Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fast update on The Mom

I knew that my mom had an appointment today.  I didn't realize that they would end up getting the dates switched around, and to their benefit!

My father brought my mom to the surgeon today only to find out that their appointment was for tomorrow.  They took her anyway, and my dad came away with some of her records  :)  I can't wait to look through them.  I had asked to see her CT scan, but no one had time to show me in the hospital.  According to her records, the tumor was 65mm's.  That converts to 2.55905 inches.  (My dad told me it was 24".  Little different...)  The doctor did saw that it was the size of a baseball, and when he had shown me in the hospital he made it look like the size of a potatoe.   It is still considered stage 2, which the oncologist told them today.  She is scheduled to go in for a PET scan on Sept. 12.  After the scan she will go back and they will determine a more definite course of action, but for now it looks like they may only want to do radiation to the abdominal wall.  They say that generally chemo isn't successful (or necessary) for her type of cancer, and radiation alone will likely give her a 70% chance of survival for a ten year stretch.  Given that she will be 72 in October, I'd say that's pretty darn good.  She may be bird thin but my dad is working on getting her well nourished again, and she does seem to be holding up VERY well.  Also, the surgeon took her staples out today!  She was so excited to be able to sit on the floor again- and be able to get back up!  This means no more nightly bandage changes.  That alone is a huge relief to them both.  And she said that the scar looks great.  She sounds so good every night when I talk to her.  It's such a change from the woman who didn't place much value to her own life.

I remembered one thing that I forgot to post the other night.  She's never been able to sleep well, and she almost never remembers her dreams.  She's had two dreams that stick in her head.  The first she told me about last week, and I loved it.  She said that she was in a store, and someone was pinching her butt.  She eventually realized that it was a little boy.  She was very annoyed, and she started to yell at him.  A priest came out of nowhere and told her that she wasn't being very nice.  Her answer?  "I was told yesterday that I have cancer, and now everything is different."  To me, that was a very emotional, raw moment.  Like the confrontation of death while living as told in a dream.  To me, it was also a moment for hope and happiness, because I believe that it means that she's ready to fight.  Honestly, this is a HUGE relief.  I truly thought that we would have to fight her every step of the way to get treatment.  I thought that it may be too late by the time she decided she was ready.  That's why I was so thrilled that she allowed me to take her to the ER that night.  She wasn't gone yet! 

If you want to be inspired, if you want to learn how to be a great person, take lessons from the people around you; choose to be in the company of great people.  I am blessed enough to have many of those types of people in my life.  Between my family, my husband's family, (you know who you are!) some of my coworkers, and my friends, I am very blessed to have great company, and people that inspire me.  My mommy is one.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hanging in :)

I'm hopeful that I can actually create a coherent entry that isn't missing half of what I wanted to write!!!

I'd like to backtrack a few days to when my mom was still in the hospital.  My father was still in Connecticut, and the neighbors expected him to be out of town, and my mom alone.  Now, the night that I took her to the E.R., I was focused on getting her there before she could change her mind.  I watched her lock her door, but apparently she unlocked it.  Speeding ahead a bit, my sister, my older daughter & I went to their house to check up, bring in the mail & find my aunt's phone number.  We get in the house and realize there are newspapers on the couch.  They are dated from that day!!!  I started to worry that someone had broken in.  There were weird little things that stood out.  My daughter went to go ask the neighbors if they knew anything, but no one was home.  I started trying to get a hold of my dad.  I must have called his phone 30 times, texted him 3 times, left him two voice mails.  No answer, no return call.  Finally I called my mom in the hospital to see if she had given her key to a neighbor.  I walked outside while talking to mom, and another neighbor comes walking up to me saying, "Your parents scared us to death!"  It turns out, since my mom is "like clockwork" and has her flag out and papers in by 7:30 A.M., the neighbors tried the door, found it unlocked, got scared, and called the police.  It was the police that brought the papers in.  Talk about tension!!!

Mom is doing very well.  I think she's kicking herself for not getting this taken care of months ago, but since living in the past isn't very productive, we're trying to help her to move ahead.  We've had many blessings come out of this.  For one thing, it brought my sister home for a few days around her grueling work schedule.  We all love seeing her.  My oldest & I cry every time she leaves.  We just don't have nearly enough time together anymore.  This also brought my mom together with her sister; they often talk on the phone, but never get to actually visit in person.  Thanks to my wonderful cousin, we've had a couple of little family reunions, with another couple in the planning stages.  I have to say that of all of the relatives on my side of the family, my mom's sister has always been my favorite.  I loved her husband, also.  I used to spend a lot of time over there, until things got too crazy here to be able to really go visit.  And now we at least know that there is, indeed, a problem, but it's being addressed.  I knew she was sick; it's very frustrating when you know you're right but no one will believe you.  At least in a situation like this.  Well, my sister believed me, but it's harder to argue with them being a few states away.

I was told the day before Mom's release that all of the pathology was back.  A day or two later they told my sister that it was not.  We're still operating on the assumption that it's Stage 2.  My cousin has battled stage 2 cancer.  I feel as though God put her back in our path to quietly strengthen my mom.  My mom is already practically invincible.  I cannot even believe how high her pain tolerance is.  Mine is high but hers is amazing!!!  I'm very proud of how she is handling all of this.  As my husband said, she's very stoic.  Very well put!  She hasn't really acted depressed or sad at all, but given that she's going along now with seeing a PCP, an oncologist & a gastro, I know she's up to fighting.  When she pointed out that she should have listened to me before, I explained how I saw things.  She was so dehydrated the night that I took her to the ER that she really shouldn't have been still with us.  She was shutting down.  Her voice was weakening, she doesn't remember 2 days.  Her colon should have ruptured already, so they said.  And, if living through those 2 situations wasn't enough, she survived the surgery and went from having what they declared a stage 4 cancer to a stage 2.  Obviously, she's meant to be here for a reason.  My dad is taking wonderful care of her, which honestly surprises me.  He's so used to being cared for that we wondered how he would do.  Now that he's home he's really doing well.  I told him that he had better not lecture her, and he hasn't!  I'm so glad.  She doesn't need that.

She has her appointments lined up, thanks to my dad.  (The great news is that she is willing!!!)  Towards the end of the month she has a 3 day period that is all about doctor visits.  My dad is shoveling as much food into her as he can.  :)  She is already starting to look better, less like she's deflating.  She had started to get that really sunken look for a while there.  We'd like to get her fattened up for chemo. 

One thing that I don't understand is why they took her port out?  She had one in her neck.  Maybe it was just a temporary, but I don't understand why they would do a temp when a port is like a staple for cancer patients?  I'm glad she had it; if for no other reason, it helped my daughter to be less fearful of her upcoming port implant.  I just thought it was weird.  I realize that this is all in God's hands.  I keep praying, knowing that I'm not ready to lose my Mommy yet, but also just wanting what is best for her.  Right now, I'm hopeful that she can beat this.  Her attitude is great, she's already getting out of the house to go to her restaurants and shopping.  But I know how hard chemo can be.  I don't want her to suffer, but I'm hoping that she'll have the will to keep fighting.  If you asked me 3 weeks ago if she would, I'd have said no.  Right now, I believe she will beat this. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

NOT a Stage 4!

While there is soooo much that I want to write right now, like how cute my mom and her sister were together today, or about her awesome neighbors that scared me to death, making me think that someone broke in, I don't have the energy for that tonight. 

What I really wanted to shout out was that, now that the pathology reports are all back, the cancer DID NOT spread into her lymph nodes or organs!  From Mayo Clinic, "Stage II. Your cancer has grown into or through the wall of the colon or rectum but hasn't spread to nearby lymph nodes."  Originally the surgeon had said that because of the obstruction it was considered stage 4.  So, that's amazing news!!!!!  Since I haven't been able to talk to the oncologist myself yet, I'm not sure if they're planning both chemo & radiation, but tonight's surgeon did say that she will have at least chemo.  I'm hoping they do at least one round of radiation since it did penetrate the abdominal wall.  Just in case.  So, really great news tonight!  By the time I got to her room today, she wasn't connected to ANYTHING.  She had lost the G-tube, the IV line, the drain in her stomach, and the massaging leg pads!  She was looking back to normal, almost.  It was a wonderful day, knowing that she's getting back to normal a little at a time.  She even tried to eat a little  :)  We don't expect her to eat a lot, but to try to eat was awesome for us.  She may be going home as early as tomorrow.  We shall see!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Quick Update

Yesterday I missed seeing the oncologist.  My sister missed him, too.  THANK GOD she is here!!!  I'm so glad that she had time off available to fly in on such short notice.  She has been a HUGE help; just having the support is awesome, but since I had to be across the state at my daughter's hospital all day yesterday, it was wonderful to have her here.  Even now, as I'm working on getting myself out of here to head there after this update, she's texting me from the hospital to tell me that the surgical site looks great, she has 24 staples (!!!) and they're getting her up to use the restroom as I type this.  :)  And they just pulled out her drain, the last tube in her stomach!

Yesterday Mom was allowed a clear fluid diet.  This was especially wonderful since she was BEGGING EVERYONE for a 7-Up or Sprite!  They also took her G- tube out!  They had pumped an amazing amount of toxin out of there, so it was no longer needed.  She had grown used to it, but now she's much more comfortable.  She still has to wait for the scar to heal up, of course, but she's definitely doing much better.  She looked better & sounded better yesterday.  I really want to talk to the oncologist.  The nurse told my sister that she didn't overhear the oncologist say anything to mom about chemo or radiation, but I can't imagine that they wouldn't do at least one, especially since the tumor had crossed into the abdominal wall.  I don't feel comfortable with the idea of no chemo or radiation!  I do appreciate seeing a new bag of antibiotics hanging every day.  For a small hospital, they seem pretty darn good. 

The first nurse that she had for a full shift caught a medication time error.  I was so thrilled to see that they are on the ball.  They say now that she may be able to leave tomorrow.  Apparently she's now doing so well, except that she doesn't really want to eat.  But she never wants to eat, so that's not unusual.  I'm hoping that once the pull the fluid bag, her appetite will come back.  They're talking about disconnecting her.  Off I go to get into the shower, and meet my aunt & cousin at my mom's house.  We are going to drive ahead of them to the hospital.  I'm hoping for continued great news; it seems likely!  I still have a lot of worries, but I won't let them overtake us. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Never Thought I'd See the Day

For all of the years that my mom said that she didn't care if she lived or died, for all of the years that she insisted we let her rot & die without ceremony, we landed at the Emergency Room last night for her.  As I wrote back in March, she told me that she knew she was sick, but then she retracted her statement.  I was busy putting two and two together; I was fairly certain she had liver cancer.  It would make sense after so many years of drinking, though she didn't drink heavily.  At least a daily whiskey sour when I was a kid, sometimes more.  In later years, a glass of wine a night.  She didn't talk to me for a week or two when I explained to her that I thought she had cancer, and she needed to be seen.  She told me she didn't care, she wasn't going to bother, and then she claimed she was fine.  I knew better.   So did my husband and my sister.  My father was quick to tell me that she just needed to eat at Sweet Tomatoes more.  Yeah, apparently he thinks I'm dramatic.  I think he's confused.

Well, I tried to push her, but she's more stubborn than I am so I was left to make subtle suggestions and hope for the best.  Finally yesterday, some five months later, she decided she was ill enough to go to a doctor.  I jumped on this.  She thought they would send her to the hospital, so I pointed out that if we went to the ER she wouldn't have to wait for an appointment.  They wouldn't send her home and then to a hospital (like she had thought).   She was severely dehydrated by this point.  She is still dehydrated a day later after several bags of IV fluids.  She couldn't keep ANYthing in her.  I am so grateful that she finally decided to go to the hospital.  She told me that she was so sure that she had cancer that she ordered a wig off of TV.  It was sitting unopened in her living room.  She knew she would need chemo, and lose her hair.  That gave me great hope.  To me, that said that she's ready to fight for the first time.  It always made me so sad that she views herself as so disposable.  We've always tried to build her up, but she's always been a hardened pessimist.  Oh, so much can change in a short time!

She decided the hospital wasn't too bad in the first few hours.  She was a little disappointed that they assigned her a male nurse; she doesn't trust male nurses, but hers was ok. Then they made her drink about 40 ounces of contrast fluid for her CT scan.  She was so happy to have a drink!  Until about ten ounces were gone and she still HAD to drink the other 30.  That's when she started to become less than amused.  The CT went well, and it wasn't too long before the doctor came in with a diagnosis.  She said, "Well, I have some bad news."  Pause.  Waiting for us, I guess.  Then, "You have colon cancer.  A big mass that's blocking the intestines.  That's what's causing all of your discomfort."  Ok.  I think they were surprised at how quiet and calm we both were, but we both knew.  She had told the doctor earlier that she had a tumor.  I had marveled over how distended her stomach was.  Standing up it didn't look it at all.  Laying down... different story.   Next came the G-tube.  Now there's a treat.  I had never seen this before.  From a clinical perspective, WOW is that cool!  When it's your mom, not so much.  She took this like a pro.  She teared up just a bit, but she was so reserved & brave!  She made me so proud.  It's amazing how much crap was hanging out in her stomach.  Obviously, at this point they had decided to keep her.  I had planned for that anyway.  At 4 A.M. we were moving upstairs.  They put me in a waiting room to get her set up, but they forgot about me.  Around 5 A.M. I got back to her.  She was very uncomfortable because of the G-tube, but determined to make the best of it.  At 5:30 I couldn't stay safely anymore.  I had to go home and try to get some sleep.  I finally crashed around 6:30 A.M.  I barely slept because I was waiting for the phone to ring.

When I got back to the hospital with my oldest daughter around 1 P.M., the surgeon had already come to see her.  He hadn't left the floor yet so they asked him to please come speak with me.  He explained that everyone has a valve in the colon that opens and closes to let fluid down.  He said most people with colon problems have that valve stuck shut so nothing goes down.  Well, mom's was working just fine, and was so full that it was getting ready to blow.  They had to operate now before it ruptured.  He couldn't tell me if anything else was affected because the tumor was about the size of a medium potatoe.  Awesome, huh?  He said that even if it hadn't reached the liver or lymph nodes (normally staging it at stage 2 or 3) because it caused such an obstruction it was considered a stage 4.  He said that he would be surprised if it hadn't spread.  Was I shocked?  No, because my mom is immune to pain.  She's spent so many years ignoring pain that she's become an expert.  Why would this be different?  She knew it was bad, but she could still ignore it.  We only had a few minutes with her before they took her downstairs.  I was able to kiss her, tell her how much we love her, and finally get out a few tears.  That's as much as I've been able to get out.  I'm so used to dealing with trauma that I just can't cry like I want to.

She made it through surgery very well.  They had said that depending on how well she did, she may go back to our normal room, or she may go to ICU.  The surgeon also said that she would likely have a colostomy bag, but it would be reversible.  He said that he would try to stitch her up without out, but no guarantees.  Seriously, this guy wins my "Docs That Rock" award.  She came out of surgery missing most of her colon, with no colostomy bag.  How did he do it?  I have no clue, but my relief was amazing!  I was sure that she would be very depressed and lose the will to fight if she had to deal with the bag.  Thank you, Dr. Brock!  He said that the reason her stomach hurt so badly was the tumor had grown into the abdominal wall.  His good work at removing the mass from the wall resulted in a hernia, but that seems like a small price to pay.  They also placed a large, 3 line port in her neck.  She couldn't figure out why she was having such a hard time speaking.  Well, that does it.  She seemed in good spirits this evening despite the pain level being, at times, "an 11 on a scale of 1-10".

I am a huge mixed bundle of emotions.  I am so grateful that she finally agreed to treatment, that she did so well, and that she seems to be going along with their plans for her future.  I am still worried about her prognosis.  We haven't really been given that yet.  I know what stage 4 generally means, but the surgeon also said that it didn't appear to have spread, though he would be surprised if it hadn't.  We will know more when the pathology report comes in.  It's refreshing to have dropped the appearance that everything is fine, what are you worried about?  It's nice to just be there with her.  She's been so darn cute.  I am really not prepared for things to get any worse than this.  She's the only one that I call.  She's been the one I turn to for many years, even when I knew I would get yelled at by her.  I wish to God that she had gone in March, but she was only going on her terms.  I can't change the past, but I can certainly help to mold her future.  With God guiding and strengthening us all, we'll get by.  She probably shouldn't have lived through the severe dehydration, but she did, and she was damn lucky that colon didn't rupture, 'cuz that likely would have killed her very quickly.  The way I see it, she's already sailed through potential death twice.  See?  Miracles do happen.  We are very blessed.