ROOM 5 documents my wife's battle with terminal cancer.
All photos were taken over a brief eight month period, from diagnosis to her death. Dedicated to her love and memory.
Morgan Schatz Blackrose 1959 - 2019
One of the first photos I took of Morgan after her diagnosis of stage four cancer. The diagnosis was Leiomyosarcoma, a cancer so rare that it only affects around five people in one million. Morgan lived her life working as a professional storyteller, musician and author. She loved her long hair, and had visions of long grey plats as she became an older woman. She would comb her hair with the the wooden comb that was a gift I bought back for her from South Korea.
After the first bought of chemo therapy the inevitable happened, the hair loss. Her long hair that she adored, fell out, strand by strand. No longer is the cancer internal; the suffering is for everyone to see.
In the bath seeking some physical comfort. Life with cancer has become all absorbing. A consuming life that revolves around doctors’ appointments, copious amounts of medication and the never ending research for a cure.
A few months after the diagnosis and the disease has progressed, Morgans kidneys have stopped functioning properly. Rushing to the hospital emergency department, blood pressure, fear and anxiety where at an all-time high.
The long white, sterile corridor taking Morgan to the cancer ward. A nephrostomy awaits her to retain normal kidney function. Without this operation, she was given six weeks to live.
Two weeks have passed and Morgan remains in the cancer ward. Her independence stripped of her. Walking has become almost impossible. For the first time Morgan has said that she wanted to die. The hospital has a music program where musicians come and play for patients on the ward. Hearing that Morgan was a musician they performed Mozart for her by her bedside. She was then given a chance to play the harp. For a brief moment I caught a glimpse of the Morgan before cancer.
After nearly three weeks in hospital, Morgan was able to return home. The doctors and specialists have run out of medical treatment options. Her wish was to spend her days at home, surrounded by family. Home care was organised, I started to learn how to administer injections and manage Morgan’s medication. During this time, Morgan continued her passion, writing her memoirs on living and dying as a storyteller.
Morgan’s time at home only lasted two weeks. The pain became increasingly difficult to manage. By this time, she was now bed ridden, making it impossible to remain at home. A short ride in the ambulance and Morgan was admitted to Room 5 at the nearby palliative care centre.
As friends and family came to visit Morgan in Room 5, it became clear to her and all of us that she would not be coming home again. This was where she was going to die. My daughters and I took turns to be bedside with her all of the time. Vowing that we would never let her die alone.
‘While I have breath in my body, fire in my belly and a song in my heart, I am beholden to tell the stories of 'the poor mother,' 'the hungry girl,' 'the foolish boy,' 'the abandoned baby,' so that they may rise to the surface of our consciousness and be a torch to light our humanity and promote civil and compassionate societies.’ Morgan Schatz Blackrose