On 8 December 2016 I wrote a post which I called " dark days", as my husband had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer with liver metastases. At the time of diagnosis we were told that it was inoperable, as the cancer had spread to his liver and that he probably had six months to a year left to live.
He was put onto light duties at work, but in January, once he started chemotherapy, he was not able to go work much at all, as the treatment had such a debilitating effect on him. DH's pain was also becoming harder to manage and during the month of January he had a couple of hospital admissions, but it was at the beginning of February that we were given some really devastating news. As DH had been suffering from severe constipation, he had been given laxatives and enemas, but once these had taken effect, he was still in so much pain that the gastroenterologist who was looking after him on the ward, sent him down to Radiology for a CT scan.
The results of this scan showed that the cancer cells in the liver had grown and spread, but there was even further cause for concern, as there were blood clots in the liver, as well. As DH was suffering from portal vein thrombosis, he had to start taking blood thinning medication. We were told that due to the deterioration in his condition, he would have only a couple of months of life left.
I notified family members in South Africa and DH's eldest and youngest brother then flew over at the end of February and stayed with us for two weeks, so that they could spend time with him. It was good to have them with us, as they were very kind and supportive, not only to DH, but to me, as well.
While my brothers-in-law were staying with us, they told us that they were very concerned about their elderly father, as he had been growing quite frail and was not very well. DH and I were both upset to hear about his dad's illness and sadly, not even a week after my brothers-in-law had returned home to South Africa, they called to say that he had passed away.
About ten days ago DH was feeling very unwell and started vomiting up large amounts of black blood, which was really scary. I called the inpatient unit at our local hospice and they advised me to call an ambulance right away, which I did. DH was taken to the Emergency Department first and was then later admitted to a ward, where the doctor on duty said that it would be advisable for him to have a gastroscopy to help to identify the cause of the bleeding. After the procedure we were told that the tumour in the pancreas was larger and very aggressive and was wrapped around the stent which had been put in a couple of months ago to drain the bile duct. We were also told that there is a slight chance that the bleeding could recur and that if there was a haemorrhage, it could be fatal.
After spending a couple of nights in hospital DH was discharged, but prior to his discharge, we met with a doctor from the palliative team and a social worker, to discuss end of life care. Prior to DH's admission to hospital, our hospice nurse and a needs assessor visited us at home to discuss some end of life care options, as they felt that DH was reaching the stage where he would need professional care.
Last week DH spent two nights at a local care facility where he had some respite care, which also gave me a break, as I had been caring for him on my own at home. The care facility is a rest home and private hospital which offers end of life care to terminally ill patients. It's a pleasant place and the staff are all very helpful and friendly, so when we were told that a permanent room would soon be available for DH, we were both happy to accept the offer. He is at home at the moment, as the room will only be vacated by 18 April, which means that DH will get to spend the coming week and Easter weekend at home with me.
The past months have been incredibly stressful, but we are very grateful for all the support and help we have received, and are continuing to receive, from family members, friends and work colleagues.
I am planning to downsize and move from the three bedroom house we are currently renting, to a one bedroom unit or apartment. As I have been kept very busy, caring for DH as well as seeing to daily chores, I have not had much time to do much in the way of packing, but once he is in permanent care, I should have more time to de-clutter and do some packing. I am hoping to find a little place quite soon; I have been looking on the real estate website, just to get an idea of what is available, but have not actually spoken to any estate agents.
DH is weak and frail and spends most of his time resting, as his energy levels are very low and he is unable to do very much. He has lost a great deal of weight and eats very little, as he has no appetite. His pain is controlled by morphine, but he does feel very uncomfortable at times and it's so hard to see him suffering. Our son and I are both devastated at the prospect of losing him, but I believe that when the time comes, we need to let him go quietly and peacefully.