29 September 2011

Not for the faint of heart ... or stomach



Thursdays are the hospice nurse days.  We have an amazingly wonderful nurse named Kathleen.  She fits perfectly with us.  She gets us, we get her, we are all alike in some ways and hugely different in others, but we get each other.  That's important.

Today, after commenting on how great mum is doing, and how she will almost certainly be around for Christmas, she brought up the subject of "bleeding out".


Oh dear.

You see, the big softball-sized tumor in mum's right lung which has crossed into her left lung, is sitting right next to and now also encircling, her aorta.  The aorta is called 'the great vessel'.  It takes oxygenated blood from the heart and distributes it to the rest of the body.  When a tumor is adjacent to the aorta, it is putting stress on the vessel.  The oh-so-important vessel can grow weak from that stress.  Sometimes it can rupture.  When that happens, all of that oxygenated blood breaks free of the aorta.  It may go into the body cavity or it may go into the lungs.  It is quickly fatal.

If it goes into the lungs, it will likely come up the airway and out of the mouth.  Kathleen recommends having a supply of dark colored towels on hand.

I'm still processing this information.

It was a fairly sobering conversation.  And it reminded me that while we have been enjoying this gently sloping plateau as much as we can, we have grown complacent.  We now expect things to continue as they are indefinitely.  But, really, it could be over at any moment.

And, for crying out loud Mum, don't cough!


27 September 2011

Still here...

Yep, we're still here.  All of us.  Including my darling mumsey.

She is on a gently sloping plateau these days.  Getting a little worse but not a lot worse.  Losses in cognition and physical abilities and stamina, but her will is strong and she is not done living.  I am grateful for that.

I am still spending every morning at the parents' house ~ well, actually, right now it's only six days a week because my dad stays awake on Sunday mornings to watch football.

I am extremely grateful to my employers for letting me work whatever hours I can for as long as this lasts.  And to my team of excellent coworkers for covering for me when I am not there.

I have a lot to be grateful for, in spite of this terrible disease.

I just have to remind myself of that from time to time.

Because there are many days when I just want to cry.  And, when I get a minute to myself, I do.  But, then I have to pick myself back up and carry on.  Because that's what we do, right?

There's a beautiful sunset right now, outside my office window.  Might as well be grateful for that too.

And for my friends, both RL and virtual who keep letting me know that I am in their thoughts.  Thank you.

01 September 2011


Here's the strange thing: my mom is holding on.  I don't know how or why or what is helping her, but after a couple of days that were absolutely dire, she has rallied.  She is out of bed, walking with help, drinking tea, and combing her hair.  We thought that the end of this week would probably be her last, but she has surprised us all.

But... and it's a big but ... there is a booklet that the hospice folks gave us that outlines the final days.  In it, there is talk of a period where the dying person has a rebound and seems almost like their old self.  I wonder if that is where we are now.  

Another strange thing is that during that bed-ridden, excruciating couple of days, mom was very lucid.  She answered questions directly, she had things to tell each of us, she let us know when the pain was unmanageable.  Now, she has slipped back into the random, unconnected (in our minds) monologues, and is disassociated with reality.  I don't know what to make of that.

One thing that I believe helped her was the knowledge that Zoe was coming.  I called Zoe a day or so after the nurse said it would be the end and asked her if she could come for one last visit.  She made plane reservations right away.

I have been at the parents' house for the last ... what, 3 or 4 days/nights?... I'm not sure, at this point.  But, last night I felt as if I could sleep in my own bed with no worries about the night or the morning.  My dad promised he would call if they needed help.

I'm on my way back over there to sit with mom while dad has his nap.  After that, I'm actually going to go to work for a few hours, while Zoe takes a turn hanging with her Grammy.

Zoe can only stay until Sunday.  I don't know what to expect once she leaves.  Oh well, there's just no way of knowing except to live through it.