|Joel and I - Thanksgiving 2010|
I was surprised to see that Joel had a full beard! He has worn a goatee occasionally, but never a beard. The chemo had actually made it so that he grew a beard easily. It was nice – he looks good in it. All the swelling was finally gone from his face and neck, also, which had been there since January. I breathed a sigh of relief because he looked a little healthier than I anticipated.
Joel’s health has gone markedly downhill, even in the last week. He no longer has the strength to walk on his own, and is weak and exhausted from simple procedures. His shoulders and spine have a lot of pain from the cancer, so the medical personnel adjusting his position in bed, or to hear his lungs, etc. is very painful for him. His chest x-ray shows that his pneumonia is improving, but his white blood cell count is still not going down. There hasn’t been a determination on what is causing his heart rate to beat so rapidly, so he is on heart medication, which is at least controlling it. The only possibility for chemo is when he is strong enough after the pneumonia is gone, and it can only be through clinical trials. If he cannot walk through the doors, they will not even do those. He gets very hot and claustrophobic in his small room, but if the fan is on him for too long, his traech dries out easily.
Joel has beautiful eyes with super long eyelashes and they were very expressive as usual, which helped with communicating with him. He motioned with his hands and moved his feet a little, too. Other than that, his only move was to reach up for Mark’s hand, but then the look on his face from the torment it caused his shoulder made me want to cry. You could tell he didn't expect it and he looked like a little boy when the pain hit him. He was looking up at Mark and the surprise, anguish, and vulnerability in that look was one of the most heartbreaking things I've ever seen. I can't even describe it adquately. Mark quickly helped Joel get his arm down to give him relief and let go of his hand. Joel tried to recover his expression fast, but you could tell it was hard. That look is haunting me.
It was great to just hold Joel’s hand, he kept rubbing my fingers. When we were visiting in his room, he did try to talk a little. He’s actually harder to understand and does less talking now than after his surgery on his tongue. Wendy said that he barely talks anymore, so she was glad to see his efforts today. He only said a couple of short things, though, like ‘I love you’ . He kept falling asleep – he just couldn’t stay awake. He is on morphine, so that is probably a part of it, but Wendy says it is happening more so than had been previously. While we were there, a Home Care lady came in and let him and Wendy know that they would be delivering a hospital bed and a walker with a seat on it, to his house tomorrow, since that is when they are looking at discharge. He will have a visiting nurse still, plus, Wendy will still be devoting all her time for care for him, and they hope to have a therapist in for physical therapy before long. I cannot imagine how he can endure most exercises, but they will be careful with him, I'm sure.
When we left, I had to blow him a kiss because of the masks. He gave Mark and me each the 'I love you' hand sign.
Our family is all gathering up here for Thanksgiving, so everyone can be close to Joel. I hope and pray it can be a time where he can enjoy everyone, even if it is for moments at a time, like with us today. It means so much to him to have family close. It means so much to our family to be together.
Joel needs prayer for strength and healing. His family needs strength and comfort. Wendy will be talking with the kids tonight to make sure they are aware of what all this means. She wants to make sure they are aware of the possibilities, just in case. How do you have that kind of talk with your kids? I know God will give her grace and strength, but my heart hurts for her. I ache for my nieces and nephew. It breaks for Joel and how he is suffering, as well as his worry over his family. He has asked his son to take care of Wendy and the girls, in the event that he is no longer here. My nephew has already done a stand up job of getting the girls to school, taking care of various needs they or the house has, and running Joel's trash business. He has put his Master's education on hold to take care of the family.The girls make Wendy a sack lunch daily, the kids bring it to the hospital in the morning, then come see Joel and Wendy after school, and then go home to take care of homework, supper and needs, there. I am so proud of all of them.
These heart wrenching times really show the beauty in Joel’s family. Joel’s strength of will to live and to get better, as well as to keep witnessing for Christ, are some examples. The way his kids have handled this whole year of changes, is another. And, the way his wife serves him with unwavering love, patience and strength, is yet another. She doesn’t think she is strong, but she is amazing. Christ shows through her, that is for certain. Wendy's mom died of cancer, when she and Joel had been married for just 3 weeks, so for Joel to have cancer, too, brings back hard memories.
I'm glad God has them in HIS hands. He can do what we cannot, and that brings a lot of comfort to our family, who would love to wipe out all of their problems and suffering, if we only could.