Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Weekend from Hell.

E singing and playing his bass.

E singing and playing his bass.

It was the weekend from hell. A topsy turvy terrifying roller coaster ride.  One moment we could see sunlight and the possibility of rosy days.  Only to be sucked into the uncertainty of the rabbit hole the next.  In between we did our best to breathe.  Keep our head above the icy waters that threatened to take us down.  Mostly we tried to make sense of this unforeseen mess that we found ourselves in.

The surgeon, who had performed the biopsy, sent E home with a prescription for painkillers and antibiotics.  In thirty years of practice, he’d never seen a reaction to a biopsy like this.  Lucky E.  One for the medical history books.  I was a little surprised that the surgeon wasn’t more curious to find out why.  Then I’m like a four-year old who asks ‘why’ about everything.  Except for why me or why us.  Life is a game of Russian Roulette at times.  Shit happens to everyone.  Good and bad.  So why not me.  Or us.

The painkillers did their job for short intervals, which gave him little pockets of relief throughout the weekend.  E spent most of the time hunkered down in his Man Cave watching TV or dozing off on the couch.  Deep regenerative sleep was elusive and interrupted by pain so severe it would have brought a lesser man to his knees.  But E refused to buckle.  Since his motorcycle accident at thirty, he lived with chronic pain in his hip and right leg.  He still felt unsettling phantom pains from the big toe that was removed shortly after his bike was t-boned and ended up in a gutter fifty yards away.  This pain was close to that.

During the interludes when the pain was tolerable we carried on with our regular weekend affairs.  Errands and chores mostly.  I was still doing most of the talking.  Acting as his interpreter.  Under any other circumstances I might have welcomed the quiet.  Instead I missed his chattiness and running commentary on life.

One of the things we managed to squeeze in was Christmas shopping for his sweet 94-year old Mama in Nova Scotia.  Every year he gets her the same thing.  A sweater and pajamas from Walmart.  E is a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to shopping.  But Christmas shopping takes this crankiness to new heights.  The fact that he does it at all is a bigger miracle than the Immaculate Conception.  We combed through the selection of sweaters and PJs to find this year gift, then made a swift exit. The pain was returning and his tongue was again thickening.  Visions of baby’s fists were dancing in my head.

Back home, E noticed that the rear license plate on the truck had been stolen while we were shopping. E called the Cops to report the theft while I did a rant on the nerviness of the thieving creeps.  How could they pull off something like this in broad daylight? In a crowded parking lot full of Walmart shoppers no less.

Drinking was unbearable.  Eating impossible.  The pain “was like I’ve bitten down on my tongue real hard and can’t let go,” E said.

Imagine a cruel relentless Vice Grip.

By Sunday afternoon there was no improvement.  Painkillers were painfully useless.  A fiendish joke. We had no idea what the antibiotics were supposed to be doing.  Apparently nothing.  E agreed to another visit to the ER.  Before we could do that I had to get new license plates for the truck.

Things went from bad to worse.  While E rested on the couch, M and I drove across town in her car to an insurance provider that was open on Sundays. This should have been a straightforward no-brainer transaction.  Wrong.  As the insurance guy was filling out the form for the replacement plates he noticed that E’s name was on the registration of the truck.  It’s my truck but E’s name was included as a formality.

“I’m sorry Ma’am, but I can’t finish this transaction without your husband being here,” said the soft spoken insurance guy.

“Whadayamean?” asked the impatient cranky wife of a suffering man.

“His name is on the registration and he has to be here in order for me to give you new plates,” said the soft spoken insurance guy.

“Are you kidding me?  He’s really sick. I need my truck to drive him to the hospital,” said the increasingly impatient cranky wife of a long suffering man.

“I’m sorry Ma’am, but there’s nothing I can do,” said the completely-powerless-to-do-anything insurance guy.

M and I stormed out.  Mumbling under our breath.  Christmas Carols were wafting through the outdoor shopping centre where the insurance  provider was located.  It was an irritatingly cheerful and festive juxtaposition to our dispirited foul moods.

Back home, I conveyed our frustrating story and lack of success at obtaining the license plates to E.  He was furious and raring for a good squabble.  And if not for his inability to speak coherently he would have been all over that.  To end things on a peaceful note, we went to a different insurance provider to get the plates.  Happy ending to that part of the story.

By the time we got back home, it was early evening.  We decided to have dinner and then go to the ER.  M and I devoured our meal while E forced a few tablespoons of mashed potatoes past his raw cheeks, over his swollen tongue and down his throat.  It was excruciating to watch.  I can’t even imagine how it felt.

We never did go to the ER that night.  E wanted to see his own doctor in the morning. He may not have been able to swallow.  Nor speak clearly.  But he was still capable of making decisions that concerned his body.  We went that.

When I left for work the next morning he was sleeping peacefully.  The plan was for M to drive him to the doctors.  As I was driving up the long and winding country road that leads to the Agency, I was finally able to achieve some clarity.

This thought hit me like a ten pound hammer.  E had barely eaten nor drank anything since Wednesday night. How long could someone last before their organs started to shut down?

The second I got to my desk I phoned M.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Demon in the Dark.

The Bass Man and Boo in our garden.

The Bass Man and Boo in our garden.

On Thursday, December 6 at 1:00am my world was rocked.  Not by my teenage daughter playing her music too loud.  Nor by the sound of a car stereo blasting its way past our quiet house.  No, this was far more sinister.  And threatening.

I woke up to the disturbing sight of E in the hallway holding his head in his hands like a pumpkin leftover from Halloween.  He must have switched on the light because I could see him so vividly heading towards our darkened bedroom. Like a zombie, one of the characters from The Walking Dead. He was stumbling and mumbling.  I had been sleeping and had no idea what time it was, nor did I comprehend the scene that was unfolding.

Startled, dazed and confused I leapt from our bed.  E stopped and did a 180, then shuffled off into the bathroom.  I followed.  I stood in the doorway and watched as he draped his face over the toilet bowl.  His mouth agape.

“What’s wrong?” I cried. “What’s happening?”

E sounded like he had a mouth full of marbles.  Saliva was pouring like clear corn syrup from his open mouth. A steady viscous stream of treacle. He continued to hold onto his head like it was a bowling ball.  Burdensome, heavy and tiring.  One false move and it could slip from his hands.  Shatter everything.

Terror-struck, I asked again what was wrong.

This is what I heard:

“Biopsy.  Cancer.”

This is the frenzied conversation that followed:

“Cancer!  No-no-no!  What do you mean?  What do we do?”

“Call 811.”

“811? What is that?”

“The nurse.”

“I’m calling a nurse?”

“Yeah.”

So I called the nurses hotline.  I was still dazed and confused.  Still hadn’t registered what was happening. Everything was haywire. A living nightmare.  A million thoughts were exploding in my mind all at once.  I went from zero to the deepest darkest scariest place in no time flat.  I lost it briefly.  And then jumped into action.  It was the only thing I knew how to do well.  Act.

In our retro 40’s home, we have a little alcove in the hall where the phone is hung.  It is directly across from the doorway to the bathroom so I had a clear vantage point to E’s agony.  It was gut-wrenching to witness my love, my brawny man, so vulnerable and in such pain.  Heartbreaking to see his beautiful blue eyes gripped with anxiety and distress.

I began to have this two-way conversation with E and the lovely (and calm) nurse on the other end of the phone.  Her voice was soothing.  Comforting.  Reassuring.

I still didn’t understand fully what was going on at this point.  I just knew it was bad.  In every sense of the word.  I explained to the nurse, as best I could, the symptoms that E was presenting.  I’ve never been adept at understanding people who don’t speak English very well.  I’m embarrassed to admit that accents are my Achilles Heel of communication.  The mumbo jumbo dripping from E’s mouth was way beyond that.  Nothing made sense.  Partly because I was in a state of shock and what he was saying was simply unbelievable.  Mystifying. Inconceivable.  And partly because E was incapable of talking.  It was like his mouth was full of bad food or dirty socks.  Every word labored.  Garbled. Distorted.

If it hadn’t been so terrifying, it would have been quite comical. We were participants in a game of charades where I had to “guess the symptoms.”  I managed to figure out that he was experiencing severe pain in his mouth.  His tongue was swollen.  He couldn’t swallow.  Saliva was pouring by the bucket full into his cupped hands.  But he had no trouble breathing.  The silver lining in the black cloud hanging over his head.

The nurse listened patiently and then offered two options.  Either call an ambulance to take E to the hospital.  Or drive him there.  Since it was E’s life I gave him the choice.

Within minutes E, our daughter M and I were on our way to the hospital.  I drove while E sat next to me in the front of the truck.  M sat in the bumper seat in the back of the cab, her University textbooks in one hand, cell phone in the other.

The nerve-wracking journey across town was long, dark and eerily quiet.  We hit every red light, which only exacerbated my frustration and fear.  It seemed to take forever to get there.

As I drove I took E’s hand and held it tight. I didn’t want to ever let it go.  Tears began to flow. Then anger.

We had a brief conversation that went something like this:

“Why didn’t you tell me you were having a biopsy?”

“I didn’t want to worry you.”

“Worry me?  Look how well that worked out for you.”