Around 12 weeks ago Shane (the grumpy old man I live with) started complaining about a pain in his back. Like any male he refused to go to the doctor saying it was just a pulled muscle. Eight weeks ago the pain was so excruciating he was taken to hospital by ambulance. That's when the ground under us started to tremble. Ten days later, specialists stood next to Mr Grumpy's hospital bed and announced he had eight weeks to live, give or take a few weeks of course because medicine isn't a perfect science, or so they said. Shane was diagnosed with small cell carcinoma of the right lung. I didn't need to be told that this was one of the most aggressive kinds of cancer you can get. I already new.
Up until that point I'd never paid much attention to the saying "truth is stranger than fiction" but recently I've learnt that it is. When I wrote my first novel, Finding Angel, one of the characters, Steve Jax, was married. It became clear that he was a good candidate for his own book so, of course, I had to get rid of his wife. Callous...yes. I wanted something that would kill her quickly so I turned to my favourite research tool, google. By the end of the book, Steve's wife was diagnosed with a terminal illness...small cell carcinoma of the lung. Fuck. Who knew?
|Mr Grumpy, before he got sick.|
Shane declined their offer of treatment. His philosophy being, why delay the inevitable. Why indeed? When doctors looked at me and asked what I thought I could only answer one way. It's Shane's life and I support the decision he's made.
So the world continues to tilt. Life confirming it is stranger than fiction every day. Over the last few weeks I've sat at Mr Grumpy's bedside and watched his eighty year old father beg him to have chemo, the answer was still no. I've seen him in such excruciating pain that he changes color like a chameleon as doctors battle to get his pain to a tolerable level, they now seem to have won that battle. I've listened to Shane comfort family and friends, reassuring them about his imminent death, when it should be the other way around. I've born the brunt of his anger when he's told me to fuck off and get out of his hospital room. I've fought with nurses when his pain medication has been overdue (yes, my terms of endearment moments have been many, although I'm sure in the movie Shirley MacLaine had her meltdown far more eloquently than I do). I've watched his chest stay motionless and found myself willing him to please take another breath. And over the last few days I've sat next to his bed and prayed for all this to just end. Selfish...I know...but sometimes when you're on an emotional roller coaster, all you can do is feel whatever's thrown at you, and brace yourself for the next crest of joy or gully of pain.
At least the world isn't completely upside down just yet. Even though Shane and my world may be spiralling out of control, the rest of the world is still normal. Well, as normal as it pretends to be. I'm trying to hold onto what I know will be my reality after Shane's gone. So, in the midst of all the chaos, edits for Playing Jax are done, it's releasing in May (hopefully). Healing a Cougar's Heart went through the edit and release process and came out a few days ago, which was ahead of schedule I think. And despite everything that's going on I've now gone back to working on the next cougar manuscript again, so with any luck I can get it to the publisher on time. Yes, even though truth is stranger than fiction, it's fiction that's currently keeping me sane.
So, as the world continues to tilt all I can do is be there for Mr Grumpy, watch and wait, try to maintain my balance, and hold on so I don't fall over the edge.
Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't. Mark Twain
My Grumpy Old Man, Shane Charles Tollis, passed away at midday on Thursday 4th May. He was 56 years old.
RIP Shane and thank you for sharing your love with me.