Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mixed News Day

The day started with a cup of coffee.  Not much was said about the day ahead just the fact that it would be a long day.  Robb and I made the drive to pick up Mom and Dad.  Mom looked great and she wore her teal hat to hide the scar on the back of her head.  She thought it might startle people so she wanted to cover it up, taking a little extra time to weave a few of the front pieces out the front so people would see that she does, indeed, have hair.  It’s cute.  She was so proud this morning to show everyone that she could walk around the apartment without the walker but she knew I wouldn’t be especially happy.  She was right.  I told her it was great and if she insisted than at least use a cane just in case.  She agreed that she is probably to “wobbly” to be flying solo right now.  We made some joke about the word “wobbly”…something about Thanksgiving, wobbly gobbly…sometimes I’m not sure of the jokes in her head but they make her smile that big, beautiful smile of hers and that’s all that matters.  We laughed.  She put on her black coat and started down the hallway.

Dad was his usual positive self, repeating, “Everything will be fine…You’re still with us”.  Sometimes it gets me frustrated to hear him repeat that every single day but then I feel bad when I do.  It’s beautiful and he is scared to lose the one constant that has been by his side for fifty years.  I watch him, sometimes, watching mom.  So in love, the two of them. 

Mom is claustrophobic so medication to get a 45 minutes MRI is necessary.  Mom was half baked by the time they came to get her.  I kissed her on the forehead like I usually do and assured her I would look after Dad during the procedure.  She is always thinking of others and especially her honey. 

Dad, Robb and I sat in the waiting room for about an hour.  Dad worked his puzzle book, a fantastic refuge for him whenever he needs to feel active or when life gets a little too confusing.  He was content.  Robb played with his electronic equipment and I found myself watching an old episode of Smallville, the contemporary Superman series.  An hour later they came to get us.

When I turned down the hallway I noticed mom in the wheelchair, her head down, shoulders wrapped in a toasty warm blanket.  She was still pretty baked from the medication but we greeted her and she immediately asked about ‘father’.  He took her hand while the nurse wheeled us to our next destination – radiation oncology. 

The ladies in radiation oncology are amazing people. The stories they hear and see every single day must be, at times, too much to bare.  We have talked on occasion about how important it is to recharge the personal batteries and how sometimes you just can’t take it personally.  They did not want to see Mom back after a year being free of cancer.  They held her hand, they hugged Dad. 

Mom had a quick scan and was fitted for the head mask they will use to keep her head very still during the radiation procedure. She will have CyberKnife procedure done in about a month.  She is in very good hands.

We left the hospital and stopped by the volunteer desk to see Sandy, our new friend.  Every single day during the first round of chemo and radiation Sandy was right there inside the main doors – with a smile for Mom.  When it’s not busy she comes out from the desk and gives Mom a hug.  She sent her a wonderful card on the day of surgery three weeks ago.  A warm soul and loving heart.  All a part of the healing process and a gift from God. 

We all had a quick lunch and then made our way to the neuro-surgeon’s office.  This was a follow-up from Mom’s brain surgery and to get her assessment of the mornings’ MRI and CT.  She was twenty minutes late…just makes for our creative minds to carry us away in to worlds we shouldn’t be visiting, especially when cancer is bearing down on you.  She walked in, all five feet and some odd inches of her.  She pulled up the images on the computer and showed us the results.  Plain, simple, matter-of-fact…I guess it doesn’t pay to warm up to it, right?  Nothing you can say beforehand will soften the blow so get to it and get it done.  The surgery was successful but there is a chance, as evidenced in the scans, that there may be some residual cancer in the brain.  You could almost hear the corporate sigh as we all took a breath and tried to remain composed.  The doctor picked up on it very quickly and immediately went in to a barrage of questions for mom…some necessary I’m sure…others perhaps to get us all re-focused on the task at hand:  beating cancer.

The doctor is pretty amazing. She has an incredible reputation and her father is a leading neuro-surgeon as well.  She has 2 kids and enjoys skiing, watching movies and traveling, in her spare time.  She addressed our concerns head-on and told us that, as she had suspected and stated before the surgery, Mom’s eyesight in her right eye, which is gone about 35%, will not return.  It shouldn’t get rapidly worse but with all eye issues you have to, well, keep an eye on them.  Mom’s immediate reaction was to look over at me and recite the name of the regular eye doctor we go to and hinted to set up an appointment.  I told her we’ll get that set up in the near future.

The hardest part was to listen to the other damage that Mom sustained as a result of the tumor and the brain surgery. There is some cognitive damage done that is not reversible. Her recall and association has been compromised. She knows when it doesn't make sense which is good, I guess. It's just scary to talk with her and realize that we have to repeat ourselves often and that she gets facts screwed up a lot. That gets her upset and I'm sure it won't be long before she thinks that we are just toying with her.  As an example, Mom has two major appointments on the calendar this month; todays and one in two weeks.  It’s on the calendar by the door:  scans/surgeon and then on the 21st blood work, scans and Dr. Hake.  She continually gets them mixed up.  One day she’s confident that today was blood work and a scan and that the 21st was a doctor follow-up.  When corrected she gets visibly upset with herself and you can see her trying to fix that part of her mind that keeps betraying her.  She has always been in 100% control of her mind and all the inner workings of the household, finances, health, etc. Now she isn't and that may take some time for her to adjust to.

The surgeon agreed to back off of the pain medication.   What mom is reporting for her pain levels should be controllable with some simple Tylenol and maybe a heat pack or two.  When we got home the medication issues got Mom pretty confused but she kept trying to take control and show us that she really did know what was going on.  I took her hand and told her to forget about it – it wasn’t important because “she had people for that”.  She smiled but I know it hurts her to have to rely on anyone.  Thankfully the medication was still kicking in and I’m sure she slept it off for the rest of the afternoon.

The radiologist called me and confirmed that after our meeting with the surgeon, the two of them talked and agreed to wait one month to do CyberKnife.  I will make the appointment in the morning for her.  The next step:  we will find out on the 21st of this month if the cancer has spread anywhere else besides the brain.  We’re all nervous. Who wouldn’t be?  It’s natural, right?  We talk about it. We talk about all scenarios:  no cancer we celebrate.  Cancer and we attack and fight with chemo. Widespread cancer and we cry a lot and talk about other options. 

Mom continues to fight.  She continues to be strong.  Mom and Dad together are an incredible force to be reckoned with, proving once again that love does, indeed, prevail in all situations.  Their love is a love that is patient and kind – a love that has never envied or been over proud. Their love is one that honors one another deeply and profoundly.  Their love is never quick to anger and by the close of every day any wrongs are forgiven.  Their love is a love that protects them both…it always hopes…and it always perseveres. 

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