A Haven for Vee

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Behind the Scenes

Ahhh, so you've found it. What have you found? The spot where I am tucking many of the behind-the-scenes events, which I feel have a place on my blog even if they should not be front and center. The comments are off in this place and this post will expand as I add to it from time to time.

Mother is currently residing in a Rehab Center where she grows stronger daily. She has recently been hospitalized for cellulitis in her right leg. After five days, she was released last Monday, June 15. (Yes, one thing you'll discover is that the dates may be whacky since I am placing this behind the scenes post on an earlier date.)

Update: June 19, 2009

The report from the oncologist yesterday was grim. This cancer is particularly rare (only a thousand women in the world will get it in any given year) and it's particularly aggressive. There was good news, too, it's only spread in two places. Chemotherapy begins in approximately one month depending upon the results of a CAT scan. My mother will be released from the Rehab facility to my sister's care at the end of June. One day at a time...

Update: July 2, 2009

Because of a bout with cellulitis in her leg, my mom's release date has been set back to July 15 or 16. (My grandmother's has as well.) So there they sit, albeit quite happily, in Rehab getting stronger and hanging out together. I visit them every other day for several hours at a time. They have had lots of company, for which I am grateful. It certainly helps to pass the time.

Update: August 3, 2009

Mother has tolerated the chemotherapy last Thursday very well. We are all praising God for His goodness in this and thanking everyone who lifted her in prayer. She knows that she is being carried on prayer...says she can just feel it. God bless you all!

Update: August 23, 2009

Mother has completed her radiation therapy without too much difficulty. We are so grateful that that is behind her now. She had her second chemotherapy, which thus far has not given her too much trouble either. She has medication for both weariness and pain, but doesn't have to use it more than a couple of days following treatment. She did lose all of her beautiful white hair. My grandson upon seeing her said, "You had a bad haircut, Grandma." She asked him if she could borrow his baseball cap and he said, "Sure." That's all that she's using for right now...a baseball cap as she fears anything else would be too uncomfortable.

Update: October 7, 2009

So much has happened making describing it a real challenge. A week ago, we were planning hospice care and a funeral. Today, the world is ever so much brighter.

My mother finished her third chemotherapy and became intensely ill. She was taken to Portland where she has been hospitalized for three weeks. She was placed on massive amounts of antibiotics to fight infection. Her doctors told us to prepare for end-of-life. At one point in the first week, the doctor thought of doing surgery but decided against it saying that my mother's intestines would "disintegrate" in his hands. By the second week, fearing that the cancer would "blow through" the abdominal wall, he was now recommending surgery. She had that surgery a week ago.

Though we were told that there was a large cancerous mass on her left side and that her intestines would be coated with a frosting of cancer, the doctors found none of that. Instead they found a hole in her bowel, which is now in the process of healing. All biopsies came back clean. The doctor never says "healed;" nevertheless, we are rejoicing today. I can't think about it without becoming amazed all over again. My mother is expecting to be released back to Rehab this week...the same home that she went to to recover from her earlier surgery in May.

December 18, 2009

Mother was finally released from the nursing facility this week and is happily staying with my sister. We were delighted to all be together for a chicken dinner one evening this week where my mother declared how tasty the food was just because it was so nice and hot ... a rare commodity in her recent world. She has lost a lot of weight, but is happy and doing better all the time. We continue to praise God.

April 29, 2010

Last October, my mother was given a second lease on life. Because of infection in her system, she was given an ileostomy. Unlike a colostomy, an ileostomy is an opening in the small intestine for waste. I'm not going to go into the details, but suffice it to say that it is not something anyone should have to endure. My mother never tolerated hers well, which was why she was on hydration and nutrition therapy. In addition, the opening never properly healed and it was quite painful.

Yesterday, the entire process was reversed. Because of the length of time in surgery, my sister believed that our mom was having a colostomy performed. It had been explained that if the surgeon couldn't reconnect easily, he would do a colostomy. (It is preferable by far to an ileostomy.) So my sister and I were very pleased when we learned that he had been able to reconnect...with great difficulty because of adhesions and mesh material used for a former hernia repair that had become infected. Oh my! More medical stuff than some like to read. My daughter would be white as a sheet by now and quaking. Anyway, we are more than thrilled for the return to "normal" and that this phase is behind her.

I've just been able to talk to Mom via the phone and she sounds tired and in pain and hoarse. So any and all prayers are always welcome. Thank you!

May 7, 2010

Mother called yesterday from my sister's home. She's been home since Wednesday so that was just a week in the hospital. We were getting concerned that the time would be longer because of those complications during surgery. As it turns out, my mom can be most forceful. She wanted to go home, straight home, no rehab, no delay, home. She wanted to tell me that she had just spoken with her doctor and all the tests came back negative — no cancer. The doctor does not say "healed" nor does he say "remission." Just that everything is all clear. I told my mother that I was delighted to hear it, but not surprised to hear it. When God does something; He does it all the way. Now it's hers to hang onto. There are challenges ahead, but we shall cross those bridges as we come to them. As always, thank you for praying!

May 8, 2010

Mom looking lovely at our Mother's Day Tea

January 3, 2010 2011

Love this photo taken of my daughter and my mother on
Christmas Day. I can't believe how much alike they look...perhaps it's the weariness for both were very busy over the holidays...

Mother learned the week that my grandmother passed away back in November that tests revealed troubles. The cancer was back. We had gone to Portland in late October for her regular check up with the oncologist. She was feeling fine...still is for the most part. The doctor said that she was doing great and everything looked good. Then she told him that she was having some lower back pain. He decided, hoping to give her peace of mind, to order a CAT scan. This was followed by a PET scan. Both revealed the same story. She has been having lots of medical appointments all culminating this week with a new oncologist (working in tandem with the main one), a port placement, and the first chemotherapy. Mother amazes me. I'd be a quivering mass under a table somewhere, but she carries on just as she always has done. Her greatest sorrow is not her health; it is my father.

January 19, 2011

Mother passed away on January 15, 2011 at a Hospice Home after having been rushed to the ER as the result of a fall. She had been sick with the flu the weekend before and had recovered. The oncologist had examined her and cleared her Thursday morning (1/13/11) to go ahead with her chemotherapy treatments. She did want Mother to have a flu shot, which I took her to have on Thursday afternoon.

Thursday was a good day as most days have been since learning that the cancer had returned. Some might find that surprising, but it is true. Mother had been feeling well and eating well and she'd kept busy. John had taken her in the morning for her doctor's appointment because the roads were still bad from Wednesday's storm. They had a wonderful conversation to and from with John telling her how much he thought of her and how she always had a home with us whenever she said the word. She would later thank him for taking her by giving him not one, but two Musketeer candy bars. We all enjoyed lunch together and then she and I went to get her the flu shot followed by an afternoon of shopping. She was doing very well. In fact, at some point I told her that I needed to take a break and she told me to go right ahead since I'd had such good shopping results and she had not.

Mother returned to her home with my niece and they had a pleasant supper together and a nice evening. She spoke to several people on the phone including my sister.

Around ten she began feeling poorly and later my niece called me to say that she didn't think things were quite right. I zipped on over and found mom feeling punky and saying that if she just went to bed and got some sleep that she'd be all right. She complained of a headache and **I gave her a couple of T*ylenols. We got her to bed and I told her that I'd be over first thing in the morning. She did not want me to call 911 although both K and I suggested it. The three of us were all blaming the flu shot and thinking that by morning Mother would feel much better.

The phone rang around 4:30 Friday morning; it was my niece saying that she had heard Molly barking and had rushed in to find her grandmother on the bedroom floor. Both John and I raced over and found her just as K had described. K had been unable to get her up (nor could we). Mother was feeling chilled and complaining about a bad headache and so we called 911.

We followed the ambulance in with my kicking myself for not remembering to grab some clothes, a coat, and shoes, etc., for Mother who would surely be booted out of the ER in a few hours' time. As my niece described it, "It's the 21st Century and everything is fixable."

Not this time. What the doctors discovered after a cat scan was a massive cerebral hemorrhage. They were clear and direct with my mother and Kirsten and me. There would be no coming back from this. She had from six hours to, in rare instances, a few days. Then mother's own doctor arrived. She asked my mother what she wanted and mother said, "I want to go to the Hospice House." We asked her who she wanted with her and she named each of her grandchildren and her pastors. My mother was calm and peaceful throughout all of this. She never expressed any regrets or sorrows; she neither wept nor complained. I called my sister and said simply, "Come home."

My sister lives seven hours away and time was of the essence. I will always measure that day by how far my sister had made it on her journey home. "Mom, they're on the ferry." "Mom, they're in Connecticut." "Mom, they're in South Boston." "Mom, they're in Kennebunk."

At two in the afternoon, the ER released her to Hospice Care and Mother and I made the ambulance ride with the others following in cars. We consider that hospice experience the last gift that she gave us. I can not recommend a hospice experience highly enough. No tubes, wires, bells or whistles. Comfort and blissful peace.

Surprisingly or perhaps not knowing my remarkable mother, she hung on with us, not really able to talk, but aware who was with her and responding with a "yes" or "no" about her pain levels for seven long hours until my sister arrived. When she arrived, my mother tried to lift her head, opened her eyes, and reached out her hand.

My sister (a nurse) and her husband stayed with my mother all night. John and I went home to get some rest as did all the grandchildren. In the morning, 4:30 again, we returned and spent the final hours with my mother telling her how much we loved her, how glad we were that she could go to a better place, how beautiful the morning was with the pink blush of the rising sun, yet how much more beautiful the day would be on the other side. We can only imagine.

(I refuse to reduce my mother's life to her final hours on earth. She was more, much more and so there is no doubt that I will talk about her again. Right now, I am still waking in the night weeping and saying over and over, "Oh, Mom. Oh, Mom." I look forward to the day when I will smile with every sweet memory of her.)

** As you might think, my niece and I have been doing a fair amount of kicking ourselves. However, the doctors all have told us that even if we could have somehow known that this was a massive brain bleed on that Thursday morning before there had been any indications, it would not have changed the results; the story would have ended the same way. My mother's own doctor came to the ER and told us repeatedly that this was a Godsend. We are trying to receive it that way. Trying.

(Comments here are always closed. This is a big part of my life, but not meant for front page discussion. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for any and all prayers. God changes things.)