It's been quite a while since I've posted. Most of you know why.
Gregg and I had an absolutely fantastic trip to Europe. We spent a week in Germany. We stayed with my friend Niki and her wonderful family in Munich and went to lots of places from there. We visited Salzburg, Chiemsee, the BMW Museum, Regensburg, and so much more. Gregg even got to drive the Autobahn.
From there we went to Venice by train through the Alps. What a gorgeous ride that was. Mountains, castles, vineyards everywhere. Venice was wonderful. No motor vehicles except for the Vaporetto, which is a water bus basically that runs on the Grand Canal. We spent two wonderful days in Venice walking all over.
Then we went on to Rome by train. There we stayed in a hotel that has existed since the 17th century. It is on the same piazza as the Pantheon. Our window overlooked the Pantheon. We saw the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, plus all the amazing artwork housed in the Vatican Museums. We went to the Coliseum and the forums and the market, saw Trajan's column and so many other things that we all studied in Art History in college. We threw coins into the Trevi Fountain and climbed the Spanish Steps. We ate pasta and Caprese almost every night...oh we visited the first McDonalds in Italy. BTW - there is a McDonalds directly across from the Pantheon if you can imagine.
We returned June 31st and worked July 2nd and 3rd. We had doc appointments on the 5th and 6th that week. Gregg had all his usual scans that Thursday and was scheduled for chemo on Friday. When we met with the doc on Friday morning I have to admit I had a bad feeling. Gregg had been having terrible back pains at the end of our trip in Europe. Thursday and Friday he started to get very weak in his legs. He would easily lose his balance and fell several times those days. He of course refused a wheel chair. We sat and waited in the doc office that Friday. When he came in he did the usual check up and then sat down. He asked if we wanted to see the CT scans. We did, so he pulled up the last two. The scans of his body were actually quite good. There was not much change and even some shrinking of some tumors. The brain scans were not so positive. The tumors had not only grown terribly but had multiplied exponentially. The doc said that he could not believe that Gregg was sitting there in front of him and specifically that he had walked in to his office at all. Because of the significant growth of the tumors in his brain, Gregg could not get chemo. The blood vessels that tumors grow are too weak and he could bleed out and die.
We were told to seek hospice and given two weeks to a month.
I knew that this time was different than the last. Gregg was obviously weak. He would talk with a thick tongue sometimes. His short-term memory would go in and out.
I somehow managed to drive him home that night. We called his parents, which was the worst thing you can possibly imagine. How do you tell your mother that you are going to die?
Giving up is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. After two years of fighting and researching and driving all over the Midwest, I just didn't know how to stop. But I had to. Gregg could no longer travel.
We were told that he would be paralyzed soon as there was a tumor pressing on his spine. He would stop being able to talk and to see at some point and that most likely he would just calmly stop breathing and then his heart would stop.
I dug out the walker we had from his brain surgery last fall so he could still walk and support himself. I was very afraid that he might fall and that I wouldn't be able to get him up. His parents arrived on Saturday and someone started staying with us at night so that if he fell there would be two people at least. I made one of Gregg's favorite meals that evening. We all ate heartily together, especially him, in the kitchen. That would be his last meal and the last day he walked.
On Sunday morning he told me that his bladder was hurting and that he couldn't empty it. I knew that the nerves down there were probably not working anymore either and that he needed a catheter. He wouldn't let the hospice nurses come till Monday though. His sister Michele arrived that Sunday from Seattle along with her husband Dan and their little guy Morgen.
On Monday I begged the nurses to come as soon as they could because he was in so much pain from the full bladder. They came and put in the cath and removed 2500 mLs of fluid. Poor guy was so relieved he was actually smiley and happy for a while after that. The hospital bed arrived on Monday as well. I was so sad that I couldn't have him next to me anymore, but was so relieved that he could possibly get comfy and move the head up and down. His pain was really starting to get out of control and I was having a terrible time trying to make him comfortable.
A lot of our friends and family were all coming over during this time. Gregg would always perk up and talk to them. Laughing and acting like nothing really much at all was wrong. Gregg's longest friend Chad came from NYC and our friend Mason came from Portland to see us both and to do what they could. Gregg and I couldn't have been luckier in the friend’s dept.
We found out that his airplane is on the May 2008 EAA calendar when Jim K brought the proof over. He was so proud of that.
A few days later we noticed that a huge tumor had grown into his neck. He had been complaining of neck pain and we'd been trying all sorts of things to help, but now we knew what it was. After that he was no longer able to move his neck or swallow without pain.
The next morning I woke up to find that he was sweating profusely and had a temp of 103. The docs had told us this might happen as the part of the brain that controls body temp was infiltrated. He was non-responsive, except to pain. Mason and my mother came up with some innovative ideas to try and control the fever and soon we were doing quite well, keeping him around 99 to 100.
After that the hospice nurses told us his heart rate had jumped a lot and that most likely his heart would give out before his body. Boy were they wrong. Gregg's young heart put up with the punishment till the end. After many days of unresponsiveness and me trying to get the meds into him to keep the seizures from coming his breathing changed. The nurses said that his body was toxic now and kidneys were shutting down because he was no longer drinking either. It's hard to explain the shift between praying for a miracle to praying for death to come swiftly. I hope none of you ever have to learn about that. When you can't comfort your loved one anymore and you don't even know if he is in pain or possibly trying to tell you something, it is excruciating.
Gregg's mom and I were both sleeping on the sofa pulled up right next to his bed for several nights. Sleep is a term I use loosely, when you wake up every few minutes because you are worried he will slip away without you knowing. Soon we decided taking shifts was a better option and that the person not on shift would actually sleep in the bed while the awake person(s) would sit out on the sofa.
On Tuesday the 24th, Gregg's mom and I decided to take the late shift. We were to be woken up at 1:00 AM while his Dad and brother in law Dan watched till then. At 11:50 Gary woke Bev and I up to say that Gregg's breathing had gotten even shallower than it was. We jumped up and ran out there.
He took one last shallow breath and then stopped. I wrapped my arm around his head, rested my head on his and put my other hand over his heart. It was so very hard to not beg him to keep breathing, live more, but I knew it wasn't fair. So instead I told him I loved him and that it was okay. To go to his Grandparents that I knew were there waiting for him. That I would be okay and so would his parents. We would love and miss him and never, ever forget him. We would make it without him, even though we didn't want to.
I felt his heart slow and stop. It was about 11:56 PM. We all just held him and cried and talked to him and told him over and over how much we loved him.
Eventually Dan called hospice and the nurse came and pronounced him at 12:35 AM on Wednesday morning. The allowed me to bathe him and rinse all the yucky meds out of his mouth that we had been forced to try and get into him. I dressed him because I knew he would not want to arrive in a hospital gown anywhere.
The funeral home was called and they came and took him away from us around 2:00 AM. That was the most horrible moment of all. Knowing that he would never again be in the house, our bed, or my arms.
In case some of you out there don't know, Gregg died smack in the middle of AirVenture. Maybe he did that on purpose, knowing that so many people would be here during that time. I'm not sure.
So we planned to have the visitation and funeral across two days the next week so that all our extended family at EAA could attend. EAA planned a beautiful memorial in the Eagle Hangar on the last day of convention. It was very special.
There was a fly by of his airplane before the air show that day. Janet flew the plane and Gregg's sister was sitting in the front. It was touching and wonderful. It was at that moment that I knew I needed to learn how to fly that plane. And I will.
What amazes me still is that Gregg never once questioned why this happened to him, was never angry about it. He just fought with silent strength and a smile on his face. I am so lucky that I got to have Gregg in my life, even though God called him back sooner than we all wanted. If I had to do it all over again, I would.
Before Gregg died, he told me that he knew God had brought us here to Oshvegas for a reason. He was right. God may have taken him away from me, but he gave me the friends, actually the family, that I have here because he knew they would help me to survive this.
The pain is bittersweet. I know that I hurt now because I love him so deeply.