Watching my lovely Jacquelynn diminish and die over three years was the most profoundly painful and crippling experience of my life. I could not imagine going through anything more emotionally debilitating for me, nor, more importantly, more terrifying for her. I’ve written before about how I don’t believe that any possible diagnosis could inspire more fear and dark vision than that of dementia, and having lived through it, I still hold that to be true.
All of which makes the final two lines of this post more inconceivable and antithetical to me than I can express. But I stand firmly by them.
Upon our regular Valentine’s Day trip to the emergency department last year (2019) with yet another severe kidney infection/UTI, an MRI of her midsection was taken which revealed the unexpected probability that Jacquelynn also had uterine cancer. To the attending physician’s surprise, I refused further testing on that front until we had an opportunity to consult with our own trusted primary provider. At that consultation, our doc (CNP, actually) concurred with my thought, even to the point of disagreeing with her own partner MDs at the practice, that this was something best left well enough alone, as it was quite new (assuming it was actually there, as this was only an indicator, not a diagnosis) and would likely not become a significant factor in her already limited remaining time. I will always be in her debt for standing up for Jacquelynn on this front. Truly the best, most empathetic provider I’ve ever had.
About five weeks later in an incredible demonstration of canine sensitivity and devotion, our new family member Sky almost seemed to confirm that diagnosis, smelling something on her sleeping breath that clearly disturbed him, at which point he became her full-time companion, never willingly leaving her side again, save for short walks to potty.
We all know how events unfolded afterward. But early this morning, in possibly the most disturbing dream I have experienced through all of this ordeal, it went a bit differently;
In this dream, she was diagnosed with uterine and abdominal cancers. As her dementia moved much more slowly in the context of the dream, she was aware of and frightened by the cancers as we would all be. She retained much more of her cognitive faculties as the pain and terror of the cancers wracked her body, and I was there, at her side as always, serving her in whatever capacity I may, until her agonizing and prolonged death. She suffered so, my lovely Jacquelynn, in the horrible reality of this dream, that when I awoke in tears, drenched in sweat and out of breath, I actually said a prayer of thanks for the manner of her passing.
Yes, I’m grateful that her path took her through dementia and psychotic breaks, through ERs and the nursing home, through a broken hip and suprapubic catheter, all with waning awareness of her situation, than forcing her to experience what I saw in my fitful sleep this early Sunday morning.
I am inexpressibly grateful that my wife did not have to endure the horrors I was shown, and I am truly thankful for the dream which blessed me with this perspective.