Please take time out to read this article.
Cancer. The Big C. A tumour… and it’s malignant. And probably many other euphemisms.
Mrs Grasshopper was diagnosed with stage 4 terminal pancreatic cancer on 25 October last year.
Der Tod ist sicher.
Prognosis – how long before you die – twelve (12) months from diagnosis. As at today, Mrs Grasshopper is still alive (but not alive and well). Every day is a bonus. Guesstimate now as to how long she has got is now 6-8 weeks, maybe a a few days later so she gets to see Christmas Day. But who can tell?
Anyway this article is not about Mrs Grasshopper per se. Death, sad to say, is certain. That’s a brutal fact. But what about Grasshopper, my classmate from the mid-70’s, hard-nosed riot squad policeman?
Ever since diagnosis, Grasshopper and I have kept the communication lines open. He calls me “Padre Ginge.” I send him and Mrs Grasshopper a pastoral card.
In the last two months, Mrs Grasshopper has been suffering new symptoms on a weekly basis. Grasshopper has been dealing in a businesslike manner, being a trained medic, logging her symptoms and monitoring her slow downhill journey.
Mrs Grasshopper is in denial. She truly believes she will be alive in two years to see her son’s graduation. It’s unlikely that she’ll still be around in two months. That’s a brutal fact.
To be honest, cold, callous and clinical, Mrs Grasshopper is not my main concern. My main concern is to make sure that Grasshopper does not end up having a nervous breakdown while looking after his wife. Today he admitted to me that he had had a meltdown this morning and had spent almost all day in bed. That is out of character for Grasshopper, who is normally a very positive, matter-of-fact person. We had a good long chat via Whatsapp while I was taking the tram into the city centre this afternoon. He sound weary. His voice was starting to crack a bit. First time I’ve heard him like that. Big boys do cry, or at least allow their voices to wobble a bit.
I mainly listened. Grasshopper needed to let off steam. I told him I was here 24/7 if he ever need a good rant. I don’t want him having a nervous breakdown or “doing something stupid.”
Yesterday Grasshopper found this pastoral card from me landing on his doormat.
Who cares for the carers?
Have a caring day, won’t you!
In January 2000, as Lance-Corporal GermanGinge I did a military interrogator’s course. Three expressions are still embedded in my head:
- ICATQ (“I cannot answer that question.”)
- The shock of capture
The shock of capture is the “Oh dear, oh dear, oh f*ck!” moment when a prisoner of war realises the game is up: he has been attacking you, has lost the fight, and he is now hoping his enemy will not kill him.
Today Mrs Grasshopper went through the shock of capture. Since her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer at the end of October 2017, Grasshopper (my old Klassenkamerad) and I have been in daily contact, swapping jokes, URL’s for corny 70’s songs and then interspersing with businesslike “sitreps” (“situation reports”) on Mrs Grasshopper’s progress.
Yesterday was another major milestone: another appointment with the oncologist. The oncologist agreed with Grasshopper’s suspicions that Mrs Grasshopper’s increased self-dosage of oramorph, the increase in her tumour marker to 6000 units and several other symptoms were indicative that her cancer was spreading – despite ten sessions of heavy-duty chemotherapy.
This afternoon I phoned Grasshopper. He was stoic. He has been ever since diagnosis.
Pads brat banter. I pull his leg about being a policeman. He pulls my leg about being a “ginga.” We laugh. The Germans in the Düsseldorf sit and try – as ever – to eavesdrop on our Anglophone conversation
Then the $64 million question. Deep breath.
Grasshopper, now, tell me to f… off and mind my own business if you like. How did Mr Grasshopper react to the oncologist’s prognosis yesterday?
Grasshopper told me she had had a major meltdown down the local cafe this morning. The realisation that she
does not have long will probably die soon. The realisation that she cannot ask her enemy, the cancer, not to kill her. The shock of capture. The thoughts. All the what-ifs. Every single “why?” question.
Next time you are moaning about:
- Your bus being late
- There being no milk in the fridge
- Your team losing their World Cup match
Please think of Mrs Grasshopper.
No picture this time, just a song.
Have a shockless day, won’t you!