Two Weeks

December 26th, 2003. I always describe it as the worst day of my life so far. It’s the uncertainty that gets you, isn’t it? Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can start to find a way to deal with it. But as we drove to hospital that morning, and sat waiting for Terry’s test results to come back, we had no idea what was in front of us. All we could do was guess, and, unfortunately for us, we had plenty of time to do it in.

We sat for over eight hours in that waiting room.

The results of Terry’s bloodwork came back after two of those hours, but the nurse on duty wouldn’t give them to us. “The consultant wants to speak to you about this in person,” she told Terry. “It’s the kind of thing that’s best said face-to-face.”

Well. That sentence alone told us all we needed to know. It’s like saying “you’re going to want to be sitting down for this,” isn’t it? And so we sat, and we waited, and we shook with fear – or I did, anyway.

I was sure it was cancer. Along with crabs and airplane crashes, cancer has always been my other big fear. It had torn through my family before, and I’d been waiting ever since for it come back for round two. Now I was sure it had. I remember going outside to call my parents, who were waiting anxiously at home, wondering what the hell was taking so long. “I’m sure it’s cancer,” I told them, “It has to be.” I wanted to be reassured. I wanted someone to tell me, “Don’t be stupid, of course it isn’t cancer, or anything else serious for that matter!” I wanted to be told that everything would be fine, but for the first time in my entire life, my parents couldn’t give me that reassurance. No one could. I think that knowledge aged me by about 20 years.

After that phone call, I went back to the waiting room and… we waited. The “waiting room” was really just a wide space in the corridor. I can still close my eyes and be back there in a second, so engraved upon my memory has it become. Its walls were covered with posters, all of which bore titles like, “So, your kidneys have totally failed!” and “Transplant: bet you didn’t see THAT coming!” It didn’t bode well. Where were all the fish tanks and soothing pieces of artwork you see in hospitals on TV, I wondered? Why the Wall O’Doom, which seemed to say, “Yes, your worst fears will come to pass: it happened to these people in the posters, and it’ll probably happen to you, too. By the way, have a nice Christmas!”

At the eighth hour or thereabouts, the consultant finally appeared and invited Terry into his office. “Would you like to come too?” he asked me. I couldn’t even answer him. I couldn’t think of anything I’d like less than to go into that room and be told The Worst. “No,” Terry answered, for me. “She should just wait where she is.”

I didn’t, though. As soon as the door closed behind him, I ran to the nearest bathroom and threw up. Then I returned to my familiar chair in that hateful waiting room, and I tried to prepare myself for whatever would come.

It’s strange, but in those final few minutes of my vigil, a strange sense of calm came over me – or maybe my body just realised it couldn’t panic any more. I found myself sitting there making plans in this strange, detached kind of way. I’d call work the next day, I thought, and tell them I wouldn’t be coming back. Terry had only been in his job for a few weeks, so there would be no sick pay to cover his loss of earnings: it would be up to me to support us both, so I would sell the house, and we would move in with my parents while Terry went through whatever treatment was necessary. I would do whatever it took to get through this nightmare, and I would try not to think too much about what came next.

The office door opened.

Terry stepped out, looking even ghostlier than he had to start with: something I hadn’t believed possible.

“He’s not finished with me yet,” he said, in response to my un-asked question. “He got an emergency call, he had to leave. He’ll be back soon, though.”

“And what did he say?” I forced myself to ask. “Is everything OK?”

“No,” said Terry. “Everything’s really not OK.”

And he wouldn’t say a single word more than that. Later, he explained to me that it was simply because he needed time to make sense of it in his own mind: and because he wanted to hear the rest of what the consultant had to say to him. At the time, though, I thought his silence could only mean that I’d been right, and it was cancer. Anything else, you see, I could have dealt with. I didn’t think I could deal with the C-word, and Terry knew that, so his refusal to even tell me what had happened could only mean one thing, and that one thing… well, it was as bad as it gets.

That’s why, when he finally emerged from the consulting room for the second time, and told me it was kidney failure, I actually felt relieved. Yes, relieved. I had spent the previous evening researching this. I had started to understand what “dialysis” was, and what a transplant would mean. And I knew that although this was bad, we would somehow find a way to deal with it.

And we somehow did.

So, December 26th, 2003 was the worst day of my life. But if it wasn’t for that day, then nothing else would have mattered, because what the consultant told Terry, behind the closed door of that office, was that unless he started treatment immediately, he had roughly two weeks to live.

Two weeks. Two little weeks.

It kinda puts all the ‘Snowmaggedon’ stuff in perspective…


20 Comments

  • Mousy says:

    Tearing up a little here. :( I was always so happy whenever you mentioned the transplant etc. that things had worked out well in the end, but hearing this part of the story in such vivid detail really strikes home how awful you both must have felt – I am so, so glad that this isn’t the end of the story.

  • Kyutipye says:

    OMG, I’m so glad this is one time when I know it ends well. You are blessed to have each other. Thank God for this miracle.

  • Jasmine says:

    8 hours?! I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate that. I would have probably been so frantic I’d be in a frenzy/rage that I’m sure security would have been called LOL. My husband says I become antzy and start demanding answers and explainations after just five minutes. I admire yours and Terry’s strength.

  • Panthera says:

    I don’t even know how to comment on something like this. It’s such a strong and emotional story, and I can’t even begin to imagine what you went through and how it must have felt.

    Thank you for sharing, and for writing the way you do, and I’m so happy it’s over now!

  • Jasmina says:

    So glad it all worked out ok…

  • arlene says:

    I actually got shivers

  • anna says:

    Firstly – I read you blog lots- its great
    I read this post today ( not knowing this was 2003) i felt everyword-

    summer this year my dad was dignosed with kidney faliure and had to start dialysis straight away- myself and my sisters- thought that was it- how would he cope, how will it change his life , how would it change our lives it seemed we were ‘floating’ in the unknown- it was all very strange – who knows how my dad was feeling( he doesnt talk about feelings). Fortuately he coped very very well so much better than us!!!! this was a 70 year old man who did what he wanted when he wanted, cope with a life changing thing!!!!! i personally was very proud of him!!!!! Sadly 3mths after starting this treatment we were given the blow he also had liver cancer!!!!! It makes you stop and think!!!! I dont quite know what it makes me think….. because this dreadful thing sort of makes you blur things out and live for the moment so to speak- am not sure am explaining this right- BUT yes the comment about the snowmaggendom is right!!!!! thank you for posting this post it makes me realise am not the only one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • Karen says:

    Wow! I knew he’d had the transplant, but I never would have guessed that he was told he’d have as little as two weeks to live! :o

    I’m so happy for you both that the transplant was a success, and never having been through anything like that, I also wanted to let you know I can empathize COMPLETELY with the relief you felt when you found out it wasn’t cancer, even though it was still bad news.

    We’re struggling now with a health mystery relating to my 7-year old daughter, who I was relieved to learn has Lyme Disease, but after having feared she might have Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lyme is the far preferable diagnosis. She might still have JRA (despite the negative blood test), but I’m *right there* with you on feeling that relief, however brief that emotion might have been.

    Again, I’m so glad to only read this knowing that Terry’s transplant was a success, because I can’t imagine how awful this must have been for you to both go through when it first happened.

    Take care.

  • Tali says:

    I’m so happy it turned out well in the end! I’m so admiring you both. It was madness. How could they keep people waiting for EIGHT hours?? I just don’t get it.
    From some expiriences in my own life I know that when something happens to you, you deal with it. But for the people around you who just have to stand there and watch you, it’s SO difficult.
    I cannot even begin to think about how you both felt when you heard about 2 weeks.
    You’re heroes, really.

    And I’m so glad I know there’s a happy end!

    xx
    Tali

  • lila says:

    Was reading this at the ladies club christmas dinner, was rivetting, my phone was surgically attached to my hand throughout.
    I had have the your kidneys arent working thing a few times, and it could have been me, still could be, its a thin line to cross and so far fingers crossed it gets pushed to the background and I win again..but health is the most important thing of all, cause without it we crumble and we live in fear, life is unsecure and scary..you’ve both come through it and hopefully whatever happens in the future you will be a lot more informed and experienced because of it..I hope you will have many more happy years together and a whole lot less stress…back home, more snow is forecast, but I don’t think they have got it right this time, whatever happens we will face it..and hey it’s only stupid snow..it will NOT win this time…hee hee

  • Mhairi says:

    All this happened before I met you and Terry so I have only known the happy, healthy Terry. It is incredible to think that he was given as little as 2 weeks to live. I just don’t know what to say – I am speechless.

    x

  • Really, really, really puts snow into perspective! What a beautifully written post… and so terrifying at the same time. I’m so so glad Terry’s transplant was a success. (My other half’s dad was given weeks to live over a decade ago… his dad lived but he still finds it really hard to talk about that period.)

  • Sammy says:

    Your post brought tears to my eyes. I’m glad you both got through the rough period and life is good now.

    Can’t believe they kept you waiting for 8 hours. Thats so cruel.

  • Amy says:

    Reading this made me choke up, but now that I’ve regained my senses, I have to say it – eight hours? With no clues? That’s bordering on inhumane, in my book. Your line about aging 20 years really resonated, there are certain situations that really take you from being a child (in spirit) to an adult. One of the sayings that has got me through so many difficult times is, “everything happens for a reason,”* but after reading your words, I really doubt this stands up to your experience.

    *As in, this awful thing happened, but if it didn’t, I wouldn’t have met X, or done Y, etc.

  • These posts over the last few days demonstrate what an incredibly talented writer you are Amber.

    It is easy to forget that bad things happen to good people. Similarly it is easy to lose sight of the fact that people can and do survive the most horrific things.

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Rest assured that this blog will be passed on to those in need.

    Love and best wishes to you both.

  • Nikki G says:

    Wow. I really don’t know what to say, except that I am happy that you both made it through and everyone is healthy and happy. :-)

  • Melisa P. says:

    I’m sooo happy that you guys are ok now. Not knowing what’s wrong with someone you love is absolutely horrible. I totally understand your fear for cancer. A cousin have struggle with leukimia a couple of times, an aunt passed away just a few months ago, and an even younger aunt is fighting against a really aggressive one. Let’s say cancer has been in my family for a long time, and it’s really hard. That’s why I think you and Terry are a very lucky couple. I think you kind of already have done the “in sickness” part of your marriage, so I wish you many years of the “in health” part. You deserve it. Sincerely.

  • Good to know you coped up in the situation.
    My best friend’s dad is now suffering and just a week before her wedding his dialysis had to be started!!! My friend somehow managed taking care of all the wedding preparations by herself – Her mom was beside her dad always at the hospital!!! Somehow she coped up. Her father is ok now, not so well!!! Let’s see!!!

  • Amy says:

    Thanks for writing this – I’m a little behind on reading your posts, but I’ve gone back and read your anniversary posts with great interest. I commend you for writing about the worst day of your life, because I think we’ve all had one and most people would keep that to themselves as long as they could. I know I’ve had one, and I’ve written about it, and it’s a tough thing to do. Of course, mine seems like melodrama compared to this. You’re both very courageous people and I’m glad there’s a happy ending to this story – what a thing to have to suffer through.

  • Erin says:

    I can’t even imagine going through something like this with D. I wouldn’t WANT to imagine it. That you and he had the fortitude and strength to fight the good fight – and come out as winners – is so inspiring. The world would be a dimmer place without Terry. And without you two together. Much love to you. xx

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