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Tim Little's Battle

MY HUSBAND NEVER GOT TO RING THE BELL

By Elizabeth Little

 

He has been gone for coming up to 2 years due to his battle of 4 years with cancer. You know you never really know what a person who has cancer is going through both physically and emotionally, until you become the caretaker of a person you love so very much and want to heal but it isn’t always what happens.

Our story began in 2013 when my husband complained of pain and knots in his mid-back around his kidney area. He thought he was having a bowel blockage and became very concerned. The pain was unbearable for him and truth be told he was afraid he had the same thing his mother had had and passed away. As it turned out he really wasn’t backed up in his bowels/colon as suspected. But he still had a terrible pain and discomfort.

I had noticed his skin to be an ashen color which is what happens when cancer is taking over the body and is shutting down. 

He woke up one morning and a huge knot was protruding in his neck and he immediately said call and get him an appointment as soon as possible. It was strange because getting him to go to the doctor for his annual checkup was like pulling teeth. So, he went off to work and I proceeded to make the necessary calls to get him an appointment as soon as possible.

He was to go to the hospital for a CT scan to see if it could be determined what was going on with him and his body.

So off we went to have a scan and within a couple days we received a phone call followed up by a written letter of the test results that he needed to go to Highlands Oncology and an appointment was already being made for him in the process.

Now as I am sure you know the Oncology office is a tell tell sign of cancer.  However, they do treat other things such as blood disorders and the like.

The day we went to meet with our doctor was the hardest day of our lives.  He entered the room and it was written all over his face, the news wasn’t good at all. My husband had Cancer and they didn’t give him much time as he was already in stage 4. We were told they could do treatments there to make him comfortable.

You could have heard a pin drop in that room for a minute. Not much was said, then we asked about a 2nd opinion and could we go to MD Anderson in Houston TX. Of course, we could, and they would facilitate getting him signed up, which took another month. In the meantime, we waited for that call from MD Anderson, so we could make the trip and see exactly what type of cancer he had and what a plan would be to heal him.

Finally, the call came and we made all the necessary arrangements to go there, getting a hotel my brother was kind enough to take care of, drive us there and my son also went with us. After days and days of testing and probing, we were told he did indeed have cancer and it was of an unknown origin and they may never find out where it started.  But they gave him up to 2 years to live. Well that was the writing on the wall and it makes for a long drive home to realize you have been told how much longer you must live. He beat the odds and lived for 4 years.

So, the doctor at MD Anderson sent all the orders and instructions for him to receive treatments at Highlands Oncology in Northwest Arkansas.  We would return in 2 weeks for more test and blood work.  We continued to return to Houston every 2 to 3 weeks.  Now mind you, my husband was still working even when we were on the road he would work from his phone and computer.

This continued for 4 years. He was on every kind of chemo you could possibly be on. He endured chemo by iv and also by a port put in his chest because his veins were collapsing fast. It made it easier for him to receive the treatments. He took chemo by iv, a machine that measured a dose for 36 hours and also in pill form.  He lost his hair twice and that was hard for him as he had a beautiful head of hair and was very vain about taking great care of his salt and pepper hair.

His taste buds changed so much, foods he used to love he didn’t like anymore and food he would never eat he was eating. Cooking for a person on chemo was a challenge at times. One night I made mac and cheese with stewed tomatoes and fried hot dogs.  He ate it all and said it was the best meal he had had in months. I was so happy to see him eat, I tried to think of other things that might peak a spark of light in him.

He worked every day as a salesman for a local pool company and all his customers adored him. Most of them didn’t know he was so sick.  He never let on that he had cancer. I would take him to lunch where ever he wanted to go and drive him to his appointments as time went on. He never gave up and always had a smile on his face.

His love of playing poker was his passion.  Sometimes it meant that is all we did, whether it be online on his computer (from the time he hit the door after work) or we would go to the nearest casino for him play tournaments. Part of our trips to Houston would include an overnight stop going and coming at the Oklahoma state line at the largest casino so he could play poker. He would play until he was so tired he would fall into bed and be asleep in a flash.

Other times he would spend time with his family including 4 daughters, 3 that lived close, and one son that came to visit or would go with us to Houston (he lived in San Antonio 4 hours away). He adored is grandchildren and would do anything for them.

It amazes me the strength you must have as a caretaker to be there for him whatever he needed or wanted. We would go to church which we had not really done, and both joined the church one Sunday. It made him happy as well as me that we were part of a church which is so important. I am sure he and God had their special meeting of the minds to speak from the heart and I know in my heart that he had confessed and committed his life to God. He was very private about those matters, but I knew he had done this before he passed.

As time went on, we continued to make trips back and forth to Houston.  Sometimes seeing results and sometimes finding a new area of concern.  It was a never-ending process.

During this time, we talked about what he wanted to do with his belongings, what type of service he wanted and all the things you need to discuss even though it is hard to do.  You have too. I tried to get him to quit work and maybe travel a bit, so he could enjoy his last years. But in my heart, I feel he didn’t want to because that would be giving in and accepting defeat. We purchased his cremation urn and paid for the cremation.  So all was done and would not have to be done later.

He had been on so much chemo with only a 2-month break, his lungs got an infection and he had a continuous cough.  It was like it was traveling to his lungs.  So much fluid had filled his lungs they decided to do a biopsy and scrape his lungs to relieve the pressure of the fluid.

After two hospital events to try to clear his lungs, which really didn’t work that well, it came time to go to Houston again.

On August 18, 2016 we heard those dreaded words. “You need to contact hospice when you get back home.” When you hear those words you know it is getting close to the end and there is nothing more they can do for you. We returned back home and it took him 2 more weeks before talking with hospice, thanks to one of his local doctors explaining how hospice works. So, we prepared all the kids for this and what we had been told and what we were going to do.   We had planned to renew our wedding vows on September 18 and to spend a weekend with the kids and grandkids in Kansas City to celebrate 3 birthdays or what would be the last time.  Being it was Labor Day weekend, we were going to stay an extra day and go play poker at a casino there. He had said the weekend before I need to play poker with my brother because I may not get to again.  The weekend before our trip to Kansas City we did just that locally and had a wonderful evening. And that was the last time he played poker. As our weekend was coming to an end in Kansas City, I knew he was in severe pain, but he would not let his children know this.  We left early and headed home.  On our trip home he was in so much pain he started taking pain pills every 30 minutes.  The cancer had taken over his body and the end was near.

We arrived home on Sunday afternoon and he went straight to bed and never got up to eat again or sit with me holding hands while we watched tv together. This we did every night. There were times I would wake up in the middle of the night and we were holding hands. That my friends is true love.

Being a holiday weekend, hospice wouldn’t be at the house until Tuesday morning. From that day, we prepared him to be comfortable, getting a hospital bed, portable potty chair, oxygen and a baby monitor so I could be in another room and still be able to check on him.

I was able to fly his youngest daughter and newest granddaughter 3 months old out to see him and he was able to hold her on his lap and see her. It was a blessing for all of us to be able to do this for him.

Our house was never the same for the next 2 weeks. It was filled with family, friends and nurses to come and check on him.  I had my recliner moved into the room he was in, so I could be near him all night because you see we never slept apart even if we had a disagreement. Food was flowing abundantly, and we never lacked for prayers or a hug. One of the daughters and son stayed with us every day for 2 weeks and helped me so much as he would try to get up out of bed as the medicine wore off and he wasn’t stable enough to walk.  So, my son who is 6’2” would put his arms under his and tell him they were going to dance and get him back in bed. This went on day and night, not much sleep but somehow God gave us the strength to make it happen and for us to be able to make him comfortable.

Then the dreaded time came as his breathing became shallow and slower and slower he was ready to cross over to the other side. On September 18, 2016 he took his last breath surrounded by his family and lots of love.  It was the hardest night I had ever had to endure.  You see September 18 was the day we were supposed to renew our wedding vows.

So, as he went peacefully that night the phone calls had to be made. You know after 4 years of tears and waiting for this time, it is amazing how you react. The coroner came, hospice came and as they were taking care of their things.  One of his daughters helped them prepare him for his transportation to the funeral home (I can’t imagine taking care of my parent or child this way) but with God’s strength she did just that. The rest of the family was out front feeling the loss but at the same time they were at peace. One of his friends at work had made him some homemade peach moonshine and they were outside having a drink for him. We all deal with death in different ways and I personally was very thankful we were all able to be at peace with his passing that night knowing he had gone to his father in Heaven and was now watching over us.

As the night went on and the coroner and hospice finished, when they drove off the daughter said let’s go to breakfast like we did when grandma Little passed. So, we did.  12 or 14 of us loaded up in cars and headed into town to the only place open 24 hours I Hop.  Now mind you this was about 3:00 AM and we all ordered something he would have ordered and laughed till we couldn’t anymore and went back to the house. As dawn approached and those that had not left were getting ready to leave, there was a sudden quiet over the house. You see for 2 solid weeks my house was full of people staying all day, all night, bringing food or just stopping by to see him and say their good byes. So, the only people left was me, the daughter and my son, that was so hard. I couldn’t go to bed because he was not there anymore and I was not used to being without him.

Prior to his celebration of life we held a month later, we had a private military ceremony in his honor within the week of his death.  This was so his grandchildren that had come from Arizona to say their good byes could be there.

As the month went on, we proceeded to prepare a Celebration of Life for him at our Church. We had gathered up pictures made videos, posters with pictures of his life and all the children, Nascar cars he had collected had been placed on the tables as centerpieces and at the end of celebration we gave all the cars to his grandchildren. His passion was Nascar and Poker. We had taken all his t-shirts and had quilts made for all the kids and hung them on the wall around the church hall for everyone to see and each shirt had a meaning. We had his favorite foods and desserts for everyone to have in his honor and the kids spoke of him and his life. We wanted everyone to know how much we loved him and how much he meant to us as well as others.

He has been gone for 2 years this coming September and there isn’t a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t think of him, talk to him, cry for him and of course got to give him a little bit of static or hell if you must call it. But don’t ever think I didn’t love this man and still do. He was my life, we loved each other, we had many things in common and like to do so many things together. We were there for each other for 13 years. If there is such thing as fate we were meant to be together. I know I will see him again on the other side, but for now I know he is watching over me and all our children and grandchildren. He is never too far from me and that my friend is comfort to me. 

So, as this story is titled “My Husband Never Got To Ring The Bell” because you see he wasn’t healed until he crossed over to the other side. And I am sure he has rung the bell on the other side and is running the big Poker game in Heaven!

This story is in memory of my Husband Tim Mansfield Little a wonderful husband, father and friend to all. And the strongest man I have ever known and never without a smile on his face.  He passed away after a 4 year struggle with cancer.