Category Archives: Nearing the End

Nearing the End – part 2

In this post Nearing the End – part 2, is when things started to get real. While week to week we were getting bad news, this was a time of absolutely no return, where it was clear all signs lead to one thing – the end.

The ascites (you can read about that here, if you haven’t already) was one thing that was definitely taking its toll, as the days went on with this, the fluid just increased. It got to a point where he wasn’t able to eat very much, as his stomach was usually so distended, there wasn’t room for anything else. It was a concern because obviously due to the amount of treatment he was having, it was also important to try and keep as much weight on, as possible, though the disease was melting it away.

It was during this time of hospital trips and Nick’s inability to eat much, that somewhere along the way, I stopped cooking dinners and I was living off the hospital sandwiches and coffees that the chemo nurses, would order me for lunch.

Though we lived in the heart of the city, we would visit beautiful restaurants, within walking distance, but we’d order very little, mostly leaving without finishing one meal between us. A part of me, just couldn’t stand the thought of hoeing into dinner, while he watched me, barely nibbling on his own. In our previous life together, I would dish up and eat, exactly the same as him, though I was half his weight and here I was, again mimicking his eating pattern.

My weight plummeted with Nick’s, i’ve always been slender, but when I look back at this time, I see my protruding bones and hallowed cheeks, I lost approx 7 kilos, which is pretty noticeable on my frame. After Nick had passed, a friend of ours commented, that we had looked like ‘walking skeletons‘. Nick took to wearing a black hoodie, even on the warmest of days, sometimes, he’d wear the hoodie actually on his head, because he was so cold. He’d joke that we must look like ‘a pair of junkies’ with our darkened circles under our eyes and his bent over gait when he walked. He was probably right, with our baby in the pram, we must have looked quite a sight, walking the streets of the city!

Nearing the End - part 2
My daughter and I having a rest at the apartment

He was also having to wear a chemo pump on weekends. This is basically a hard cylinder type tube about 6 inches long, that was connected to the IV port in his arm. He’d have to wear it for 48 hours, while it slowly administered his chemo. It was a hazard in itself, sleeping would take an extra 10 minutes for Nick to get comfortable, while he positioned it, so that we wouldn’t bash into it during the night and showering with it was always difficult, as he’d try and hang it up, to keep it out of the water.

For the most part, you wouldn’t normally notice it, because he’d keep it hidden under his jumper or jacket, but occasionally, if he wore a t-shirt, there was no hiding it. We would go to hospital first thing Monday morning, to have it removed and one day, whilst in the lift with our baby in tow, a guy got in with his small child. He turned to Nick and said, ‘thats a great way to carry your baby’s bottle’, I remember cracking up laughing and Nick just said, ‘its my chemo, actually’, the guy looked so embarrassed, he ran out at the next floor, we joked about that moment for days after, ahh, that good old cancer humour, you get your jokes where you can!

It was around this time, nearing the end, that we also discovered that Nick’s cancer had spread. This has to be one of the biggest fears of any cancer patient, because it signals a win for the cancer cells. Nick’s had flowed on to his liver and decided to make a new home there. Apparently, a normal occurrence with pancreatic cancer. He now had metastastic pancreatic cancer, (metastastic being greek for displacement – of course it is, right!) It basically means, it has now spread from one organ to another and it’s not a good sign.  He now had a secondary cancer site, and while the doctors assured us, it was one of the ‘better’ places it could have turned up, it was an absolute disappointment to Nick, just another sign things weren’t going well. He was found to have two cancer spots on his liver, below is an excerpt of the email he sent to his work friends following this news:

‘On Monday a CT Scan was done to monitor the progress of treatment of my pancreas, unfortunately for me the news was not what I wanted to hear, doctors found 2 new cancer spots on my Liver (10mm & 15mm). As you can imagine, this is not the news I was expecting. My pancreas at this stage, has not shrunk but has stabilised which is good news. This is a very difficult note for me to write, as its not the news I wanted to communicate.’

As i’ve previously mentioned, things were not in our favour, it was just more bad news, one of the final blows came on one of our nurse home visits. Our daily nurse had arrived and went through her normal checks, when as a last minute thing, Nick asked her to look at his leg, he felt it was a little sore. She took one look and said we needed to get to hospital asap. As it turns out,  it was a blood clot or deep vein thrombosis, if you prefer. It was just another thing we had to deal with, the nurses loaded us up with clexane injections to be given daily and we were off, just another thing to chalk up on the scoreboard – Cancer 10, Nick 0

Nearing the End - part 2
Nick 5 weeks before his passing

But through all this, as evident in the photo above, Nick kept smiling.

Happy to have another day to spend with us all, knowing it was going to come to an end, but still managing to see the positives in his day.

How many of us can say we do that, in our everyday lives?

Til next time, Michela x

Nearing the End

Today, i’ve decided to start the Nearing the End series, somehow making this part of the Back to the beginning series doesn’t feel right, when I think of where this is headed. I hope you agree with me?

So, at this stage, Nick knew he didn’t have too much longer to go and between the two of us, he often said he was done himself. I guess after all the chemo and treatments and news only getting worse, he was so over it. There was nothing but bad news every week, in fact, the whole time he was sick, it only went from bad to worse, without barely a plateau week in between. As much as he wanted to live for our daughter and me, he knew no amount of wishing was going to make it come true.

We fought about it a couple of times, he’d tell me he was done, that he wanted no more treatment, that he wanted to live out the rest of his time without hospital visits, i’d tell him it wasn’t his choice, he wasn’t going to give up! These have to go down as the weirdest couple fights ever! He was lethargic and losing patience with most things, he just wasn’t himself anymore and truthfully this scared me. Of course, he always had the right to stop treatment to his own body, at any time, and in ways I feel guilty for making it more about me, I just wasn’t ready to let him go.

I always just wanted him back to normal, for our lives to go back to normal. In my heart, I knew this would never be, but how I wished for those ‘normal’ days again. That old Nick. I missed cooking us dinner, the 6pm phone call, to tell me he was on his way home, Nick walking through the door, planting a kiss on my lips, complaining about the traffic then launching into a story about his day. I would crave the normal, ordinary life we once had. I knew I would never have this with him again, but the 10 years of memories we had together were going to have to suffice.

Nearing the end
A photo of a more simple time, Nick after work taking a quick photo

Of course, there are some things I don’t miss, even now, like how he could fly off the handle so quickly or how pedantic he was about cleaning….of yes, there is a story about Nick spying a cobweb and not telling me about it, to see how long it would take before I spotted it! A little strange to some maybe, but it was Nick nonetheless. I definitely laugh about this one now!

If you’re a friend of ours and reading this, you might be thinking to yourself, you never saw this side of Nick, where he felt so close to the end, but the truth is, he hid it so well from everyone, including his work friends. They might remember Nick coming past the office, wanting to be kept in the loop on happenings, he would speak to his manager about coming back one day, his manager would try to nicely point out, that Nick should be concentrating on treatment and spending time with us. Which was right, but I guess, Toyota had been such a big part of his normal life, he didn’t want to give up on it. I knew he was truly unwell, when he stopped talking about going back to work.

But his Toyota family, (as i’ve always called him) kept his spirits up. He had so many friends at work, in all different areas, that he would actually email  what felt like, the whole Toyota network with his cancer progress updates. The replies via email, text and phone calls kept him buoyed for days, he’d read them all out to me, how they wished him well, praised his positive outlook and mostly, told him how much he was missed in the office and out on the road. Nick was actually asked by his manager, to stop sending the emails, because the office productivity always came to a standstill, as people read them and gathered to discuss, and he thought the mood in the office changed to a more somber one. Nick was gutted when he was told this, but that’s the impact he had on his work friends, they were truly touched, not just by his diagnosis, but by who he was, in general.

Below is a direct copy of two of the last emails Nick sent out to his work family, the first is just a month after his diagnosis:

29/07/2010

Good Afternoon All, 

Well I would like to begin to expressing my sincere thanks to you all, the support provided since finding out about my ill-health has been overwhelming. I can tell you its support from each and everyone of you that keeps me motivated every day!!

Over the past 6 weeks my body has been put through a hard slog, and all that training and fitness over the years has definitely been put to the test.
Having completed Chemo and Radiation, today i begin the road to recovery, as I do my best to regain my strength and get my appetite back.

Its a waiting game now, while my body recoups from all the trauma of the treatment it will be some time before doctors can advise if it was a success.
I have an initial test booked in for August 17, followed by a PET scan (full body cancer scan) in mid Sept for final result and next step discussions.

So the Kosmas goal…. to remain completely focused over the next short period and get back to work as soon as possible…. I just don’t feel the same without interacting with dealers each day !!

Take care everyone, I will be in touch with you all soon.
Once again thank you for all the support !!

Cheers
Nick

12/10/2010

Good Afternoon All,

Well, it’s been a little while since my last email update, so I thought today, while getting treatment would be the best time to update you all on what’s been happening in the life of the Kosmas family.

Europe Trip
Europe was great medicine for Michela and I, the last round of treatment played havoc on my body and was mentally draining at the end. We just needed a break away from hospitals and medication which makes me feel unwell. Our trip served its purpose, giving us fantastic weather (30 degress everyday), and great food and culture. We spent a few days in London and Michela and I were pleasantly surprised with how much we liked London and would go back again. Italy is where we spent most of our time, and I have to say, we really love the place and can’t wait to go back….. It’s just perfect, the relaxed attitude, the way of life, the food and let’s not forget the best coffee in the world!!!
We came back to Oz rested and ready once again !!

Treatment
Landed back from Europe on Sep 15 evening, and was back in hospital 9am the following morning. Totally out of sorts, and in true Nick fashion I pushed through the day… A mammoth day, it began with the installation of an arm port at 9am (USB for meds!), where they hit a nerve on insertion.. Very painful… (I swore very loud), then it was over for a blood test for an update on my platelets, white and red cell counts before the day-ward nurses could begin chemotherapy… What a day, we got home 10pm, never want to do that again!!! Ever!!!

Since then, it’s been a learning curve, testing and trialling medication to help me cope with this new cocktail mix of chemotherapy. This includes meds like anti-nausea to overcome side effects like vomiting, dizziness etc.
I am very pleased to have an opportunity to be trialling this new chemotherapy, they don’t offer this treatment to many, and you must fit a category, like young, healthy, fit, good looking etc…
It’s a very potent mix of meds, but I feel strong enough to take on the challenge….

Today I’m on my 3rd dose of treatment, which occurs every second Tuesday, it drains me for a few days, so i go into recovery mode until the weekend, and then I start getting around again and begin the preparation (eating & drinking plenty) to do it all again.
Sounds a bit heavy and it is, but you know what, it’s amazing what you get used to when you have too!!

My Driving Force
My wife, Michela and baby Claudia are my inspiration, and let me tell you I will never lose hope or my fight, with this terrible sickness that effects so many families, whilst they are by my side.
The support from Michela is inspirational and she keeps everything together always… Best investment I ever made was buying her a Prada bag, wallet and sunnies while away…… (cost me a packet, but she’s worth it!)

To all of you out there, thank you!!! I really mean that, this is a emotional roller coaster ride, and it’s not always easy but support goes so far… That simple text or email can change my day.. Thanks

Giving Back
Health is so important to me, so if I can help spread the word on health to any of your staff/team in the future.. It would be my pleasure to talk openly about my own condition at any forum.

I’m signing off for now, cause I’m a distraction to you all from the job at hand… Keep selling, I hear we have some great finance offers coming available on key models, so good luck and hope your business continues to grow.

Cheers
Nick

I hope that by including these emails, you can even more of a feel for who Nick was, in his own words.  Since beginning this blog, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of people telling me they still talk about Nick on a regular basis and that he is never far from their thoughts. I think he would absolutely love that, knowing that he is still spoken of, and that his memory is being kept alive by so many, even today.

Nearing the End
Singing ‘You’ve lost that loving feeling’ with work friends on a trip to Brampton Island, always the life of the party!

Do you remember getting one of the above emails? What were your thoughts at the time?

I’d love to hear from you, please leave a comment below and don’t forget to like The Polished Widow on Facebook!

Til next time, Michela x