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Slipping Away

Rachel Bachrach

Few situations are more agonizing than watching a spouse slowly fade. Yet families who can utilize the little time they have left can transfuse the misery with meaning.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

One autumn day nine years ago, Mutty Kiss of Monsey, New York, noticed a swollen lump on the underside of his jaw. His dentist and oral surgeon couldn’t find anything, so he made an appointment with his general practitioner, who sent him for CT scans and then to an oncologist. The oncologist thought it might be Hodgkin’s disease.

“That Friday night we didn’t sleep. My husband thought, It’s over,” his wife Randy Apt remembers.

That Monday, the Kisses went to see the Tosher Rebbe in Montreal, Quebec, for brachos and chizuk. What followed was a whirlwind of hospital hopping, biopsies, and meeting with experts in an attempt to diagnose Mr. Kiss. Doctors finally determined he had poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma, a cancer of epithelial tissue, but they never pinpointed the primary origin of the disease.

Over the next few months, Mr. Kiss underwent multiple chemotherapy treatments. The following winter, difficulty breathing prompted doctors to perform a tracheotomy and place a breathing tube in his neck. The tube, which made breathing easier, compromised Mr. Kiss’s speaking abilities, and after the tracheotomy, he lost a lot of weight and his condition deteriorated slowly.

It was devastating for the children, who ranged in age from ten to 25, to witness their father’s decline. “When you have little kids watching their father die, it tears at you,” remembers Mrs. Apt, who has since remarried and relocated to Detroit, Michigan.

As the summer progressed, Mr. Kiss couldn’t keep food down and became jaundiced, so she brought him to the hospital. “I thought they’d fix him up — give him liquids, flush him out,” Mrs. Apt says. “But that didn’t happen. He didn’t leave the hospital.”

Three and a half weeks later, Mr. Kiss closed his eyes for the last time.

“I was 45 when he died,” says Mrs. Apt. “We were going to be married 26 years that fall. Who would have thought we wouldn’t have grown old together?”


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