One year ago this date, Larry and I embarked on our last public “date” as a couple.
Due to his rapid decline in health and mobility, the palliative care team from the Community Care Access Center (CCAC) had been engaged and he was getting regular visits from the nurse and support worker while I was able to maintain a (somewhat) normal schedule at work.
By this time, his kidneys had completely failed and his legs were swollen with edema to the point he couldn’t walk. Courtesy of Rev. Moore (thanks Doug!) at Laidlaw Memorial United Church, we had borrowed a wheelchair and we were able to get around town using the bus, patience and brute strength on my part. He was also starting the earliest phase of end stage liver failure, which starts to show as periods of fatigue and confusion as the body drowns in the toxins the liver no longer clears from the blood stream (hepatic encephalopathy) and we had started the only treatment for this condition – a strong laxitive called lactulose.
Larry didn’t feel like going out often as he was getting weaker as the cancer consumed his body, his strength and his will, but he wanted to go out for his birthday.
He was not able to tolerate most solid foods and we had him on a very soft diet including Ensure shakes to keep him in protein and calories. However it was his birthday and he wanted a treat (despite how crummy we both felt) and to also get him out of the house. When asked where he wanted to go he answered with one word: Cannon.
We got him out of bed and down the stairs (by this time, he was so weak that we needed to put a chair on the landing for him to rest 10-15 minutes prior to taking the next series of steps. Getting him from the bedroom to the wheelchair at the bottom of our front porch steps was now a process that took nearly 45 minutes and a heck of a lot of patience on my part. Going out with someone who was in kidney failure and end stage liver failure meant that one also had to have a change of clothes or two, so taking Larry out was no mean feat.
I would then tuck him in and cover him up with the polar fleece blanket and slowly walk him the three blocks to Cannon street, where we waited for the bus. We got off at Ottawa St. and took him to the back entrance of the Cannon Coffee Company where I could get him in unemcumbered by the step at the main entrance. What would have normally been a 20 minute walk from our house to the Cannon, was a nearly two hour ordeal.
We were able to tuck Larry and his wheelchair into one of our regular tables and I placed our order, he napped while we waited for our food and coffee order, while I read. I was getting exhausted as well as the Lactulose usually meant a washroom trip and I didn’t know how I’d manage at the Cannon, should he have a call of nature.
I requested our coffees in “to go” cups and my food in a take out container, just in case, Larry just wanted a muffin top. When his food arrived, I woke him up and picked at the muffin top and had a few sips of coffee. At this time, I could see what little colour he had in his face draining, so I packed our stuff away and got ourselves to the bus stop to head home. Larry dozed the entire way.
So 2 hours to get to the Cannon, 1 hour to get back home, 30 minutes to get Larry upstairs and tucked into bed with the help of a neighbour and the homecare nurse, just so we could have a 15 minute chance at a normal life at Larry’s favourite cafe on his birthday.
I’d do it all over again. In an instant. Happy birthday Larry. I’ll have a coffee for you at the Cannon tonight!