When I checked my Blog just now, I found it ironic that the last entry was written on September 1st. I had forgotten when I last wrote.
You see on September 2nd, we found my mom laying on the floor of her farmhouse. She was conscious but very weak, and laying in some kind of foul smelling discharge. From that moment on, our world, that of my family and brother's and sister was turned upside down. And I haven't written on my blog since.
Its been over three months since that morning and a friend last night mentioned that she still checked my blog to see if anything had been added, and it struck a chord how many times in these last three months I have wanted to write or put some kind of an ending to this blog, but just couldn't. Words tumbled around in my brain, so many thoughts I wanted to relay, but I was almost physically incapable of writing. Not a case of writer's block but of incredible sadness and guilt. I could barely keep up with my life on a day to day basis and there seemed no past and no future ahead....
Mom spent nearly a week in the hospital. I endured the incredible and horrible shock of having a breast cancer tumor revealed that Mom had hidden from all of us for at least 4 years. By this time it had grown and seemed some enlarged, grotesque part of human flesh, that wasn't part of my mom at all. I had to get past having this revealed to me in an emergency room, and then deal with the fact she had hidden something like this, and finally come to grips with where we go from there. I did not have kind memories of my dad's treatment in the hospital after his initial emergency room visit. The same was true of Mom after she was moved from intensive care into the oncology floor and the tests began to see if the obvious breast cancer had metastasized. Mom had not been to a doctor for over 40 years. In this case you are assigned an "in house" internist. Doctors come and go and it would seem we were never there when this doctor or that was in.
Mom was in good spirits after they gave her 6 units of blood. Her color improved and she ate well. And we waited through the holiday weekend for tests and a decision, finding out very quickly how the Medicare system works. Its not pretty. On the fifth day, the P.A. to Mom's internist came in and while Mom was eating her breakfast, gave her the news the cancer had spread to her lungs and her bones. It was not a surprise, and Mom kept right on eating not saying anything. I was alone with her and tried to question her as to where we go from here. It was my first sign of many; of her turning inward and deciding things in a place within herself. A place I wasn't invited into, and a place that would continue on for the next months.
We met with a team of doctors the next morning, and her oncologist, who I also had never met, told us that the cancer was also in her liver and pancreas. Hospice was recommended. No timeline was given. Another new journey into the world of Hospice care. After a nightmarish couple of days of getting Mom transitioned back home and into Hospice care, of learning to change her breast dressing every day, and nearly choking on the smell, and of alternating between complete despair, guilt and wondering if she would last the month, my sister came home from Colorado to stay with Mom for as long as it took.
That was 3 months ago and there have been peaks and valleys in this time. My sister, came and stayed,. Mom rebounded surprisingly and when Kerri had to return to Colorado for a time, Mom was able to stay by herself with help from Hospice and my brother and I. Kerri had to return in November when Mom seemed to be failing mentally and could no longer stay in the house alone. She had a setback that we thought was inevitable and that she was heading down that final road. She was in a wheelchair now all the time and needed help getting in and our of her chair and in the bathroom. She was living inside her head, more and more and would fixate on things. But after hitting that low, she has come back and is again walking with a cane and while she tires very easily now, is maintaining. She says, "she's doin'" and she is.
It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions these last months. I have laughed harder than I had in the whole of the last year, and enjoyed a whole new relationship with my sister who has lived in Colorado for nearly 30 years. We have made nearly every weekend a family time with our other brother who lives in Saginaw. We have shared memories and laughed until we cried. We have found Mom was quite the pack rat, something we had always kind of known, but in cleaning up rooms that will never likely see her touch again, we have found collections she had accumulated of a breadth and variety that totally escapes me. In many ways I don't know this woman who was my mom and this new one who is facing death but not acknowledging it, is a total enigma to me. I don't get it and in trying to get it I have run the gamut of emotions. To ride this wild ride is exhausting and the hardest thing I have ever done. And in a world where we have become accustomed to "immediately" there is no immediate about any of this. There is no ending point, and though we know this will not last forever, we want to get the awfulness done. We know it will be awful, and that dying is not a pretty thing to watch or to contemplate. I so often feel like a vulture watching her and trying to figure out what she is thinking as she talks little now.
She eats like her last meal is being delivered every day. She is demanding on what she wants to eat and it seems that is where her mind has chosen to focus. She becomes so keyed into internal thoughts that I can almost see the curtain dropping in her eyes and know that she will now be quiet and we are not invited in. It has perhaps been the most heartbreaking aspect, we feel no longer like her children but like the people hired to take care of her.
It is a learning experience of the category of "BIG LIFE" experiences, and I feel most days like I fail miserably. But when I stop and feel God's arms wrap around me, I know that he has put things in place to not overwhelm me but to teach me. I had a job offer fall into my lap before any of this. It seemed the perfect thing to transition me into the autumn months and when Kurt would be home more. I liked the hours and the days. I liked the idea of being back in a school setting, but I was nervous as to how watching kids after school would work for me. When Mom went down, I thought this might all have to be given up before I even started it. I wondered why God gave me this opportunity only to snatch it away. But He provided a way to make it work. It has been a blessing of this time, but one of many I have experienced. So, while this blog has come to its natural end, I think there will be a new one coming as I walk this very crooked road. I alternate between gratitude of a magnitude I did not think possible, to despair in wondering if this is life and what I have to look forward to. I will be back and forth like a ping pong ball and I will write again when I can write with humor and not despair, when I can either chronicle my mother's final journey or write of it in gentle reflection....
Goodbye to becoming nearly a Grandma, as I am now there and delighting in two grand children who now scamper around and laugh delightedly, and have become just FUN. I am still in the country but with a new perspective on what all this means. A two year journey, and the greatest lesson is in knowing I still have much to learn....