photo by Sheri Dixon

Friday, April 6, 2018

If the Shoe Fits

Yanno, in all the movies where the hero has cancer and he battles it valiantly with his loving family at his side and he beats it?

Not the one where he dies a heroic and beautiful meaningful death. Those suck.

The other one. The one where the doctor smiles and says, "Your scan came back negative. Have a nice life" and everyone hugs everyone while they cry and cry and cry and the movie fades out and the music plays thru the credits and you just know that they resume normal life and live happily ever after. That one.

I'd like to say that's how all cancer-beating stories end, but I'd be lying.

Because we were that family and continue to be that family every year when they scan his head and say, "Mr. Dixon, there is nothing of note in your head" and we all laugh and laugh and go home.


What they didn't tell us was the other shoe that may drop.

That shoe that was me finding Ward's teeth around the house like some weird bizarro-world tooth fairy shit because they would just fall out of his mouth and he'd just...set it right here. Or there. Or over there. And the doctor said, "Oh, yeah. That radiation never stops working and it's now eating away his jaw. Let's do some major dental surgery and fit him with dentures so he doesn't break his own jaw chewing oatmeal."

That was a few years ago.

Or the shoe that was Ward fighting his way back from not knowing who I was or where we lived or how to read and who weighed a horrifying Auschwitz-like 130 pounds back in 2010 when he was in the hospital for 6 weeks and almost died. Fighting like hell mentally and physically so he made it back to about 90% of pre-surgery Ward. That shoe was a real bastard.

Or the shoe that was Ward starting to get a little fuzzy and forgetful in 2013 so we went back to the neurologist at MD Anderson and they did a brain scan and did cognitive testing and said, "There are some deficits. We believe they were caused by the radiation (that never stops working) and the hours and hours of general anesthetic he's undergone. It's not Alzheimers but it may progress the same and it'll look the same from the outside."

Well, he's "progressed" very little since then. It's been almost not noticeable and totally manageable since then.

Then yet another shoe, in the form of the pneumonia he came down with over Thanksgiving weekend this past fall. He almost died (he needs to stop doing that) and was rendered unconscious and on a ventilator for 3 days in ICU to keep him alive. He was hooked up to *twelve* IV pumps.

Well, that plumb flattened him out, physically and mentally.

Physically, he fought back again. Mentally, it was harder. It was a goddamned struggle and continues to be one.

The therapist locally did some very surface testing and said, "He needs to be under the care of a neurologist." So we went back to the one we had seen in 2013...since she had all his last results.

They re-did the scan and re-did the three hours of cognitive testing.

The doctor saw us today. There was no laughing. The additional 3 days of anesthetic and the physical insult of the pneumonia took a terrible toll.

While *most* of his mental functions are normal to above-normal, his memory is severely impaired; both short term and long term. His test results, as far as memory, are those of someone with "moderately severe Alzheimers".

The report from the PET scan says the changes in his brain, while problematic and definitely serious, aren't exactly typical of Alzheimers, and that they still think it was caused by all the shit he's been through, but he needs to be under the care of someone who does strictly dementia care- the neuro doctor at MD Anderson is used to looking at tumors and saying, "Yep. That's gotta go" and getting it gone.

She had tears in her eyes as she said, "I'd like to say we can help him here, but we are not set up for that. He needs someone who specializes in dementia. I'm sorry" and she handed us the contact information for Baylor and UT departments of neuro-dementia studies. more damn thing.

It's not right. My Knight in Shining Armor has been thru cancer, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, AND he's married to me. Hasn't he suffered enough???

My family is sick to death of "the other shoe".

No wonder we all go barefoot 99% of the time.