If you’re wondering why I’ve been quiet, it’s because I lost my partner Doug over the weekend. He fought stage 4 Pancreatic cancer for a year and a half. Many people don’t go near as long with that devastating disease.
Unlike some cancers, pancreatic has a dismal survival rate. It’s painful and unrelenting. We did all we could to ensure that he had the best quality of life for as long as we could, but it won out in the end.
About five years ago, his doctor discovered that he had a rare non-aggressive form of lymphoma called Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. It’s a type of blood cancer that most people can have for many years without dying from it. The Shah of Iran and George Pompidou had it. When they diagnosed his pancreatic cancer, the fact that he had Waldenstrom’s as well made him ineligible for a clinical trial.
I’ve lost my partner to cancer twice
As some of you know I also lost my husband of 23 years to brain cancer, so I’ve been through the caregiving ordeal before. Both my husband and Doug worked in the film industry as camera operators and directors of photography. As you can imagine, I feel like I should stay away from cameramen from now on. Even though I know I had nothing to do with their illnesses it’s hard not to feel cursed.
Our relationship was . . . complicated
Without going into detail, our relationship had its challenges. Nonetheless, we enjoyed traveling together. Without him, I may not have gone to Europe several times, sailed through the Caribbean in a sailboat, or gazed in awe at the beauty of Alaska on a cruise and other fun adventures.
He was a member of the TV Academy, The Visual Effects Society, and the Society of Camera Operators, so we were privy to many industry screenings and events which I will dearly miss.
We never married and for various reasons, our once hot romance evolved more into a friendly partnership where we both took care of each other.
Who I need to thank
I’m fortunate to have a supportive family which includes my two kids, sister, and brothers. Also, my two pups, particularly “his” dog Louie who is 15 ½ with diabetes. He valiantly watched over Doug until he died. Louie is a little depressed right now, which is understandable because he lost his partner too.
His oncologist and Palliative care team were amazing and always responsive through every emergency which included episodes of internal bleeding and a DVT blood clot.
Before Doug became ill I’d never heard of Palliative care but wish I had when my husband was being treated because they support caregivers as well as the patient.
During the last week of his life, Doug was in hospice care at our apartment. I had to deal with helping him to the bathroom, keeping him comfortable and later changing his diapers. It wasn’t fun at all. And thank God for morphine.
After he became unresponsive in his last 24 hours, a higher level of care was ordered and a nurse stayed with us helping to ease his pain until he stopped breathing.
I was impressed with Vitas Healthcare, which is available nationwide. It was recommended by our Palliative Care team.
Doug’s daughter, who is his only child, was also on hand to help. Her husband lives in the U.K. and they’ve been going through a long drawn-out immigration nightmare. He happened to be in town visiting and helped move boxes and furniture to make way for a hospital bed.
Both of them made all the arrangements that hadn’t been taken care of beforehand even though I tried to get Doug to do it many times. I was glad her husband was there because it made it so much easier for his daughter to deal with her grief.
When someone battles cancer, their main focus is to survive and it’s difficult to deal with the details of impending death. Still, if you can pre-plan it makes it so much easier on the survivors. I tried to get Doug to look into funeral preferences, write down passwords, etc., but he was a master procrastinator.
My girlfriend, who I’ve known since high school, brought me dinner several times and sat with me for three hours waiting for Doug’s body to be picked up. We had just dished out ice cream when they arrived which was incredibly inappropriate.
One of the men who came to transport the body arrived in a long coat with tails. He reminded me of Ichabod Crane, which was creepy. Also, the apartment is small and there wasn’t enough room to wheel the stretcher from the hallway into the bedroom so they had to carry the body out into the living room. That was kind of morbid.
Thankfully, I have my own bedroom so after they left I closed his bedroom door because it was dark outside and I didn’t want to deal with cleaning up the room until morning. I also placed quartz crystals in specific places in my apartment because a psychic friend said they would protect me. I had been having some pretty crazy dreams in the nights prior to his death so whatever works, right?
My next steps after losing my partner
I need to move out of my apartment as soon as possible. The cost of the one I’m living in is far beyond my means. I’m going to start to look into a studio apartment in affordable senior housing, which would be fine for me because I don’t need much space.
That means I’ll have to get rid of most of my furniture and other things I don’t have an attachment to. Doug was a hoarder so there are boxes and boxes of his stuff crammed into his bedroom closet and downstairs in the carport that I’ll have to go through.
I’ve moved many times in my life it’s made me adaptable to change so tossing things out is no big deal. All I need are my family mementos, my computers, a few pieces of meaningful artwork, and my dogs. Less is more. Simplicity works better for my brain. Plus, I’d rather spend less on where I live so I can continue to travel and do other things I love.
I’m hoping to find a space of my own rather than share a living space with a roommate. I’ve always had to acquiesce to the preferences of others, and, for once, I want to create my own space. I’d love it if it were near my daughter or some of my friends but not right on top of them.
I won’t be slowing down on my blog
One thing I love about blogging is that it not only allows me to express what I’m passionate about but is also therapeutic. And when I can’t get something written right away I have many wonderful guest writers who contribute posts with interesting perspectives on life. They help keep my blog alive and relevant.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I don’t plan to dwell on this tragedy moving forward. Life goes on. We all end up dealing with challenges when we’re older. I’m sure some of you have dealt with far worse.
Remarkably, I’m doing pretty well. It will probably kick me in the butt sometime later when I least expect it. In the meantime, I’m taking a few chill days.