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  • Writer's pictureKatie Beucus

PAC-Man

Aaron’s first symptom was a tingling feeling on the inside of his right knee. He was a runner and hiked almost everyday at work. He had injured his knee in an accident years ago. So with all of that, some sort of knee issue made sense.


Then his lower back started to hurt. Again, he carried incredibly heavy gear, ran, hiked and a knee issue could cause lower back pain we were told. All was par for the course.


Me, being who I am, tried to make light of the situation at first. Tried to use humor to mask my concern. He was a fireman with back and knee pain. Symptoms and injuries many experienced the doctors said. And we naively thought he would take the steroids and do the exercises and go on light duty, maybe need a cortisone shot and we’d laugh through it together until he healed.


So as a joke I made “Aaron’s Broken Back Playlist” and queued it to play in his Jeep on the way to work one morning:



We laughed. It was funny. Until it wasn’t.


You can imagine how much of a complete and utter A-Hole I felt like when we found out “PAC-Man was eating his L3.” A direct quote from a lovely Physician’s Assistant in the ED one night who had probably never seen something like what Aaron’s CT looked like. He wasn’t wrong. It’s an incredibly accurate description and also completely unprofessional and inappropriate.


I still feel terrible about this joke even though Aaron thought it was funny, even more so after he found out he had cancer.


So then I made Aaron’s fixed back playlist:



We listed to it often. I driving home from the hospital late at night for a few hours of rest, often in the rain, or together when we’d sleep in the parking garage waiting to be seen in the ED because the place was so packed.


On Aaron’s 37th birthday he had been released from the hospital after they thought his post operative ileus had resolved. We quickly learned it had not resolved and as I drove him back to the hospital that same night he said he could really use my playlist right then. So we listened in silence as I drove, tears of frustration traveling down his cheeks. We’d listen in his hospital room trying to sleep over the monitors and hall sounds. We’d listen going to and from Radiation and clinic.


I don’t listen to it anymore though. It was ours, not mine. And we are no longer us, I am just me.

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1 Comment


mandd5girls
Jun 29, 2023

The you in us is doing an amazing job. Remember that. Going from we to I is hard, no getting around that. Your brain continues to take every moment of the past and processes them all, and then, I believe, takes them and puts them in files. Some perfectly fine day in the future when you are driving down the ride, a file will FLY open and take you back, in ONE INSTANT, to a day, a moment, a second, when things were sad. Everything thing I have been told is that THIS is normal. weird, but normal. I talked about this to my mom one time and she said, 50+ years after my father died, that her brain…

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