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Nick's Final Few Days

Nick’s Final Few Days

Today, i’ll focus on Nick’s final few days, you’ll find the beginning of this here, I did go off on a tangent last week and posted the footage of Nick beginning his video documentary to our daughter Claudia. Thank you to everyone for your beautiful comments and messages I received following my last post, it touched so many people, including those that have never met us.

So, if you’ll forgive me for a short time, I want to again move again from the sequence of events, and mention last night’s premiere episode of Offspring, Season 5. If you live in Australia, you’ll know of this, and you may well have seen it, as 868,000 of us did! I’ve always watched it, thanks to my girlfriend Cathryn and our Wednesday gourmet pizza and Offspring night, but only now has it resonated so much with me.

Watch the below clip for the overview of Season 5 if you haven’t seen this already, it’s me 3 & 1/2 years ago:

As per the episode last night:

1. Both Nina (the main character) and I lost our partners and were left with a baby girl to raise

2. Both returned to work 6 months after their passing, but were perfectly happy in the cocoon of home life with family and close friends.

3. Both hated the pity faces people gave you when you mentioned you were a widow, but also noticed how weird people acted around us, not knowing what to do/say

4. Scared of scarring my daughter when she was so young, have tried to keep her protected from anyone’s grief, always talking of happy times with her Dad instead.

4. I also pretended Nick was still with me at times in the early days, I still talk out loud to him now! Yes, Nick, that’s you i’m always talking to!

5. And I also asked myself many times, ‘Can I do this?’, be a single mum, raise a child, be me again ???

So needless to say, I cried last night, along with many others watching i’m sure, but it felt so real to me. without the maxi skirts and being a doctor part!. I’m not sure how it’s going to play out from here, but i’ll be watching and I’ll will be writing future posts about this time for me, let me know if you’d like to hear about it ?

On with Nick’s story:

Nick's Final Few Days
In healthier times, with Claudia at 2 months

Wednesday:

The operation was off. They told us Nick wasn’t going to be strong enough to survive the operation. They told us this could be the beginning of the end. They told us it might resolve itself, maybe.  But, Nick wasn’t getting any better, he’d barely eaten since he’d been admitted on the Sunday night, he was looking thinner than ever and was sleeping most of the day.

On Wednesday, he must have been getting nervous about what might be coming, he asked me to fetch his laptop for him, he wanted to jump online and look at our financial situation (he was crazy organised, remember?) but he just couldn’t remember his log in password, he tried so many times, he was locked out. He was angry, he threw the laptop off the bed, I caught it and tried to calm him down. It was the time, I think, he finally realised he wasn’t himself anymore. I tried to tell him it was all the medication fogging his mind. Of course, he couldn’t remember some stupid numbers, but he knew, he said, ‘Chel, i’ve been using the same password for 10 years, what’s wrong with me?’ Broke my heart, it was like a light bulb moment for him.

Our doctors that day, had pulled me aside to say he had a 50/50 chance of pulling through this, but not to get my hopes up just yet.

I’m grateful though that we had a very honest discussion that day, in a moment of clarity for Nick. We had always discussed were he wanted to be when the end came, but that Wednesday, I sat on the bed and we spoke again. He said, if the end comes, and you have the time to decide, take me home, don’t let me die here. I promised i’d do my best to make that happen, and we cried together with our baby girl between us.

Later that night, one of Nick’s best mates, Bill called me and asked if he could come past for a visit. I said no, he wasn’t up to visitors, he’d been inundated all day and needed his rest. Me just being all protective of him. I got off the phone and told Nick, he yelled at me, ‘tell him to come and bring all the boys, I want to see everyone, wives too.’ I sheepishly rang Bill back, apologised and told them to come in. And they all did, they filled his hospital room and for that short time, he was himself again, he joked and laughed, they shared stories and called each other ‘Dickhead’ a lot. I think it was his way of saying goodbye to them all, his best friends from primary school, who knew him so well, over 25 years of friendship with each of them.

Nick's Final Few Days
Nick’s last birthday 16th March 2010

Thursday:

Nick woke up and wasn’t well at all, the Doctors were in and out of the room, performing tests etc. I was starting to get more concerned, there was no improvement in his condition, but they weren’t saying much. I went about my day, draining his ascities and changing over his hot gel packs when they cooled to give him some comfort. (yes, walking right into the nurses station, like I was one of them. The nurses had also taught me how to continue his morphine drip when it kinked and stopped, to avoid that annoying beeping it made!) I was doing all I could to keep him comfy and to keep things as ‘normal’ as I could. Meanwhile, visitors kept coming, our daughter was bought in to hang out and all our parents and close family had been dropping in everyday, which is when I would quickly drive back to the apartment to shower and grab clothes.

On the Thursday afternoon, one of his good mates had come in and Nick had again turned on the charm and acted ‘well enough’, I walked his friend out to the lift area and said, ‘you know this is probably the end now, thanks for coming to say goodbye’, he broke down on me, this great big guy, just started bawling. He couldn’t believe what I was saying, we sat on the couch by the lift, as he composed himself, ‘Nick can’t die’ he kept saying, ‘he can’t’, he left in tears and I think it was my first taste of what was to come.

While Nick and I had been nothing but honest with everyone, telling them his cancer was terminal and would take his life, the reality of it was something different. I could understand everyone wanting to deny it, but it was my living reality, we were under no illusions.

That night our Doctor came to visit and wanted to speak to me alone, I said anything he had to say, he could say in front of Nick, who at this stage was doped up and drifting in and out of being aware. But, he told me to prepare for the worst, things weren’t going to get better. This was going to be the end for Nick and at this rate it was going to come sooner rather than later. He apologised for having to tell us that news, he had wanted to give us a happier ending.

We went to sleep that night, side by side in his hospital room. Not knowing my world was about to be turned on its head in less than 30 short hours.

I’ll leave it here, but will add a short note, I have been to a couple of functions in the last few weeks and want to say, if you are reading along and see me out, please come up and have a chat, I love hearing from you. I promise you won’t bring me to tears, I can talk about it all day, if I see you backing away slowly from me, i’ll know i’ve gone on too long!

And I love knowing your thoughts, so please continue to read, comment, like, share on Facebook,  you never know who might come across this and find some inspiration from it.

Til next week, Michela x

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His Final Week

And so following on from last week I continue on with this: his final week.

So, I was awakened to Nick asking me for an ambulance, it was about midnight on a Sunday long weekend. I started whispering to him, ‘what’s wrong, are you sure you need an ambulance?’ Me being Miss Doubtful..

The truth was throughout his illness, we had avoided the ambulance call, that nervous call you make, explaining symptoms and address details. I had been the ambulance driver so far, (not crazy fast driving, but you get what I mean!) and living so close to the hospital in the city, meant it was generally quicker to get ourselves there.

That’s why I knew it was serious when he asked me to call an ambulance, though I was still secretly hoping it was a joke. Don’t forgot we were approx an 1.5 hours from the Epworth hospital in Richmond, where he received his treatments. So, once I realised what we had to do, I woke my parents and we went into action mode.

I called the ambulance telling them Nick was having sharp pains in his stomach and chest. Painful enough that he knew something had happened. He kept mostly still on the side of our bed, as I spoke to the operator, doing my best to state the urgency of our situation, while having Nick in the background shouting, ‘i’m not getting in the ambulance, if they don’t take me to Epworth’.

Of course, she couldn’t promise this, saying if it was an emergency, they’d take him to the nearest hospital, which in our case was the public one in Epping. Nick just wanted to go straight to where they knew him well and we wouldn’t have to go through all the details about his condition and treatment, over again and again!

I was doing a fine job of this over the phone already, but it was still freaking Nick out, all he kept saying was, ‘get me to Epworth’. So, an ambulance was dispatched, and we set about getting ready to for the pick up.

Except one problem, my parents property is down a mostly dirt road, of which there is only 3 properties, with no street lights. We were so concerned they’d miss us, my Dad went out to the main road holding a torch and a lantern, so he could motion to the ambulance when they got close. All the while our daughter slept on peacefully, even when the ambulance arrived, lights flashing and siren wailing!

And we had two lots of assistance, firstly 2 local paramedics arrived, as they were unsure how long it would take for another to get to us, and I had stressed how serious a situation this was. They administered some morphine and waited with us for the next ambulance to arrive. I went through Nick’s history with them, while making coffee and packing our bags.

Then the second ambulance arrived, I again spoke at length, to all 4 paramedics, detailing his condition and medications etc and we were finally on our way. Phew!!

I can remember the paramedics commending me on my calmness and efficiency that night, asking if I was an actual nurse, *’why yes I am, but I only have one patient, I work at the Kosmas Hospital up the road.’

*not actual conversation, i’m not really a nurse!

It was decided, Mum would ride in the ambulance with Nick, while I dropped our daughter off at Nick’s parents place, to then make my way to the hospital.

Mum tells the story, that the ambulance didn’t have the medication needed to help Nick with his pain relief and they even had to stop midway, and meet up with another ambulance to swap supplies. This was a mammoth journey for Nick, who only wanted to get to Epworth and be around familiar faces. He did get his way, and they took him there, but Mum says, he yelled the whole way, warning them not to stop at Epping. Even sick, Nick could be very persuasive!

His Final Week
His final photo with Claudia, our daughter

I got to the hospital at around 2.30am, he was sedated and sleeping, my Mum sat by his side. No one had any answers yet, they’d have to wait til morning to run some tests, it was a long night. Mum and I tried the best we could to sleep on the hard plastic chairs next to his bed, but sleep didn’t come, we waited for the sun to rise and Nick to wake up instead.

Monday morning came, they rushed him into X-ray and ran the necessary tests and finally the news from his oncologist, Nick had a blockage to his stomach and small bowel. No real reason why, just because. It’s what end stage pancreatic cancer does. Ain’t that fair? Our oncologist told us there was an operation they could attempt to fix it, but they’d have to wait a couple of days before deciding if Nick’s body was up to it.

Monday wasn’t an altogether bad day, we were still hopefully that he’d have the operation and be done with it. Our oncologist wanted to confer with his fellow doctors and was going to bring Nick’s case to a conference call he was having the following morning. Nick was fine, dosed up on medication, but chatting away and happy enough. I got his parents to bring our daughter in for a play and as far as we were concerned it was just another hurdle to jump.

Later that night, Nick confessed that he didn’t want me to leave him alone at hospital. He never wanted to stay overnight as per my previous post, but now he didn’t want to stay alone there either. So, I rushed back to the apartment, had a quick shower, grabbed some clothes and I was back by his side. I started living there with him that week, sleeping on a stretcher bed besides him.

I think Nick knew it was serious and couldn’t stand the thought of being without me. Secretly, this new issue, scared the hell out of me, if they decided to go ahead with the operation, his oncologist had warned me, he might not survive it, and of he did, the recovery would mean 8 weeks hospital stay. I thought that might kill him alone! But, we were at the mercy of the surgeon who would do the operation, and we were yet to have a visit from him, anything could still happen.

Nick was now on constant pain relief medication, and not eating very much at all. Well, he couldn’t, the blockage to his stomach meant the food had no where to go. He wasn’t hungry either, but they had him on an IV drip giving him the nutrients he needed. He was finding it difficult to walk around, but was sitting up in bed, being his usual smart arse self, when visitors started to come by.

His Final Week
Christmas Day 2010, still feeling well

Then came Tuesday, Nick’s oncologist and the surgeon came to visit, they still weren’t sure the operation would be a success. The conference call consensus had been mostly, ‘no, he won’t survive it.’ The surgeon mostly agreed, he told us he wanted to do it because he wanted to give Nick and I some more life together, but given Nick’s condition, it would be very dangerous and there was no guarantees. Nick pleaded with him to do it, but I wasn’t so sure, I didn’t want him to die on the operating table.  But, at this stage, there was still a chance they would operate and insert a stent, a tube like device to keep the passage open and to help him live a little longer.

More people had heard Nick was in hospital now and he was enjoying the visits. Did you visit Nick, what was his mood like? Most people will say, they never knew how sick he really was at this stage, as always, he hid it well. When they’d leave, he’d sink into his pillow and drift off to sleep. I’d take the oppurtunity to run down stairs and grab a coffee.

Everyone knew us at the hospital, I always said, i’d knew we’d been around there too long, when I was able to get around and help visitors lost in the foyer, directing them where they needed to go. Knowing the shortcuts and when the fresh sandwiches were delivered to the cafe. My walks around took twice as long, as I got stopped all along the way, people wanting to know how Nick was doing, how Claudia was and how we were holding up. Staff in the kiosk, pharmacy, cafe, nurses, doctors, other patients etc, Nick had an impact on everyone he met. And having someone so young with such a terminal disease, touched so many hearts there. Some of these people still, 3 years later, keep in touch with.

One of the beautiful friends we made was Talia, who worked at Epworth, she messaged me recently to say, ‘Nick and you were the first young couple I had ever met who showed me what true love was all about..’. 3 years on, she still carries this thought with her, that’s impact for you!

But, back to the week at hand, by Wednesday things were starting to turn, the operation was officially called off. We knew this wasn’t going to end well, the obstruction wouldn’t un-do itself and we knew he couldn’t live with it either.

I’ll leave it there for now, i’ll pick up same place, same time next week.

Thanks for reading along, commenting, sharing and liking, means the world to me and Nick too, i’m sure!

Til next time, Michela x

 

Making Memories

One of the things Nick was adamant about during this time, was making memories. Yes, snapping pics on his phone, but more than that, celebrating what life he had left. He knew that he wouldn’t be around for all the milestones that come with being a parent, or even that of being a husband, son or friend.

So, it became his mission to try and do as much of it, as he could, while he was still ok. As mentioned previously, we had our first and last family trip overseas, tick and done!

But before that, when he was just diagnosed he planned a ‘Nick’s got cancer, come eat and help him get fat before he starts chemo’ party at our place. Still not realising at that time, how soon the end would come. But it was a night of talking about his illness, while scoffing Tolberone cheesecake, yum! But, that was Nick, he loved having everyone together and had a way of making it happen.

Like when he organised a catch up at his mum’s place with his family. It was the first time in a long while, that we’d been together in one place with his siblings and nieces and nephews. We had a great afternoon together, a chance to hang out and for them to ask us questions to help everyone better understand his illness, but more than that, it was valuable family time.

Again, making memories for everyone, and not just ones of Nick being sick, it was important to him, that they saw him when he was well too, so they could remember him being the same Nick they always knew.

Then came our daughter’s first birthday. I admit, I wasn’t keen on having a celebration, with everything that was going on, I didn’t think we’d have the energy to host anything and the way Nick’s condition was going, you never knew what state he’d wake up in.

But, no, he got about organising a first birthday for her, at of all places, our house! It made me nervous, we’d already had to cancel celebrations for her baptism because he’d been so unwell and that was 3 months ago, I didn’t see this working out any better. But, with his stubborn attitude and hard head, (yes, I can see you all nodding from here, agreeing with me!) It was onwards with the party and making memories!

So, we invited 100 of our closest family and friends for a Sunday lunch for Claudia’s butterfly themed 1st Birthday. We had everyone help out with food, so we weren’t too frazzled, including his Dad arriving at the break of dawn to start the spit. (He was Greek, don’t forget!)

Nick woke up feeling good, the adrenalin of knowing he was going to have everyone over, gave him a boost. He even made a sign that he stuck to the front door, welcoming everyone to the party, but asking that they refrain from asking any questions or talking about his cancer, because it was Claudia’s day, not his!

The day went off without a hitch, Claudia was the center of attention, surrounded by people who loved her and wanted to celebrate, but what a year it had been for us all.

Because a year ago, we had this precious new life in our hands, our heads filled with all the possibilities and opportunities that would come her way. Where we had once, just been 2 adults on the same path, now we had created his little being, to join us, to become apart of our family.

We didn’t know cancer would come and destroy this bliss and would take one of us away from our little girl, so that she may never know how excited, happy and proud she made her Dad, just by being born.

Making Memories
Claudia’s First Birthday

On a side note, when Nick was so sick, I would say, I wish I could take your pain from you and be the sick one, he’d always reply by saying, ‘Little girls need their mothers, it’s best that this happened to me’. That still brings a tear to my eye every time!

And Nick was making sure she would always know how loved she was, by filming and celebrating every milestone he could with her, even if it was just because it was a Saturday. I have almost all of her 1st birthday party filmed, including his beautiful speech, thanking everyone, but also telling Claudia and I, what we meant to him. And i’m not normally a ‘cry in front of people’ person, but I did that day, my emotions got the better of me and I cried, and he did too. Just knowing, that there would never be this moment again, the two of us and our baby girl in front of a birthday cake.

Making Memories
Getting emotional during his speech

If you were at this party, you might have remembered when it turned, it got late in the afternoon and Nick’s adrenaline had all but worn out, and his illness took over again, and he literally kicked out the last of our guests. He just needed rest and quiet again, it was a somber end to an otherwise, perfect day and the reminder that not all was well with him. This was 6 weeks before he was gone..

He always set about making memories, even for us as a couple, and around rolled our 6 year wedding anniversary, without our knowing, it would now be 4 weeks before he was gone.

I was happy to just spend the night at our apartment, but Nick had other plans, enlisting my mum to help organise my gifts and his parents to babysit our daughter for the night. He wasn’t very well that day, but he surprised me with a dinner at one of our favourite restaurants, Silks at Crown (haven’t been back since!) and ordered the full banquet, of which he ate all but nothing. It drew such attention from the wait staff, that the manager came over and asked if there was something wrong. Nick tried to explain he was unwell and couldn’t eat much, so they set about packaging it up, as take away, apparently they told us, something they never do!

More than that, Nick surprised me with the most beautiful gifts. Firstly, another Prada bag, because he said, he knew when he was gone, I would never spoil myself with luxury items and he thought I deserved them everyday. He thought when we bought my original one in Italy, that i’d secretly wanted the new one he bought, (this was NOT true, I fought with him not to buy the first one, it was all in his head!) and he bought me gorgeous 2ct diamond stud earrings, for much the same reason, knowing i’d never do the same for myself. Boy, he was proud of his gifts and I was speechless for the rest of the night. I even wore my earrings on my recent wedding day, loving that I had a bit of Nick with me, the bag though, just didn’t go with my dress!

And while we made all the memories we could, there were some that he would just never be around for. All he wanted was to see Claudia walk, she was a slow starter, but to make matters worse, she walked 4 days after his funeral, as per Get Smart’s catch phrase, ‘missed it by that much!’

I’ll end it here, thanks so much for reading along, and have a safe and happy Easter long weekend!

Til next time, Michela x