There was a one final "cooking for chemo" episode...
Julie was scheduled to have her 12th and final chemotherapy treatment on August 21st...a Tuesday.
Julie wanted to go grocery shopping Sunday afternoon, so that she could do her cooking on Monday while I was at work. However, she wasn't feeling well. Finally, I told her to make a list...that I would go get whatever she needed. Julie wasn't happy about that...she didn't like giving in to her illness. However, she finally decided that it would be the wise thing to do...rest a bit. I went and did the shopping, then came home and crashed...I wasn't feeling too well either.
Monday morning comes and I call in sick...a summer cold is a deadly animal and it had it's claws in me with a vengeance. Julie is no better, but keeps talking about how she needs to get up and cook for tomorrow...broccoli soup was the main course. Finally, late in the afternoon, she makes her move. I go down and get her stock pot and bring it up. Julie is sitting on a chair in the kitchen...unusual for her. I can tell that she has no strength whatsoever.
I say "Julie, forget this...you need to go back to bed." She responds that she needs to do this...that the chemo patients are "expecting" it.
That's when my fear and frustration boil over and I resort to laying a "guilt trip" on her. I say "Julie, do you realize what this does to me? I don't mind you trying to help others...when you're up to it...it's what makes you you. But, at times like this...watching you push yourself...hurt yourself...to provide for others. This is ripping my heart out! You are devoting yourself to saving the lives of other...but killing yourself in the process. What am I supposed to do when you're gone...go visit chemo patients ever day?"
Okay...ain't proud of that one. Never said I was perfect...Julie said that. I can be just as selfish as the next person, especially if it involved time spent or the health of the woman who was my life.
I regretted it as soon as I said it...knew that I had hurt her. Julie looks at me, pauses, and says "I'm not trying to kill myself...I love you...I don't want to leave you." We embraced...and cried a bit. Julie and I then quietly walked back into the bedroom; she laid down and dozed off. I stayed awake, watching...regretting.
The next morning, I went in to wake her at 8 a.m. for her 11 a.m. chemo treatment. Because of her weakness and her determination to put on a proper face for the public (even if it came out of bottles and tubes), it usually took her a couple of hours to get ready to go someplace...and then there was the one-hour drive to Carbondale.
After awakening her, I went back into the computer room...probably looking for articles to use in CAT Tracks. I heard the bathroom door open and close. After about five minutes, I heard the bathroom door open and close again, but didn't think much about it. After about 15 minutes of not hearing anything, I went into the bedroom to see what was going on...no Julie. I then tentatively opened the bathroom door...no Julie. When I finally walked around the corner into the kitchen...there was Julie.
Julie was standing at the counter with her arms and hands extended, leaning on the counter for support, with her head down. I don't think she even saw me enter the kitchen. She had started heating the milk that would be the base of her soup and was trying to summon the strength to cut up the broccoli that would go into it. I choked back tears...took a deep breath and asked "What can I do to help?" Together we went to work on the preparations, her letting me do most of the work while she supervised. Finally, when we got to the "monitoring/stirring stage", she went to the bathroom to prepare for the day.
We arrived for chemo just before noon...late, but they didn't care. Hey, we were there in time for lunch!
Julie was too weak to walk, so I went in and got the wheelchair. After getting Julie into the infusion room and settled into her chair, I went out and got the food, brought it in, and set it up. By the time I get back into the room, everyone - patients and nurses - can tell that something is wrong, that Julie is definitely not at the top of her game. They started talking to her...trying to cheer her up. Julie tries to deflect the attention, encouraging everyone to eat and getting the nurses to dip up a bowl of soup for those too weak to get it for themselves.
When everyone is settled in and eating, the nurses, without any prompting from me, walk over to where Julie is sitting. They kneel down before her and say "Julie, you need to take some of your own medicine...you need to eat some soup. Julie tried to decline, but they insisted, bringing her a bowl. Julie thanked them and made a few feeble attempts at eating...just to make them happy. (We were soon to find out that she couldn't eat because she had an intestinal blockage.)
When Julie was finished with her infusion, I got the wheelchair again and took her out to the car. I then began "driving Miss Julie" home...as she slept in her make-shift bed in the backseat.
But, Julie could indeed sleep as the sun went down, for her work was done. She had shared food and love with her fellow chemo patients...
Postscript: Three days later, Julie would be taken by ambulance to St. Francis Hospital in Cape Girardeau, MO, where she would be diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Julie's remarkable journey was nearing its end.