Strolling and Snoring and Other Signs of Life

Well, shit.

(You know a cancer blog post that begins with ‘Well, shit’ is probably not going to bring a lot of joy.)

After yesterday’s triumphant stroll along the beach, during which Susan threatened to run me down with her walker, we’ve had a bit of a downturn. Susan was pretty groggy and listless today, eating little, slurring her speach. Around 3 in the afternoon she laid down for a nap on the livingroom sofa, and only woke up for a video chat with her oncologist. She was disoriented and unable to continue the conversation, so I took over.

Jorge and I went over her medications, tweaking them a bit, and discussed her palliative care team. Toward the end I asked him what he could forsee in terms of life expectancy. After watching her gain strength daily, I was thinking we might see Thanksgiving together, maybe even Christmas. He outlined the situation in detail, then gave his prognosis.

“If all goes well…” (Jorge has a habit of saying “If all goes well” then coming out with a brutally short span of time – not his fault, mind you, he’s just being honest) “2-3 weeks.” Once again, not the answer I was expecting, and quite obviously not the one I was hoping for.

He gives me an idea of what those weeks will look like.

Susan will continue to weaken and decline. She will have good days and bad. If the palliative care service here can give her intravenous treatment, (services apparently vary among municipalities) she can stay at home until the end. She will sleep more and more, I think larely due to the morphine, until that’s effectively all she does. She won’t feel pain. Her breathing will stop from time to time, then resume. Until it stops and no longer resumes.

After the call I went into the dining room to explain the situation to her parents and sister. Susan’s parents have been (understandably), somewhat in denial, using phrases like ‘full recovery’ and ‘praying for a miracle.’ I get that. I’m sure I would feel the same way. So delivering this news was painful for everyone. It’s difficult to reconcile what we saw yesterday with what we’ve seen and heard today.

In the meantime I’ve been checking to make sure she’s breathing more often than is probably necessary or healthy, like a new parent who’s read way too many articles about sudden infant death syndrome. She’s breathing. In fact at this very moment she’s snoring, which is rich and sonorous and the finest sound I’ve heard in ages.

I just want her to live through the night so we can see what tomorrow brings. I want to get the word that G has tested negative for Covid so she can once again hold him in her arms. I want to hear her laughter, feel her fingers touching my skin, see the love crinkle the corners of her eyes as she looks at our boys.

She is sleeping on one sofa and I’m on the other, writing this, hoping to sleep, and listening to her snore. Keep snoring, my love, keep snoring. So tomorrow you can run me down with your walker.


  1. I’m an old Congress-Bundestag friend of Susan’s here. She 30 years on, I still think she’s the coolest person I know. Sending you all my love, all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

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