Friday, October 10, 2008

It Really Wasn't Funny!

Vinnie was a joker; he loved to make people laugh. If we were ever at someone's home, a party or some kind of social event, Vinnie always had a joke to tell - or several jokes! He had a closet full of riddles he'd pull out to keep kids busy (and grown up kids too). He loved to joke around. (This is Vinnie joking around with his mother.)

After Vinnie's surgery, he was kept overnight and wheeled up to the fifth floor. All the kids were there by the end of the day and we all waited in his room for him to come up. We waited almost an hour, if I remember correctly, for him to come out of anesthesia. I'd never seen Vinnie so quiet! He almost looked dead and I remember wondering if he'd look like that when he'd die but today wouldn't be the day. Today he'd wake up and be okay.

It seemed a long time before he began to show signs of coming around from after the surgery. He suddenly opened one eye. He rolled that eye around and took a picture in his mind of each one of us in the room. After assessing his company, he slowly opened the other eye and again, glanced a moment to take inventory of each person watching over him. I was there with all four of Vinnie's grown up kids. He said nothing for several minutes and then he opened his mouth. Out popped that crazy joke he read to me early in the morning from the magazine! I couldn't believe it! What did he do - go over that joke a hundred times in his mind all through surgery so he wouldn't forget it? Was he prepared to make this sober bunch of family members quickly get over their fears by telling that dumb joke? It made us all laugh. I still didn't think the joke was that funny but I thought Vinnie was. There was and never will be another guy like Vinnie.

The next morning the doctor came to see Vinnie with results of the pathologist report. He had cancer and the doctor hadn't removed it all. Vinnie would have to have surgery again, and his bladder would have to be removed. The doctor spent some time with us both explaining what that would entail and what Vinnie's options were for this procedure. We had no idea that people could have bladders rebuilt inside and no one would ever know that the bladder was gone. We had hope that the bladder would come out and that he would be able to eat, drink, sleep, swim, and do all the normal things he'd always done even without a bladder! We were relieved.

(To the right is a picture of Vinnie goofing around with one of his grandsons.)

Recovering from this "simple" procedure of removing the tumor was a taste of what was to come for us. Vinnie experienced more pain than he had before the surgery. At first this seemed normal because, after all, he was recovering from surgery. But over the next few weeks while we waited for an appointment to meet with the surgeons specialized at reconstructing bladders at Duke University, his pain seemed to grow and grow. By the time we finally got to the doctor's office to meet the next surgeon, he was in terrible pain. We were told that because he cancer was so invasive, he would have only a 50/50 chance to survive the cancer, with or without any of the choices he'd make as to the type of reconstruction he would decide on. That was scary news to me. This doctor was a straight shooter. She told it like it was, not like we would hope it would be. She wanted us to know the facts. We were stunned.

Not only were we stunned about his prognosis, but we were also disappointed to know that he would not even be able to get the surgery until January 31! We would have to wait almost two months for this surgery! The doctor suggested it would be best to have chemo first for six months and then do the surgery but Vinnie was in too much pain to wait six months. He opted to get the surgery and have chemo later. We had no idea that the cancer would grow so fast.

We waited two agonizing months for the surgery. He was in constant pain. He was always uncomfortable. He was not himself. My Vinnie was deteriorating before me. I just didn't know it. He was beginning to change, slowly change, into someone I never knew before. My Vinnie and our life together was changing and it was becoming less and less funny.

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