her again my guiding principle in life, the wisdom my mother had given me that I never forgot: do what makes you happy, whatever it is. The greatest success in life is to love and be loved, in my opinion, and no resume-like recital of jobs or achievements or awards is ever going to convey true success.

Julienne cried with a combination of relief and indecision. She was glad to have my support, but it didn’t make her decision any easier. It was something that she continued to wrestle with all the way into an otherwise normal Friday. July 17th, 2015.

The text I posted in the last chapter, when she went to the pharmacy to get meds, was sent as I was leaving work. I got home and Julienne was obviously in distress. She told me that she’d been constipated for a few days and had taken some Immodium to help with it. I knew that Immodium was an anti-diarrheal and had the potential to make things worse. I picked up some laxatives for her to try to get things over with as soon as possible. She wasn’t hungry because of the cramps, but she stuck through the night and went to sleep, hopeful that everything would change on Saturday morning.

(So I guess I’ll warn you now that if discussions of things like enemas or farting bothers you, you can skip, well, a lot of this. Maybe just wait for the next chapter. No judgment, but I will say getting comfortable with this shit [pun totally intended] may totally save your life one day. Nothing is going to be gross or anything. No actual shit will be discussed.)

Morning brought no relief. After a little bit of sleep Julienne still wasn’t passing anything. The cramps she was feeling had her in serious pain. Julienne had a ridiculously high pain tolerance, so her distress and tears scared me. She still hadn’t been able to eat much if anything. I went and picked up some magnesium to help the process along, along with a Fleet. We were going to take the kitchen sink approach, because she wanted to exhaust every option before she decided to do something she dreaded the thought of, using the enema. We always joked about “no butt stuff” being our relationship mantra, something in which we both were in full and complete agreement. We actually joked about including it on our vows because we felt very strongly about the matter. We were of course in the non-farting phase of our relationship. That goes without saying. (Although she did fart on my leg once when she was asleep and she was completely mortified by it when I told her. I didn’t care, but she was embarrassed. At least we managed to laugh about it.)

By the afternoon, though, she was feeling worse. The pain was constant. She felt like she had to go, but still nothing happened. She sent me out into the living room, so I was at least two doors away, as she prepared to use the enema. For her to decide to try it was a clear indicator that this was escalating. A few minutes later she sent me a text.

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I was trying to tell her not to worry. I’ve never been so wrong about anything in my life.

(Even now I’m in disbelief over how fucking wrong I was. I put myself back in this time and when I come back I cannot fucking believe that Julienne is gone. I can’t grip it, can’t fathom it, it’s fucking impossible or at least it should be, that the most vibrant and beautiful and magical and loving person who ever lived is just fucking gone and I will never ever fucking see her again and that’s too fucking much for me to bear.)

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A Lewis Wearing Sunglasses break.

I immediately left, worried and scared. I couldn’t imagine then, and can’t really even now, what it must have been like for her. After fighting and slogging her way through school, Julienne was finally done with college, but the pressure of studying for the bar exam and then the fear and worry of leaving her family were constantly weighing on her. Now she was sick, and didn’t know why, just like had happened in December during finals, and just like countless times before. It breaks me to think of the internal suffering she was going through, even – well, especially – now, the weight of all of that on her young shoulders.

I picked up more enemas, and when I got home she tried again. She was gone a while, and I was hoping for good news. Instead, she explained to me, her face red with embarrassment that she had to talk about these things with her fiancé, that when she tried to use the enemas the water just came right back out immediately no matter what she did, like something was in the way. She didn’t want to go to the emergency room on a Saturday, but by then it was obvious that she needed to be seen. For the first time, I helped her to the car to go to the hospital.

We checked in to the emergency room at Christiana Hospital in Newark Delaware. I’d heard it was the best hospital in the state, so I wasn’t worried about the care we’d get. We waited, and waited, and waited, sitting amidst a room full of coughing and obviously sick people because that’s the way we do things as a society. Finally, she got called back thanks to loud groaning she was making from the pain. She explained to a nurse her symptoms, cramping and constipation. We were told that there weren’t any rooms available yet, so we were sent to a hospital bed sitting in a hallway lined with them. They gave her some Percocet for the pain and an anti-nausea drug, since she was begin to feel nauseous.

I think we were there for 2 hours, sitting on that bed in a hospital hallway. I held her hand and looked at her scared face, the first feelings of helplessness worming their way into my soul and establishing their permanent residence, though I didn’t know it at the time. We were, after all, at the hospital. A place a young woman should be able to find out what was wrong and get it fixed. I held her hand and told her stories, I don’t know what, but we talked and laughed hand-in-hand as I sat on the edge of her bed and Julienne looked at me with her unbelievably beautiful eyes with such trust and warmth and love. Her eyes are the most striking I’ve ever seen, grey-green and sometimes blue, and like the rest of her so expressive and changeable. There is nothing like looking into her eyes.

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Those eyes, man. Xmas eve last year. Fuck.

Finally we were seen. The doctor was nice and instead of doing a CT scan, she wanted an ultrasound. The pain meds hadn’t done anything for her cramps, either, and they were worried about giving her too much because of the constipation they can cause. The ultrasound showed an enlarged left ovary and a lot of gas. Like, the worst gas build up the tech had ever seen. They decided to send her to get an internal ultrasound.

For an internal ultrasound, there’s only one way to access it. I didn’t want to leave her side, and Julienne wanted me with her, so that marked the beginning of the time when we no longer gave a fuck about what was going on or what was going where. I was going to be in the room with her holding her hand wherever she went and whatever she did, unless I wasn’t allowed for rules-based reasons. So I held her hand as she got wanded. We could see on the monitor the amount of gas that was built up, probably from the laxatives. It was honestly hard to see her intestinal wall. It was like looking at the inside of a balloon.

The doctor wanted an x-ray to see if there was any blockage causing the constipation and gas build-up. By the time we got the x-ray it was past 8 o’clock. The x-ray didn’t show any source of blockage, so the doctor told us to get some Gas-X and hopefully her constipation would end. So we were sent home without a CT scan and were told to come back in a week if things weren’t resolved.

A week.

We didn’t know better. We believed the doctor and the experts. I took Julienne home after almost 8 hours in the hospital, stopping to pick up the fucking Gas-X, and helped her to bed. She was angry and upset, feeling like she’d wasted our day because she was gassy. She took the Gas-X and we were hopeful that in a few hours all this would go away and we’d get back to our life, doing the things we loved.

Well, we all know how that went.

(I’ve decided to break this into two parts, because getting this far took longer than I thought, and also it’s heartbreaking and tough to write and I’ve just been assailed by this fucking feeling of UNFAIRNESS so hard since I started writing it. I know life isn’t fair, it’s never fucking fair, but there’s no way it should be so fucking unfair that this gracious brilliant beautiful incredible woman is gone and I’m still here when if there were any fucking justice in the world she’d still be here fighting for even more justice for the people getting fucked over every day. I miss her so much every single day that there are no words to express the longing and loneliness and sorrow. Fuck.)

About Alan Edwards

Former cancer caregiver. Husband of the most magical and amazing person who ever lived.

Posted on November 26, 2019, in The Real and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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