We rang the doorbell at John’s* house and with a slow gait, he opened the gates and warmly welcomed us in. ‘How’s Mary*?’ asked our nurse. “Oh, she’s stable.” replied John. Mary came under our care one year ago and suffers from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, more commonly known as Mad Cow Disease. Her symptoms include jerky movements and seizures. Most notably, Mary is uncommunicative and suffers from memory loss resulting in dementia. Her prognosis was one year. She has been in and out of hospitals a few times due to infection and this has caused John to be quite stressed.
Mary although uncommunicative and immobile for quite some time, had a lovely complexion and was well groomed and neatly dressed. If I had not known she was suffering from a life-limiting illness, I would have thought that she was like any other healthy person just having a nap. John loves his wife very much. I could see this in the way he lovingly looks at Mary and he was meticulous and careful in handling his wife. He has gone out of his way to get any supplements or food that anyone told him was good for Mary. He still hoped that a miracle would happen, until three months ago.
John looks after himself well. He has always eaten healthily, exercises and maintains his strength, more so in the last year, to be able to take care of Mary. Then he noticed significant weight loss about three months ago and after a medical checkup, he was dealt with the devastating news that he was suffering from Stage Four Pancreatic Cancer. His prognosis was three to four months if he decided not to opt for treatment, and eight to nine months with treatment. John has since undergone two cycles of chemotherapy and he is now our patient too.
Our nurse chatted with John and asked how he felt when he first heard the news. He said, ‘The first thing I did was to call the lawyer to draw up my will. Fifty percent of our house will go to my sis and the other 50% will go to Mary’s sister.’ The couple has no children. ‘”But I am more concerned that no one will take care of Mary,”’ John went on. ‘Having gone through this, I have found that cancer is not that frightening. I am not afraid. God has given me my life. It is up to Him when he would like me back.’
John continues to eat as healthily as possible, explaining how he takes vegetable juice and avoids sugar as he feels cancer cells feed on glucose and he wants to starve the cancer cells. He takes an active role in understanding and procuring the medications that he needs to give Mary, helps with her bowel movements and chats with her daily, although it is a one-way communication. John believes that Mary can hear and understand every word he says.
Despite all odds, John is not giving up. I am very touched by how he lovingly looks after his wife, with no complaints; only words of love and hope! John is an inspiration for all couples to emulate.
*not their real names