It started with fluctuating blood pressure readings. Neither her general practitioner nor the cardiologist seemed too alarmed by this. But early morning on June 30, 2016 Cherie complained of severe abdominal cramping, pain around her back and shoulders, and dizziness. I rushed her to the Emergency Room at St. Luke’s Hospital where she went through a series of tests, bloodwork, ultrasound, and scans.
Recovering from her surgery in the ICU
It was determined that she had a considerable amount of fluid in her pelvic region along with a mass or tumor. The doctors recommended surgery as soon as possible. Seeing her in pre-op, she looked gray and nearly lifeless. The surgeons felt it was best to proceed, even though surgery added even more risks. A cancer in her ovary had grown very large causing the ovary to burst and allowing blood to flow into the pelvic cavity. The surgical team drained well over a quart of blood and removed a malignant tumor, 7 x 17 cm in size. They also removed the other ovary and tubes. By this time her pulse dropped below 30, her heart stopped twice and a defibrillator was used to keep her heart beating. They closed her up but left the chemo port implants for another day. She spent four days in the ICU before they moved her to a private room. She received only limited visitors in the ICU but once she regained some of her strength she enjoyed a steady flow of visitors. She improved steadily and was released into my care a week after the surgery. I was very glad to have her home with me.
Her surgery incision was very slow to heal, mainly because not one of the doctors that were treating her thought about stopping the blood thinners she was taking for her heart issues. Another scan in October revealed the development of another tumor and on Halloween she fainted and I called an ambulance to transport her to the emergency room. They gave her four units of blood, stabilized her, and her for several days. On her last day at the hospital, she underwent a massive chemo therapy treatment. She was released into my care the next day. She had a horrible reaction to the chemo treatment and a few days later, her old surgery incision burst open.
Her hospice nurse Joanna taking her vitals
The tumor has grown considerably, it was deemed inoperable and Cherie refused to undergo another chemo treatment. We made the mutual decision to abandon the oncologist and put her care into the hands of a palliative care doctor. She looked at her medical history and noticed right away that she was on blood thinners and told her to stop taking those. Her wounds started healing but the tumor continued to grow and swell her belly, threatening to burst open again.
Original artwork by friend and artist Sophie Binder
She entered the hospice program in November. I dressed her wounds, fed and bathed her. When she was able, we would venture for a short walk up the cul-de-sac. The hospice nurses came to our home twice a week to take her vitals and look at her wounds. The nurses were wonderful and caring but could do nothing to stop the growing tumor and the increasing pain levels. The medication increased in strength and dosage week by week.
During this time, Cherie entertained a steady flow of well wishers and visitors. She had lost her hair, but she still looked beautiful. Her radiant smile brightened the room.
Our home was always filled with flowers and hundreds of greeting cards were strung around the central fireplace. As her condition worsened she was confined to a hospital bed but I was determined to keep her at home rather then send her to a nursing facility. In her final days, I had the help of our daughter Jennifer who flew in from Denver to be with us. She and I would sleep in shifts on the single bed adjacent to Cherie’s hospital bed.
At 7:08 in the morning of April 3, 2017, my lovely wife and soul mate of over 50 years drew her last breath ending the ordeal of her battle with this deadly cancer. She is sorely missed.