Posted on May 26th, 2017
Nick (Kevin's husband)
My husband Kevin was diagnosed with lymphoma in November of 2016. He had been complaining of stomach pain for about three months prior. Kevin had gone to his doctor, went for an upper GI and lower GI and nothing was turning up. In the last weekend of October, Kevin went to Chicago for a concert to see one of his favorite bands. His stomach had been particularly bad that weekend, which to us was normal as he had always carried his stress and anxiety in his stomach. Obviously, because he had done the full blood work work up and gone to the doctor numerous times, we thought nothing of it.
That morning while I was driving to MSP to pick him up, he texted me that he almost passed out in the airport after getting off of the plane. He told me his stomach was really bothering him and that something was clearly wrong. Once he got in the car, I told him we were going into the emergency room to get this figured out. The ER doctors did a full blood workup and nothing came up what so ever. They put him on pain medication and suggested a CT of the abdomen where the pain was. About an hour later the results came back and we learned that Kevin had a large mass on the lower right abdomen. We had the choice of admitting him or going home to schedule the surgery to remove the mass.
He was admitted into the surgical specialties floor an hour and a half later. It took them 4 days to get him under the knife and remove the mass. Turns out, the mass was the size of a cantaloupe and had the characteristics of cancer. After waiting 5 days post op, we learned that Kevin had a very aggressive form of lymphoma, stage 2. After another week of recovery, Kevin got to come home for a couple of days and had a follow up appointment with the surgeon when they told him his uric acid was very high and he was very dehydrated and needed to be readmitted.
This of course he hated as he said he felt fine but I knew it had to be done to try and get him feeling better. Luckily for me, I had the capability of working from the hospital as I telecommute. So I was able to be there every day, helping him with what he needed and ultimately be a caretaker when the nurses were not there. The next couple of weeks were a roller coaster. We were able to enjoy Thanksgiving (my birthday) and then he was starting chemo the following week, his first round of R-CHOP therapy. Kevin’s first round of chemo went decently smoothly. He only had one day where was incredibly uncomfortable with the treatment (at least that he told me and that I could physically see) but had developed other issues along the way.
First, they were constantly changing doses and medications to try and keep all of his blood work levels elevated and stable. He had severe edema already, kidney function issues and was put on no food, then food, then no food, like a yoyo. It had been almost 4 days without a really bathing (they were doing sponge baths), which really bothered me. They had been wrapping his extreme edema areas for a couple days and finally put him on a water pill to try and help relieve some of the water retention.
On December 15th, I came into the hospital early in the morning and they had put him on lock down for the first time, due to the increased chances of infection. I walked into Kevin’s room, he told me he felt alright and had gotten up to go to the rest room (which he was happy about) and wanted to remain sitting in his chair. I opened my laptop and started to work per usual. Kevin fell asleep in his chair and the nurses came in per usual to take vitals and check on his status. In a matter of hours, the nurses came in to take his vitals again and his blood pressure was 70/30. In which I said…. “That can’t be right” so the nurse went and grabbed another machine and tried again…. The number was the same. The nurse called in the ICU team immediately and they began to try and move Kevin from the chair into the bed. He had something called neutropenia. His temperature was 101 and his white blood cell count was diminishing. Unfortunately, it took almost 20 minutes to get Kevin from his chair to his bed and they had to locate a bed for him in ICU. What I didn’t know, was how important time is when your body is suffering from sepsis. (Sepsis and Cancer) Because they removed part of Kevin’s lower intestine, he had a PICC line for chemo, was an internal chemo patient and had almost zero white blood cells to fight the infection, they had to put in another port for the antibiotics. (Sepsis and Invasive Devices)
When we finally made it to the ICU, the doctors explained the procedure and told us he was going to be put on a ventilator and put under to help fight the infection. I looked at Kevin and said “I want to hear you say I love you before you can’t talk to me for a while” He just looked at me and said “I love you”. Those were the last words that my 55-year-old husband said to me before passing away the following afternoon…. not even 24 hours after being admitted into the ICU. It was not even one month from cancer diagnosis to passing and everything changed on a dime.
The cause of death was septic shock, underlying was infectious colitis, neutropenia fever and non Hodgkins lymphoma. After a long time of research, I learned that time is one of the most important factors in beating sepsis, especially if chemotherapy is involved. I recommend that if you have a loved one who is getting chemo, you watch them closely and research sepsis and its initial signs, it may just save their life.