The author walks with her husband Kai just before he dies. (Photo: Courtesy of Helen Kaiser)
An hour after my husband Kai was diagnosed with lung cancer, I went out for a walk with my dog. The walls in the kitchen were too tight and the air was so thick it was hard to breathe.
I didn’t say anything at first. We just held hands like we were clinging to life. On a street corner, Kai stumbled slightly and got hold of his neighbor’s stone retaining wall. He saw a November sky, almost bare trees, and a dog.
Then he looked at me.
“Can you make it to 60?” he asked.
The gears of my heart turned round and round and clicked. I counted in my head and mentally ripped pages from my calendar. December, January, February… June. Within 7 months. I reached out and grabbed his shoulder until he looked me in the eye.
“We will make you 60.”
How logical, commanding, and sure-footed did I sound? strong. responsible person.
After months of antibiotics for a sinus infection that Kai had not had, weeks of headaches and coughs and low-grade fevers, and being referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist, who prescribed unrelated treatments, the doctor said: They sent him a last ditch x-ray. They found a lump in his lung.
When found, the tumor was already 14 centimeters. And it had moved. Kai was Stage IV Dead Man Walking.
Unlike cancers such as prostate and breast cancer, where survival rates have steadily increased over the past half-century due to simple factors such as awareness and regular screening, lung cancer has poor survival rates. Diagnosis is too late and nothing can be done other than starting treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Kai was incredibly fit for a 59-year-old man. He ate everything right (I know because I was his family’s cook), exercised daily, and saw his doctor regularly. The former football cornerback had no known risk factors or warning signs. In fact, he had passed a battery of physicals, x-rays and blood tests in preparation for elective knee replacement surgery just a year before him.
But Cancer found him anyway. The tumor grew out of thin air, growing an average of 1.16 centimeters per month.
“How long?” we asked the doctor.
We have decided not to use the Internet for medical information. we promised each other
I mostly kept my promise. I couldn’t help it. I type a quick answer into Google, catch a phrase, hold my breath, scurry off, and close offending web pages like this: Almost zero for 5 years. “
“The average is 18 months,” Kai’s doctor said. He quickly continued: We have every reason to believe that you are well above average. “
He added, “Focus on the kind of life you want to live – what you want to do with your time.”
The tumor grew out of thin air, growing an average of 1.16 centimeters per month.
September 12, 60th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s “Moonshot” Address to the Nation, President Joe Biden “Another Moonshot: end cancer as we know it. “
Like most of us, Biden is used to the helpless pain of having a loved one suffer from illness. The fact of the disease is bad enough, but the utter inability to do anything is a feeling of helplessness and loneliness like no other.
The President launched the Cancer Cabinet in February 2022 and in July prioritized improving cancer screening, reducing the impact of cancer, and helping both patients and caregivers, among other goals. Specifically, Biden’s moonshot will prioritize biotechnology research and create a new agency dedicated to “biomedical innovations that support the health of all Americans.”
There are over 100 major types of cancer.
There are two types of lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for about 90% of all lung cancers and is itself divided into three types.
Kai, who has squamous cell carcinoma, was one of more than two million people worldwide — rivaling the population of Chicago, home of his beloved Cubs — to receive the diagnosis in 2017 alone. However, by the time the disease was advanced, it was too late. Send back to kitchen: “No, thank you. This is not what I ordered.”
Two treatment options for him were equally disgusting and ordered together: bloodstream chemicals for chemotherapy and x-rays for radiation to a local area.
Neither treatment distinguishes between healthy and cancerous cells. each kills both.
But doctors told us that because of Kai’s overall health, he’s a candidate for a cutting-edge treatment, immunotherapy. was shown. It’s kind of a moonshot, albeit on a personal scale.
The human immune system, designed to attack invaders while protecting citizen cells, learns a new language through this treatment. Instead of targeting cancer directly, immunotherapy overhauls the body’s communication networks to activate all defenses toward destroying once-normal cancer cells.
It could not cure him — no cure was possible — but immunotherapy could lead to long-lasting remission and longer survival.
Doctors said the out-of-pocket cost was about $500, a small cost to pay for something that might give them more time.
“Yes, yes,” we said.
How much life is enough when we can’t have forever? I think the answer, as any toddler would say, is more.
Isn’t this what we all want? For both ourselves and the people we love? More time? Such a human desire to continue life at any cost. Sparing no expense or treatment, prolonging the inevitable for all of us.
Doctors ordered a series of genetic tests for markers to determine if they were suitable.
The bill we received later turned out to be nearly 100 times the estimated cost. And it was no different. Kai’s profile did not match. And despite the prognosis (still good life expectancy), he died just five months after diagnosis. Five weeks before his 60th birthday.
He should have made it longer. He said so The doctor said yes. He said so online. But how much life is enough if we can’t have forever?
I think the answer, as any toddler would say, is more. Whatever you get, you want more than that. This goal is always the moonshot, no matter how ambitious and unlikely to succeed. I feel like I should try to go as far as possible to the last Hail Mary pass. Giving up is the only real failure.
Kai’s medical team took moonshots with his weekly chemo and daily radiation treatments. This is more treatment than most cancer patients can tolerate. Kai was so strong that he never got sick, never stopped eating, and never lost his hair. By the end, Kai proved to be himself, handsome, strong, loving, and terribly funny.
Five years later, I still have a lot to learn about myself as a widow instead of a wife. It’s too late for Kai, for Bo, and for one of her six remaining people on the planet who have already died of cancer. Each one is a parent, sibling, child, partner, and friend. loved them all.
But I sincerely hope that Biden’s moonshot will find its mark. “If we can join the ranks of sickness, at least long enough to live our lives fully, we may be able to break some of the bondage of grief to us. Wanted.”
Helen Kaiser is the author of “Topography”. Her work has been published in dozens of literary magazines and anthologies, and she has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Award. She is currently working on her memoir. You can find her on her Twitter. @HeleneTheWriter.
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