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I’ve written a million times about mum and her last months. This summer I’ve dragged myself through generations of debris and lives. I’m supposed to be getting my own finds ready for boxing up to someday mail, but I tripped. I landed hard. I have fallen and I can’t get up. So, I’m talking to the only people I know who are awake and for some reason, listen.
This evening I started to attempt to sort the paperwork I acquired while caring for mum. The sympathy cards. The hospital records. The notes from her cancer counselor on August 8 of last year that said mom was chatting about the local senior housing and was in great spirits and apparently feeling well, but that she and her daughter didn’t see eye to eye.
I have been crying off and on the last hour. I don’t know what to throw away. Gods, it’s like I gave her my last few years and nothing matters. I have to keep moving forward and I am not going anywhere. Like a treadmill with a virtual map. In the end, I’m tired and sweaty and back where I started. I don’t want to be strong anymore. I want held and cuddled and reminded it will be ok. Thank god for WordPress and my teddy bear!
When I return to Oregon, it’s exactly like that treadmill. I’ll have been changed, yet when I step back onto the floor, no one around me will notice anything other than that mostly quiet person is around again. I’ll be expected to be who I was 3 years ago.
In 10 hours, I need to be that strong person. I had hoped to ship boxes and totes in a container. Now, I need to adjust to moving them all by post. So, not only do I need to tear off bandages, exposing wounds, I need to discard what I had hoped to keep for what I might actually need to keep. Which is not really anything, except mom’s things I can better sell from the lower 48.
But, it really hurts.
In June I had that interesting experience of a first root canal. The last day of December, the dentist here suggested it might be infected. So, he sent me to a root canal specialist. Today, I learned that the tooth with the root canal looked pretty good. He wasn’t surprised to see there was some swelling, apparently root canals can take a long time to get better. However, a tooth nearby has a crack. (It is number 12, the view is front and back of the tooth next to the one with the ‘black’ root which is missing.) I’m sad cuz that is the tooth that was ‘capped’ after mum died (the call I answered in the hall and when I came back in the room where 3 others were, she had gone). Dr. Todd wanted to address it asap, so it wouldn’t need a root canal done on it…
The specialist likened it to a ding in the windscreen. Once you get a mark in it, the window is compromised. You can mend it, cover it up, or even replace it eventually, but the damage has been done. So, he gave me a couple of options for the tooth in question. One, he could look into it and see if it was able to be taken care of. Two, I could get it removed and have a transplant put in. Three, the second one might happen after the first one anyway. He suggested not waiting too long as the tooth appears to be taking punishment from being used. (so, not sure if I can wait til I’m back in Alaska. You know, where the same ‘mechanic’ can fix the old problem? lol) However, as one root canal dr to another, he felt the one done was well done!
My immediate plan: I’m going to continue to take pain killers as needed and decide what to do without dental insurance. This is one of the few regrets I have about being north. I should have stood my ground about meals and not eaten so many containers of glucose tablets. I should have brushed or chewed sugar free gum after eating glucose tablets and refrained from too many caffeinated beverages. However, you can only go forward and I reckon I’m thankful my back hurts so much this week! At least it has cut down on the mouth pain a bit!!
Last Thursday I noticed mum’s meds were low. The Oxycontin. She had two of the 10 and a few of the .5 left. I knew we were heading to her doctor on Monday and I knew she had the pain pump and I knew they’d fix the pump to cover more of the pain. I know the doctor we got the original script from is not available on Friday. So, I opted to wait. Now? She’s got one of each left. I had no idea she was that close to out. I think she’s been using more than she has previously.
I have no idea what to do. It is almost Sunday. I’ll call her health care team when it is daylight and I can google it tonight. What do you use to replace a narcotic? Sheesh. I also was privileged to change her fitting again. I’m glad she let me, but it appears she’s gotten into something greasy. Probably the whipped topping on her sugar free chocolate pudding.
I hate this. She said earlier tonight that she didn’t feel good. Her glucose levels have been normal for her, in the 3-400 range and she’s not having nausea. Her pain is in both the pump area of the surgical site and some in the tumor area. She said she felt things were moving faster. I’m assuming she means the carcinomas. She said she needs a miracle. She forgets she IS a miracle. I do not know many people who have battled cancer for over 30 years and lived through 4 or 5 different kinds. I don’t know many people with a pancreatic carcinoma who are still alive after 7 years. I’ve lost so many friends to cancers mom has survived. She thinks she still should be able to brush it off and go on.
It is so hard to be strong all alone. I know I’m not the only one, but right now, in my basement in Alaska, it is pretty scary. My heart goes out to my Garfield friend and Michelle and Rhapsody and Monster (who has a completely different sort of game to play). I’m so thankful I’ve met you! And the support in here. I have tears dripping down my cheek as my gratefulness overflows.
I wish one of you could hold me as I cried, though.
I grew up in several different religions. Was baptized, as a baby, in the Lutheran church and meandered thru the faiths from there. I’m pretty fond of the beliefs I have now, they are not anywhere close to the ones I had when I attended college, but I’m more content with my God than I’ve ever been.
This said, miracles are not fake. I am surrounded by them every single time I step outside my Alaskan home. I am a strong proponent of letting life live, it is a miracle. (And I won’t go into this more here. You can send me a message via my contact button, but don’t expect me to soapbox on my blog. It isn’t necessary!) Mum has been a miracle. Having survived so many kinds of cancers for so long is truly amazing. Her will is strong, I’m certain it is what has kept her alive. Her will is a part of her and helps explain the miracle of her life.
I had hoped today was a miracle. Mum woke at 4 and desired not one, but two pain pills. She woke again at 8 and was chipper and wanting to attend church. I was skeptical, she has been in this same spot every Sunday and nothing happens. I knew I’d not go, I had errands to do in town and I’ve not showered in a few days. (I’ve been too soul tired to shower properly) Sweatshirt and jeans are fine for town wear. Mum, she showered (I stayed upstairs to keep an ear on her), she dressed, put on earrings for the first time in months, and looked very nice. I was pretty sure this was a bad idea, but it was her choice. It would also let people ‘see’ her and realise I’m a fusspot because she is doing absolutely amazing.
She made it thru the service and her glucose read over 300 when she got out to the car. I gave her some insulin and she dove into her chocolate shake I’d gotten her. She was still feeling quite well. We got home, she wandered a bit in the yard, she got the rest of her lunch, and I suggested we should visit the beach later. (The rain had stopped and it was rather nice out!) She agreed and I retired to the basement to take a nap. (I’m between too tired to do much, reading, and napping. It is odd, I had such a stellar day on Thursday and now realise how flat I am after the fact! Thankfully, there are still little joyful bits which pop up briefly in my day or I’d probably be a complete watering pot with tears!)
Eventually, I heard mum in the kitchen. She was making little moaning noises. She took one pain pill. She had gone a little longer than 10 hours with no narcotics because she wasn’t hurting anymore. I can only wonder if she is finally taking a turn for the better…but then, can she beat cancer again? Is it possible to win out over pancreatic cancer after almost 6 years of harboring the cells in her flesh? Is this miracle wishful thinking?
I’m tired today. Tonight. Whatever. It is 4 am and I just woke mum to empty her waste bag. I stared at the lake while she was in the bathroom.
The lake was a calm mirror. Mist was on the surface where ducks were swimming. Pink ribbons from the sky were flung across the still dark top. I wanted to go outside and follow them. I wanted to get in the kayak and slide along the strands til I reached a different tomorrow. A place where I couldn’t hear mum whimpering in pain. A place where mum wasn’t being too stubborn to ask for help. A place where mum wasn’t pushing herself to be perfectly well and going too far. A place where mum wasn’t. But, our lake is small and the infinity I want doesn’t exist. Resigned, I watch the ribbons float away. I’m left tied to reality by taut cords of responsibility.
I arrange mum’s pillows in her bed. She wants a pain pill, I can do that for her. I tuck her in and put the oxygen tubes back around her ears. She says she hurts from all the exercise she had yesterday and tells me this is good. I smile at her and turn off her light. I stumble at the end of her bed in the predawn darkness. The tethers around her grip me tight and I don’t fall. I’m not allowed to. The next alarm will go off in a couple of hours. I need to be ready.
I wish I could help her. Mom is incredibly stubborn and a survivor. Her stats are always fine, her scans are almost always good, and yet she is melting away and is in constant pain with nausea. Her oncologist says she is doing better symptom wise (she had been in the hospital in November), but I wish I could help her. She staggers when she walks (part of that could be the pain meds) and she tries to do things, but can’t remember. Her reality is not what I see.
I helped shower her today and oh, it broke my heart to pat her paper skin dry. When she was almost ready to go to sleep, but was waiting for the Jimmy Fallon intro (she had hoped he’d talk about the wire tapping), my heart ached to see her shoulder bones protruding over the too large shirt she was wearing. I can’t stop what is happening, I can’t help her, and I am so glad she’s having something done soon. It appears one of her doctors finally has realised there is something wrong beyond the tests. So, mom will have a day surgery sometime within the next couple of weeks. The drs will go into her stoma (the hole on her stomach through which her waste empties) and see what might be causing the bulge in her abdomen. I hope this time something is found. It hurts me to watch her hold her tummy all the time in pain. She is going through the motions of life and I wish I could help her.