It’s been awhile since I’ve felt like writing anything here. The truth is, writing about my Mom’s battle with cancer takes a lot out of me.
I often have to remind myself to stay on task. My purpose with this blog is to report about what’s going on with Mom.
I’m trying to remember to have faith and that God has it all, and that all I have to do is be brave enough to show up and do my part.
Some days I’m better at that than others.
But aren’t we all?
Trying desperately to stay on task herself, Mom continued to take her oral chemo meds and felt awful doing it. She started getting red bumps all over her face and arms, and her belly pain was significantly worse than before she started taking the medication.
I got to her house and found her in the hallway standing with the assistance of her walker – panting and sweating. She was very pale and unsteady on her feet. When I asked her what was going on she seemed confused by the question. I was scared.
She sat down and was still out of breath.
Since she has aortic aneurysms, COPD and cancer, with a history of heart attacks, I was trying to decide if any of it was going sideways enough to call for an ambulance. After a few minutes of chatting I was convinced nothing dire was afoot, but she did need a pain pill and to call her doctor.
Dr. Savage told her to cut the dose of the chemo in half and if it was still an issue the next day to drop it. I think Mom felt both relief and defeat with that decision.
She turned to me after that conversation and with tears in her eyes said: “I just don’t want to leave you.”
I know what cancer does and how it works. I also feel that if you are a cancer patient your mindset, your support system and your faith can alter that course.
I went home that night wishing I could be in two places at one time. My house and her house.
The next afternoon when I returned she was in bed curled around her pillow. The doctor had called again and they’d decided to stop the oral chemo all together. It was being used as a boost to the infusion drug she receives once every three weeks, but it was not ‘the one’ they thought would do the most good.
She said she was in less pain than the day before, but that the pain always amped up when she would eat. We both agreed that she needed to eat though. And as always, drink more water to help her feel better and flush that stuff through.
I had stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up some things and set to work in the kitchen to prepare a whole wheat pizza (love their pre-made dough…) with zucchini, onion and mushrooms. I steamed two artichokes to go with our pizza.
Mom took her pancreatic enzymes and tried a few bites. She liked it. I liked it. And amazingly enough, she was in no real pain. She finished eating her pizza and artichoke and felt relatively good afterwards.
Low fat foods in small amounts seem to be key. Even better if it’s meatless.
I spent the night with her and took my dog Brownie to get a recheck by her surgeon the following morning. Brownie had surgery to remove half her lower jaw due to squamous cell cancer 14 days before, and thankfully is cancer-free according to the pathology. Following this good news we returned to Mom’s to do some housekeeping.
Mom managed to pay some bills and clean up her desk. Both things that took focus – something she has been lacking on chemo.
While checking her cell phone she noted a message from a sweet friend who wanted to come over with another friend to give her a healing massage. They set it up for the next day.
The massage was wonderful, but the loving friendship and prayerful action was what was so healing. When I spoke with her hours later she relayed to me that she’d actually seen Christ standing at her feet at one moment during the relaxing session. Mom slept very soundly after that visit.
Today when we were together her midsection pain was roaring again. Her energy was low and while she had gotten a shower, that was about all she could muster. We ate lunch and more paperwork. I listed her appointments on a whiteboard near the kitchen, did some laundry, dumped trash and generally ran around trying to remember what I needed to do next.
Amid all the busy movements I often abruptly stop just to hold her close.
If she can tolerate it, I curl up next to her in bed. I hold her hand. I kiss her lips, cheeks and forehead. I look into her eyes and try to memorize her face.
And then I gather my stuff and head for the door to make the trip home. Sometimes crying in my car before I leave the driveway, but always grateful for another day to be together.
On Thursday of next week Mom will get blood drawn. Friday she will see Dr. Savage at 8am to re-evaluate chemo treatments and discuss how she’s feeling. If the cancer numbers are going down in her blood and nothing else is off, it’s likely she will receive an infusion of chemotherapy the following Tuesday.
Despite her pain Mom hasn’t lost a lot of weight or become jaundice, both common late stage symptoms and side effects from treatment of pancreatic cancer.
With cancer treatment, physical changes are inevitable.
Some people ask me how my Mom looks. They seem sort of afraid to ask, and even more afraid to hear the answer.
The funny thing is, she looks pretty damn good considering!
People are surprised by how she is still ‘in there’ with the same warmth and sense of humor, but I’m not.
My eyes see her by way of my heart.
From every angle, in every light, all I see the same beautiful spiritual essence I’ve loved all my life.
And I would imagine that no matter what comes next, that will always be true.