I wrote this journal entry in September 2015 during a 9 day hospital stay. At the time my friend had set up a fundraiser in Ryan’s honor and we were being showered with support from hundreds of friends, family and strangers. It was amazing and we will never forget it.
Hospital Daze: Reflections of a Caregiver/Girlfriend
When the first thing a surgeon says to your loved one is, “Hey buddy, I know you’ve really been through a lot, so I’m going to try my very best to get the results we need,” you can’t help but feel a deep pain in your chest and throat. Your eyes sting with the welling of familiar tears, the kind that come up easy and are now, somehow, almost just as easy to suppress. Not now, tears. Later, in the car. Later, in the bathroom—in the cafeteria where the final straw is the shitty food and the grim pastels. There, people might notice but no one will ask. They’ve all seen this before.
I ask the small, cranky man behind the grill if he remembers me. No. “Well I remember you,” I say. “You wouldn’t make me eggs last time because it was 5 minutes past 10:30.” It’s 10:17. He doesn’t care. I’m not myself in this place. I’m a shell, a waif, careless and rude. “I’m sorry,” I say. “It’s just hard to be here sometimes.” “I know that. It’s okay,” he replies. He hands me a clear to-go box filled with runny eggs and potatoes that melt the plastic beneath them. I hate him and everything. I feel bad about it.
I sit down on a dirty cushion bench and stare at the empty chartreuse tables and chairs around me. The rush of pity and fear comes over me. God damn it, here we are again. Why? What if he doesn’t wake up? Oh…the way he looks in a hospital bed, his beautiful, tired blue eyes, his arms all hooked up to wires and his feet hanging off the bed. Our last kiss before I leave him to the surgeon’s mercy. 9 years of battle– chemo, surgeries, pokes and prods, his second relapse just after his 30th birthday. My poor baby. His poor family. Poor me for knowing these bleak walls and faces and fluorescent lights and toxic plastic melting into my food all so well. Poor Helaine, his mother and major source of strength, who has known this painful routine for far longer than I have. And then I let the tears have at it. River running free, you know how I feel.
A deep breath and two bites in, I make some phone calls. I’m just waiting now. He was in okay spirits. The doctors seemed nice, or the doctors were assholes. I’ll let you know how it goes. Don’t worry. We’ll be ok. Love you too.
I go to the bathroom. I try not to touch anything and don’t look at the mirror until I wash my hands. I haven’t looked at myself in any mirror today. Fuck, I look old. Tired, sad, my hair is a damn mess. I’m in my workout clothes, but probably won’t make it to the gym today. I put on Ryan’s enormous jacket. I look like a bum. I should really try harder to keep it together. I look at myself in the eye. You’re tough, and still pretty. The lighting sucks in here anyway.
I head towards the waiting area. I know the best one and exactly how to get there. I take the stairs like some of the doctors and nurses. It’s a bittersweet feeling. There’s a person, a girl I think, sprawled out on one of the benches sleeping. Her head is covered by a hoodie and her feet are propped up and crossed. She is wearing black leggings like me, and white Converse. If she were awake we’d probably smile at each other. Maybe we would talk. Maybe she would tell me her boyfriend was in surgery. Mine too. He was hit on his bike. My boyfriend’s is cancer related. She’s sorry to hear that. It’s ok. I’m sorry about her boyfriend too, I’d tell her.
Time passes in a way it does here and nowhere else. I can never judge it for some reason. Before I know it, it’s only been 5 minutes, or 2 hours, and all the sudden the anxiety creeps in. It’s supposed to be over by now. What’s happening? Why hasn’t the buzzer buzzed or anyone called me? Oh god, please, let everything be ok. Ryan is such a good, strong, amazing man. Please reward him with at least this relief. Please. Please give him a break from this nightmare. I weep again—one last time before I regroup to take initiative and look for people to answer my questions.
“Adams, Ryan…hmm…I’m going to drop off some paperwork back there and I’ll check on his status for you.” Thank you. Her name is Gabriela too. I want to tell her, but it’s stupid, so I don’t.
This is when the anxiety peaks. I feel alone but I know I’m not. We are not. I re-read messages and texts and find comfort. This last relapse has been filled with love and effort and concern. His friends have all reached out to me to relay a message of support, and a few have reached out to him personally even though he is difficult to approach about it. Even a fundraiser was set up that over 100 family, friends, and a few strangers, donated more than $16,000 so far within a matter of weeks in solidarity with our beloved Ryan. My family and closest friends text me their support and catch my fall like a big stretched out blanket. From the bottom of a heart that is mine and yours the same, thank you.
When all is said and done, this experience is making us better humans. It’s making my heart big and strong. It’s teaching me about health, patience, how to wiggle our way through our tragically awful medical care systems. It’s teaching me what unconditional means. That while some medical industry people should be ashamed and punished, many genuinely care and try their hardest to help. It’s teaching me that love hurts so impossibly much sometimes, but when troubles wash through your existence and you can’t eat and you don’t want to talk about it anymore, and you just want to crawl into a hole and wake up when it’s over, eventually everything meaningless fades away and love is all that remains. If you’ve built your good karma, you will see all the love in your life growing rapidly from the cracks after the earthquake has hit, and your heart will understand why.
I’ve never lost hope for more than a fleeting moment and with the all these beautiful hands holding us up, I know I never will.