As said in my previous post .”The last week” , every time I saw a doctor the news got worse. On the Wednesday the news was that they were concerned about her recovering, on Thursday it was that the cancer had spread to her colon and brain. A meeting with the radiation oncologist was that we possibly had weeks and at the most months to live.
I felt so overwhelmed and useless at this point. What was I supposed to do with this information. I could hardly breathe let alone think. What was I going to say to Yolanda? What was I going to tell our daughters? I sat on the lawn outside the doctors rooms and cried feeling like my world was about to end yet I had all of these responsibilities to deal with.
One of the biggest weights which I was carrying at the time and which I felt then and still do now is having to raise the flag and say to her father that he must come up. During the time that Yolanda had cancer he had not visited, in a conversation he had said that he was scared how he would react seeing his daughter like that. I felt that this was selfish and that an unnecessary burden had been placed on my shoulders.
I did make the call and broke the news. Yolanda’s parents would fly up the next day. I also made the call to many family and friends to bring them up to date with the news. It was then time to go and sit with Yolanda. She asked me about the meeting and I told her that they were concerned about recovery as the cancer had not reacted the way they had hoped to the two rounds of chemo she had received. I told her that we would be starting radiation on Monday with the hope that this would trigger a positive response. I never told her about the weeks maybe months outlook. I felt that that would have broken her and I didn’t want her to give up hope and the fight. Her parting words that evening were “Sean I will fight this with everything I have and will do whatever the doctors say I need to do”. That was her fighting spirit. Yolanda was a fighter and had faced many challenges in her life and she wasn’t about to change now.
I went to my mothers home to fetch my girls. We then went to the airport to fetch Yolanda’s sister Patsy. She had already planned to come a visit a while ago and was coming to spend time with Yolanda. Little did she know that she was coming to say goodbye. When we got home I sat everyone down and broke the devastating news I had received early in the day. We all cried and tried to wrap our minds around the news.
The next morning I got up early and went through to the hospital to be with Yolanda. I had arranged to be off work after receiving this life changing feedback from the doctors. I am eternally grateful that I work for and with an amazing boss. Peter Figg showed immense empathy and strength which still helps me through this very dark period in my life’s journey.
When I arrived at the hospital Yolanda was talking about a dog that had been to visit. I went along with the conversation so as not to startle her. I asked what type of dog it was. I got a clear answer, it was a Spaniel. I then asked what colour it was and got a more aggressive answer, any colour you want it to be. We spoke about other things like Patsy having arrived and her brother Neil who was driving up from Capetown and would be arriving later that evening. I needed to ask Yolanda for some passwords that my mom required to access work stuff. Yolanda tried to remember but couldn’t. She tried to write it down but couldn’t. It was very clear to me that the deterioration had begun. Yolanda had a very sharp mind and an unbelievable memory. She then grew tired and wanted to sleep. I left to go back home to wait on the arrival of Yolanda’s parents in order to give them an update on Yolanda’s condition.
I was becoming frustrated as I didn’t feel others were sharing the same sense of urgency that I was, that is in terms of feeling the need to spend time with Yolanda. We eventually returned to the hospital late afternoon early evening. Yolanda’s condition had deteriorated and she didn’t recognize any of us and was speaking almost nonsensical. This upset my eldest daughter immensely, so much so that this would be the last time she saw her mom. She didn’t want to remember her mother like that. She wanted to have all the good memories. I hugely respect her decision and her strength in not allowing herself to be pressured into doing something she didn’t want to do. Some times I wish I could get those visions of these last days out of the cinema screen in my head. It seems to be stuck on repeat and I struggle to remember or visualize the good times.
This wasn’t only traumatic for Milah it was traumatic for all of us to see Yolanda like that. It just wasn’t her. It also marked for me the realization that the end was nearing faster than the weeks maybe months conversation I had had with the radiation oncologist. I still hoped that we would get to the radiation on Monday and that this might reverse Yolanda’s condition. We all left that evening with very heavy hearts.
Saturday morning arrived and I left early for the hospital. I just needed to be with Yolanda. She had slipped into a coma and her eyes where closed for the entire day. This day saw a lot of visitors. Family, friends and distance relatives. It was a tough day emotionally as I spent the entire day watching and listening to the machine monitoring Yolanda. Her heart rate was super high and remained so for the entire day. Her blood pressure was low. It was clear that her tiny body was in a fight. She was true to her word.
I also became frustrated with everyone there, as some stood outside the room seemingly having a social. How could they I kept asking myself? This was a very personal moment for me with Yolanda and I felt like we were fish in a glass bowl being observed constantly. Also how was it possible to sound cheerful when we were confronted with this frightening journey unfolding before our eyes. Didn’t they realise what was unfolding before us.
Thankfully my sister saw my distress and asked everyone to go to the hospital coffee shop. Some sense of order seemed to be restored. Some sense of dignity for Yolanda was restored. Everyone took turns in coming up in small groups, this allowed me to take small breaks and to interact with those in the coffee shop. It mostly allowed me to spend some time with my girls. Eventually as the day turned into evening everyone had pretty much left. I also said my goodbye to Yolanda with the intention of coming through early the next morning. I set my ring tone to that of a barking dog as I had this sick feeling I might get a call in the night. I couldn’t sleep that night and must have passed out in the early hours of the morning from exhaustion both emotional and physical. This had been a lot to digest in the last few days.
My phone rang and it was 7am, I had overslept. With my heart racing I answered. It was my sister Sharon who was already at the hospital. She assured me that Yolanda was still with us but the nurses suggested that I get to the hospital. I got dressed and done in record time. Within 4minutes of the call I was in the car driving to the hospital. As much as I felt the need to race through I knew I needed to drive cautiously as the last thing my daughters would need right now is for me to be in an accident.
When I got to the hospital I saw that Yolanda was in a coma however her eyes were open. They had also put on a breathing mask to assist her breathing. Family and friends started to arrive again and I would find myself being asked questions to which I didn’t know the answers. It was frustrating as all I wanted to do was focus on Yolanda and not be pestered with questions. I however did appreciate everyone coming through. I got great strength from having my brother Mike there. I really didn’t expect to see him there. It was a great comfort.
The doctor on duty, Jacqui, came round. I asked if all the signs meant Yolanda wasn’t going to make it. She looked at me and gave a knowingly nod. She asked if she could administer some morphine in order to put Yolanda at easy. I agreed to this but also understood the significance of doing this. At this time my youngest daughter asked if she could place a bracelet she had made for Mom onto Yolanda’s arm. The doctor said this would be fine and marveled at the strength of this tiny 11 year old. I also gave Hannah the chance to talk to her mom and say good bye. In respect for my eldest daughter not to see her mother like this I put her on speaker phone and gave her the opportunity to also talk and say good bye. It broke my heart to hear her pained sobbing on the other end of the line and not to be there to give her a hug. I am however mighty proud and gain much strength from how both my daughters in their unique ways handled this life changing situation.
It was a long day with visitors coming in and out. I refused to leave Yolanda. I some how had a sense that this would be our last day together here on earth. This was my soulmate, partner and angel who had changed my life forever.
Yolanda’s heart rate remained high for the entire day. I spoke to and assured her that we would be okay. I assured her that I would continue with the goal of raising our two girls in the best possible way and give them every opportunity to succeed in life. I played music for her. Sometimes I just sat in silence holding her hand. At just after 5pm Yolanda’s blood pressure dropped and I knew that the end was near. At 5:15pm Yolanda passed away peacefully. The nurses moved in swiftly and did what they needed to do whilst always preserving Yolanda’s dignity.
My father in law immediately messaged everyone that Yolanda had passed away. This annoyed me as it robbed me of the opportunity to go to my daughters and break the news to them first. Suddenly the outside of the room was filled with many people. Some took the time to say their last good bye and to offer condolences.
My Hannah surprised me the most as she asked to see Mom and retrieve her special bracelet. Her strength still amazes me.
The journey of grief had now started.
My brother Mike stayed with me and guided me through the next 30 minutes.
In my next post I will cover Admin, admin, admin