In the car on the way home from Dr. Ross’s office Sammie recovered from his shock that Steve was stopping his treatments, and was scared. “Why won’t you just try the chemotherapy? It may not be that bad,” he pleaded.
“But, you could just try it,” he argued.
“Sammie, you promised.”
“When it was time. It’s not time yet. You can’t give up already.”
“Sammie. Enough.” Steve said it softly, but Sammie knew he was already weary of the argument. They rode the rest of the way in silence. Sammie parked the car and help Steve up into the apartment. “Where do you want to go?”
“Recliner.” Steve had been spending more time there, citing that the pain was worse when he lay flat.
“You want a pain pill?”
“Yeah, but just one.”
Sammie got the pill and a glass of water, handing it to Steve. “Will you be okay for a bit?”
“Yeah, where are you going?”
Sammie eyes were brimming with tears. “I just need to go lay down for a while.”
Steve nodded. “Okay.”
Sammie turned going to his bedroom. As he left the room Steve called out to him. “Sammie?”
“I know this is hard for you. But, please, I don’t want to live like this.”
Sammie nodded, tears spilling over onto his cheeks. He turned rushed into his bedroom and closed the door. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Tyler came home to find Steve asleep in the recliner and Sammie sitting in the overstuffed chair in their bedroom with a photo album open on his lap, staring blankly out the window.
He didn’t answer.
Tyler walked over, sitting on the arm of the chair. He looked down at the open book in Sammie’s lap. Staring back at him were pictures of a younger Steve with his arms around a younger Sammie, both smiling, looking happy. “I take it there wasn’t good news today.”
“Can you stay here for awhile? With him? I need to go out.”
“Sure. Where are you going?”
Sammie shook his head as he closed up the photo album, handed it to Tyler and stood. “Nowhere, just away.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
He didn’t know how long he had been sitting in the park. The sun had already gone down.
He was aware that Tyler had come and was sitting silently beside him. He wasn’t sure how long Tyler had been there.
“Come on, it’s getting late. Let’s go home,” Tyler said softly.
Sammie finally spoke “I’m not ready. I’m not ready for him to give up.”
Tyler rolled his lips into his mouth. “I know, but we have to do this. Sammie, you have to let him go.”
Sammie shoulders began to shake. “No. I can’t. Not yet.”
Tyler reached around, placing his arm behind Sammie and pulling him into an embrace as he began to crumble. “I can’t, Tyler. Not yet.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Saturday afternoon Steve was dozing in his recliner while Sammie was working on his laptop. Tyler was in the bedroom reading a novel. The sound of the door buzzer woke Steve and pulled Sammie from his concentration. "Who can that be?" Sammie asked as he went to the intercom.
"It's us," Lisa's voice came through the speaker. Sammie buzzed them in and walked over to unlock the apartment door.
"Hey, what are you two up to?" Sammie asked as Lisa and Terri walked into the apartment.
"Nothing much," Lisa answered.
"Come on in," Steve said from the recliner. "Troy and Joel will be here shortly."
Sammie realized Steve had asked the couple over, unbeknownst to him. "Steve?"
"Why didn’t you tell me we were having company?"
"You would have tried to talk me out of it."
The buzzer rang again. "That'll be Joel and Troy," Steve said. "Lisa, will you get the door? Sammie, go get Tyler, please."
Sammie stuck his head in the bedroom; Tyler was stretched out across the bed with his nose in a book. "Hey."
"Hmm?" Tyler asked, turning his attention to Sammie.
"Did you know Steve had invited the gang over?"
"No. Are they here now?"
"Yeah, I'm guessing Steve is going to make a big announcement." Sammie was still hurt and angry over Steve's decision.
Tyler frowned and nodded.
"Well, whatever. He is requesting your presence."
Sammie and Tyler walked into the living room where Joel and Troy were seated along with Lisa, Terri and Steve.
"Can I get anyone something to drink?" Sammie offered.
When there were no takers, Sammie took a seat on the floor by Steve's chair. Tyler sat on the sofa with the girls.
"I've decided to stop all medical treatment geared to prolonging my life," Steve said without preamble. "The cancer isn't responding to the radiation and I've chosen to not go through anymore treatments."
Sammie watched his friend receive the news; Joel's face drained of all color, Troy nodded, as if he had seen this coming. Lisa looked at Sammie, her eyes saying 'you have to make him'. Sammie answered with a look of his own, 'yeah, like that is possible'. Terri was the first to speak. "What can we do to help you?"
"Be here for Sammie. He’s the one having to sacrifice so much. If I weren't such a selfish bastard..." Steve trailed off. "We’ll meet with Hospice on Monday, maybe after that I can tell you more, but for now, just don't let Sammie go through this alone."
Sammie sat listening to Steve, looking down at his hands in his lap, picking at his fingernails, no longer able to look at his friends.
The room remained silent, no one sure how to respond. Finally Terri spoke again. "Sammie? How can we help you?"
Sammie shrugged and shook his head, but didn't look up.
"Sammie is upset with me over my decision," Steve explained, although everyone could have guessed.
"You know, I think I'll take you up on that drink offer," Joel said, standing up.
"Sure," Steve said. "Help yourself."
Sammie closed his eyes; he couldn't believe this was happening. He wanted to crawl into a hole. He knew Steve was trying to help, but he simply wasn't ready to deal with this yet. He opened his eyes and rose to his feet. "If you all would excuse me, I think I... Well..." he turned and left the room, retreating to his bedroom, closing the door firmly behind him.
A few minutes later Sammie heard the door open and footsteps walking across the room. He didn’t bother to open his eyes as he felt Steve sit down on the bed beside him.
"Please try to understand, Sammie. If I thought there was even a chance it would be different. ... But I don't want to prolong this. I don't want to live like this." Steve stopped... Waiting... "Sammie, look at me."
Sammie slowly opened his eyes, turning his head toward Steve.
"This isn't living, and I'm not going to get better."
"But if you continued the treatments..." Sammie started.
Steve shook his head. "You know that's not true, Sammie. Please, let me die with a little dignity. Don't ask me to go through any more torture, let me go."
Sammie felt a hot tear run down the side of his face and into his hairline. Finally he nodded his head. "Okay." ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Monday afternoon at four Sammie and Steve got their first introduction to Hospice. Dr. Ross’s office assistant had set up the appointment, telling Steve that a Medical Director would be stopping by to do an assessment.
“Hello, I’m Robin.” She was a petite blonde.
“Hello, nice to meet you, please come on in,” Sammie led her to the living room, where he and Steve had been waiting. “I’m Sammie, and this is Steve.”
“Steve, this is Robin.”
They exchanged pleasantries and Sammie offered her some coffee, which she accepted. Then they all sat down and Robin got right to the issue at hand. She spoke with a soft voice and came across as a very caring person.
“Let me begin by explaining a little bit about hospice and the services we offer. Hospice emphasizes palliative rather than curative treatment. Hospice neither hastens nor postpones death. We provide personalized services and a caring community so that the patient and their family can attain the necessary preparation for a death that is satisfactory to them.
“I will be you Medical Director, Steve. You will also be assigned a Primary Care Nurse and a Health Care Aid. Your PCN, or Primary Care Nurse will work with your doctor to assist in your pain management and other medical needs. Your HCA, Health Care Aid will work with you more on your day-to-day care. She will also be available to assist you , Sammie.”
Sammie and Steve both nodded.
“Other services we offer would be a social worker and clergy, if you wish or need,” she continued. “One of the first things I need to know is how much assistance you have now, Steve.”
“Yes, people to help you. Sammie, do you work outside of the home?”
“Yeah. Right now they are letting me work from him in the afternoons. We have a friend, Troy, that stays with Steve in the mornings.”
“And Tyler,” Steve added. “He lives here also.”
“Yeah, Tyler works fulltime, but helps out on evenings and weekends,” Sammie explained.
Robin made some notes while asking more questions, mainly regarding Steve’s wishes, his feelings on hospitalization and resuscitation, spiritual and legal needs, such as a power of attorney, or living will. She was very thorough and very professional; Steve took to her right away. Sammie on the other hand felt as if his world had slipped off its axis. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
That night, after Steve had gone to bed, Sammie took out some of the literature Robin had left for him to read. There was a lot of information on what to expect, pamphlets on grieving and on what Steve’s last days might be like. Reading it all seemed surreal.
“How did it go today?” Tyler asked coming in to the bedroom where Sammie sat on the bed looking pale.
“Um, okay, I guess. It was kinda weird, you know, just sitting there talking about Steve’s death.”
“Yeah? I would imagine so. How did Steve handle it?”
“Great, he really liked her. I could tell. He was almost eager to discuss the details… What he wanted and stuff.”
Tyler nodded. “It probably made him feel like he had at least some control in the whole situation. Also it would probably be a relief to discuss it with someone that has some insight, and is not emotionally involved.”
“Yeah, I suppose so, but…” he sighed. “It was weird for me.”
“It is rather strange,” Tyler said, stripping down to his underwear and crawling into bed. “I mean, everything is on hold, just waiting…”
“Yeah,” Sammie folded the pamphlets back up and stuffed them into the drawer of his nightstand.
“I wonder how it feels for Steve.”
“What do you mean?”
“To be facing death like he is. I wonder, is he scared, sad… or what?”
Sammie lay back on the bed, “I can’t even imagine.”
“Roll over,” Tyler said, nudging Sammie’s shoulder.
“I beg your pardon.” Sammie raised an eyebrow.
“I’m offering to give you a backrub, you big princess,” Tyler smirked.
“Oh,” Sammie said sheepishly, then rolled over on his stomach. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Robin had arranged for Steve’s Primary Care Nurse, Kathy, to be at the apartment the next afternoon.
Kathy was a heavy set, jovial women, with big brown eyes and an infectious laugh. Sammie thought it seemed a strange fit for her to work in such a somber profession with her bigger than life personality.
She spent a couple hours visiting with Steve and assessing his health. She would be stopping by once a week, but would be available if questions or concerns arose. She explained that as Steve’s health began to fail she would be more present. She took Steve’s vitals and they discussed his pain management. He was able to maintain with oral pain medication so far, but was having to take the dosage every four hours now, instead of every six to eight as he was only a couple of weeks ago.
Finally before she left she set up a time for Jeanette, Steve’s Health Care Aid to come by.
It was Thursday before they met Jeanette. She would soon be considered almost a member of the family. Jeanette was a quiet, gentle person with a disposition that could only be described as sweet.
“Does you boss recognize Steve as your domestic partner?” Jeanette asked. They had been sitting in the living room getting acquainted.
“Well, the company doesn’t offer domestic partner benefits, but my boss is cool about it. He has signed off on me working from home and taking as much time off as I need,” Sammie answered.
“Have you set up a power of attorney yet, Steve?”
“Yeah, we both did all that years ago, although, I guess Sammie needs to update his now with me leaving the picture soon.”
“He can worry about that later. What about your family? How are they dealing with this?”
“They’re not. They don’t exist.”
She raised her eyebrow and waited for Steve to explain.
“I have no desire to have any contact with my parent,” he finally said.
Jeanette pursed her lips. “Do you have any siblings?”
“A brother, but I haven’t seen him since I left home.”
Jeanette nodded. “Who is…” she looked down at the file in her lap again. “Tyler?”
“A friend that is staying with us,” Sammie jumped in.
Steve grinned at Sammie then added. “Sammie and I were separated when I was diagnosed. Tyler was a friend of Sammie’s that has since become a friend of mine.”
Jeanette nodded again. “I look forward to meeting him.”
The three continued to visit and get to know one another until Jeanette announced she had to be getting to another appointment. They had discussed her schedule and it was decided that she would begin by spending a few hours with them each day, staying longer whenever needed. She left, with plans to return the following day. ëëëëëëëëëëë
Over the next couple of weeks, Sammie tried to hold on to the routine of Troy staying with Steve in the mornings then Sammie coming home at noon. Jeanette would usually arrive around ten and stay until three or four. Tyler would come home around five or six and then Sammie would have time to work. Since Jarred and Matt had taken over a few of his accounts he was able to keep on top of his current projects, and while he still felt swamped a good part of the time, his workload was more manageable.
Most nights Sammie would find himself lying in bed, awake, staring at the ceiling and listening to Tyler’s steady breathing. He would eventually give up and go into Steve’s room and sleep on the old sofa they had moved in, across from Steve’s bed. Tyler would come in and wake him the following morning in time to get up and go to work. ëëëëëëëëëëë
Steve awoke in the middle of the night; once again Sammie was asleep on the sofa, across from his bed "What are you doing here?" he croaked, his voice raspy from sleep.
"Hmm?" Sammie asked sleepily, then instantly awake. "You okay? Do you need something?"
"For you to leave. Go sleep in your own bed. Why do you come in here every night?"
"Because I want to be able to hear you in case you need something."
"I'm not that sick, not yet." He was, but no point in saying it out loud. "Besides, just install a damn intercom or something." When Sammie didn't move, "I'm serious. Go in there with Tyler, where you belong."
Sammie finally snapped. "Why? Why are you so insistent that Tyler and I get together? Since when are you my matchmaker?"
"Since I'm dying," Steve snapped back. "I don't want to leave you alone," he added softly.
Sammie froze; he hadn’t expected Steve to actually want to talk about it.
"Don't you see?" Steve continued, now calm and quiet. "I need to know you have someone before I go. Tyler is a good kid and he really loves you. Now go in there and make this thing work with him. Quit letting your guilt get in the way. Our time has passed and you need to move on with Tyler.
Sammie stared, blinking back the tears in his eyes.
"Go," Steve growled.
Sammie silently stood and left the room.
He crawled into bed next to Tyler's sleeping form.
"Mmm? Is Steve okay?" Tyler asked.
"Yeah, he just threw me out."
"Threw you out?"
"Yeah, said I need to be in here with you."
Tyler rolled over to look into Sammie's eyes. "He did?"
Tyler seemed to let that sink in for a moment, then nodded and curled up next to Sammie. "Okay," he murmured as he drifted back to sleep.
© Melina Catts 2005