By 6.00 the next morning, I had called Andrew, the palliative nurse, to come back to the house. Bren had gone downhill badly, overnight. During his routine check-up, the day before Andrew spoke to him for the first time about how much time he might have left. I almost threw up when he said weeks and not months. I wanted years. A prognosis had never been discussed during three years of treatment. Brendan was not given one and never asked for one until now.
I think we believed if we didn’t ask, the worst wouldn’t happen. When Andrew calmly and kindly said, ‘Brendan, looking at where we are today, we could be looking at about a month.’ My world crashed around me slowly, millisecond by millisecond, a soundless crumbling I will never forget.
I cannot tell you how devasting it was to hear that we had no time left. There would be no miracles. Everything went black, and I could see tiny stars closing in on me. I knew I was going to faint and had to bite down on my tongue to stop myself. I couldn’t be the one fainting when my husband was told he might only have weeks to live. Tears, so many tears, and I couldn’t stop them.
When Andrew arrived this morning — I could see by the look on his face that things were really bad. He told me it was time. I didn’t register what he was saying. I thought Bren had a month – yesterday, we were talking about a month. This wasn’t right – it wasn’t fair. I wanted a month, a year, a lifetime. I wanted my husband, no matter how selfish that was. I know now that when Brendan heard four weeks, he knew he would not put himself or his family through another four weeks of hell. He had no more fight left.
Andrew quietly told me I should let the kids know that their dad might not make it through the day, and I should get our family and friends who could come, to come quickly to say goodbye. It was all happening too fast. I couldn’t get my head straight. Andrew had to leave to look in on another patient but would come back as soon as possible.
I rang my sister, Deb, to come over to be with Bren when I told the kids. While she was on her way, I rang Bren’s parents and let them know he wasn’t doing well and asked them to come straight out. When Deb arrived, I could see she’d been crying. She was doing all she could to hold herself together. She stood behind Bren’s recliner, and he lifted his arm back slowly toward her so she could take his hand. She rested her other hand on his forehead. Bren was surrounded by love.
I called Bades and Tyz out of their rooms and asked them to come out onto the veranda with me. They walked outside in front of me, and it was all I could do to make myself follow them. I knew once I told them, their lives would be changed forever. They would never be the same again.
I took a deep breath and wrapped an arm around each of them, pulling them in close to me.
“I had to call Andrew back to see dad,” I told them. “He got sick through the night, and I was worried about him. Andrew has had a good look at him and is really worried too. As hard as daddy has tried to beat cancer, we don’t think he can.” I said.
Tears fell helplessly over my cheeks and rolled into the corners of my mouth as I spoke.
My children were screaming, and I could do nothing to take away their pain.
“Daddy is still really trying to fight, but his body is tired from all the tumours and medicine, and he just can’t take it anymore, my babies. We think we are losing him. We have to be ready, daddy might die in the next day or two. Maybe even today.” I said as calmly as I could.
I could not believe those words were coming out of my mouth. But I kept going because I had to make them understand what was happening.
“Daddy doesn’t want to die,” I said, trying to comfort them.
But there was no comfort in any words that followed – Daddy is going to die.
“He would never want to leave you,” I whispered as my voice broke. “But he can’t help it.”
They kept screaming, deep gut-wrenching cries of pain. I wasn’t sure they would recover from what I’d just told them. In those few minutes, I had caused them more pain than anyone deserved. They settled a little as they rested their heads heavily on my shoulders, their little shoulders heaving up and down with their now quiet sobs.
“When you’re ready, I think dad really needs a hug from his kids.’ I said.
Before I had finished talking, they had run to him, crying. They threw their arms around him as gently as they could and told him over and over again how much they loved him and how he was the best dad ever. Our hearts were broken into a million tiny pieces. They didn’t leave their dad’s side again until he was taken from them.
Bren with the two most important people in his life.