Suzanne has cancer and was told she had days to live when she was admitted to a palliative care unit. Her friend Marg supported her throughout her surprising comeback. Click here to read Marg’s story.
After I was told I had cancer, I had to wait almost a month to see the first specialist.
“I got there for my appointment and waited six hours to see him. He said ‘We will have to look at the pictures, we have to do all of these tests and I will get back to you.’ I didn’t hear from him for another month, and when I went back to see him I had to wait probably eight hours – I was sitting in the waiting room and I finally had to ask for a bed because I was in so much pain and I was throwing up. I saw him for three minutes and he said ‘We can’t do anything, it’s spread too far.’”
“I don’t know – what if he had seen me earlier?”
I had an appointment with a second specialist two days later. I was in so much pain. We were the last people in there after waiting and waiting. After talking to me for five minutes he says ‘You’re going over to the emergency department right now and we’re admitting you.’ I was in the hospital for two months.”
“I can’t say enough about the hospital. They have music concerts there every Wednesday from 12:00 to 1:00. My husband and I would try and go because they had amazing musicians. One time a guy was singing “Diamonds on the soles of her shoes.” I love that song. He said “Anyone who wants to get up and dance…” I was in a wheelchair on oxygen. So, we got up and we were dancing, and everyone started cheering and clapping. My husband was going ‘We’re almost out of oxygen!’ So, we finished the song and I got in the wheelchair and we zoomed back up to get another tank of oxygen. The next day we went down to the coffee shop. The lady who worked at the information booth came running over to me and said ‘You’re the ones that were dancing yesterday! That was the most amazing thing I have ever seen! In 19 years I have never seen anybody get up and dance.’ For days after that people were talking about it: ‘Oh, you’re the one that was dancing!’ I thought – wow, we just wanted to dance as much as we could…”
My husband slept almost two months on an air mattress on the floor in my room or on a stretcher.
“Every morning we had this routine. The nurses would come at six o’clock and check something or I would have to take some meds. After they left he would come and snuggle with me for the two hours before eight o’clock. I remember I once had the nurse’s logs with me when I was going down for some x-rays or something. I flipped through them and saw that they had noted ‘Husband cuddling in the morning.’ I wondered if they chatted about that. But, you know, every morning he would just crawl in with me and we would try and have some sense of normalcy.”
“At one point my feet were so swollen I couldn’t put shoes on. So my husband came in with these giant purple boots, three or four sizes too big. It was February. I hadn’t been outside for a month and a half.”
I said ‘I am busting out of here.’
“We put my coat on, I had these big purple boots on, and my husband put me in the wheelchair with my oxygen and we went across the street to a loading dock. We just sat on this loading dock and I basked in the sun. And I said ‘Oh, I am breathing real air!'”
“I am a fiddle player, which is a big part of my life. There was a music therapist on the palliative care ward who would bring her piano to my room and we would just play. She was also a fiddle player, so she understood me. I would play a fiddle song and she would play along. That was a big thing. I wrote a song for my husband when I was in there. I would invite a number of musicians and we would have a big jam session. I have a bunch of women who are fiddle players and we call ourselves the WWF – the Wild Women Fiddlers. They came down a couple times and we had a big fiddle hoe down.”
Just having all those people and the music – it kind of made me forget about how sick I was.
“I am now feeling great, although my cancer is still present. I was biking in Tremblant and Ottawa two weeks ago, and waterskiing, sailing and paddle boarding at a friend’s cottage. I spent last week at the Goderich Celtic College taking fiddle and singing classes, and playing in the bars until all hours of the night with musicians from all over the world. Life is pretty good – each day is a bonus at this point. I was in the hospital for two months and on palliative for a month.”
They said ‘People don’t leave this place.’ So, it is pretty special to be here.