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!



KMae said...

Sobering, indeed.
Good luck & hang in there.
Which of course is what you are doing so well.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us all.

8thdayplanner said...

Fuck doesn't even come close.

I am so, so sorry. Tea is brewing. Prayers are multiplying. Arms are wrapping around you.

Comfort and strength my friend, comfort and strength.

weese said...

*** same medical caution on this comment***
I remember when our hospice nurses started to talk to us about blockage from tumors pressing on the large intestine. which would be a similar situation and basically hasten her death - albiet very painfully. with a blockage the bowel can perforate causing extreme pain and then sepsis. one of the first signs is vomiting stool - which actually happened one afternoon. tho through the use of steroids they were able to open up the block slightly. in the end they had to give her abdominal injections daily to literally stop her bowels from working at all. this kept her from rupturing. and luckily she was near comatose during the process (the morphine drip also helped here).
I wanted to share so you don't feel so alone. and know that others have been through similiar situations, and we're there with you now.

Grumpy Granny said...

Holding you all in the light for the most benevolent outcome for this. You know how it will end, but I keep good thoughts for peace, quiet and as little trauma as possible for all involved.

Angels are there. Let them hold you.

More hugs!

e said...

Thank you, all of you, for holding us in your thoughts through this grueling time. It helps.

Today Mum was absolutely disconnected. Nothing made sense. No sentence fragment was longer than about 4 words. Thankfully, she kept nodding off and dozing.

When my dad got up and came in to sit with us, I asked him how they were handling the news from yesterday. Ha! I know where I get my Pollyanna tendencies from! He was super positive about the Christmas news. I asked about the 'bleeding out'. He said that yes, they had heard about it before but had forgotten. And then he went into some song and dance about how it wouldn't happen because of the steroids. Sigh. Oh Pop, I know you want to believe that - and so do I - but you are only fooling yourself. Mum and I know that death is close at hand. Still, we are living each day and enjoying each other's spirit as long as possible. That's what we have.

Pardon me while I wipe away the tears.


the only daughter said...

I can only imagine the strength it takes to take this journey with your parent (spouse, or child). Know that in this very instant I hope the words are indeed a powerful vehicle.

Peace, be still.