Since its a been a little while since I posted an update, as some of you know, my Mother found out that she had Stage IV lung cancer - with the tumor migrating to her spine - shortly after my father died in June. She underwent an initial round of chemo and radiation with some success.
Then her body simply started to break down from the effects of everything. The doctor also openly admitted that he overdid the amount of chemo for one treatment, and she would not listen to advice and did not rest as much as she needed to - or stop smoking (she's smoked for over 60 years - even at this late point, its been shown that quitting smoking can help the treatment work better than it would otherwise). She has had issues with gout for years, and the chemo aggravated that big time... some days, she couldn't even pull on loose house slippers because her feet were so swollen.
Anyway, on the 17th, she was supposed to have a chemo treatment but was so ill her oncologist put her in hospital and she's still there. I flew out to Des Moines on the 29th and got back yesterday. Hospice has been arranged, and ramps are being built on her house in hope that she will get well enough to go home - for a while - until she goes to Taylor House for in-patient hospice. Hospice will still come out and visit her daily while she's at home, manage her pain meds and general care, and she has plenty of relatives and friends in the DSM area to make sure she's well-taken care of and not alone. I am an only child, and, unfortunately, have to work but I will be flying back in a few weeks.
She was supposed to be released on Tuesday of this week, but was too ill and in too much pain. The tumor(s) is feasting on her spine, pelvis and now she has a spot on the back of her skull. Nothing is immediately life-threatening but its a combination of pain, weakness and trying to get her stable enough to send her home. They want to do a couple more radiation treatments on her back as part of pain alleviation although in my estimation its not doing her a hell of a lot of good. Of course, it being hospital, their focus is on acute care rather than pallative as is hospice, where they will give her as much pain meds as is safe and keeping her conscious and alert.
This has been very hard to watch. Some of it is due to, as I've explained to others, the "Medical Crisis" my family has been in starting in 1976, when Dad had his heart attack and first bypass. My parents love Springer-esque drama and one reason I moved so far away - and I love them, but - the drama will just eat you alive. Dad was supposed to die so many times, and, um, he didn't - in 87, when he had his 2nd bypass they said he'd live 2 years - well, he died in June at 75. So they were kind of wrong.
I was hoping with my father's passing that my Mom, who basically gave up her adult life to stay a prisoner in the house and take care of him - he'd fuss if she was gone more than 20 minutes to the store - that she'd have an opportunity to get out of the cage, but no... and she knew she was sick for months but taking care of Dad was more important to her and she was worried that "seeing me like this would have killed him." Well, um, there's no way of knowing but if she'd gotten in sooner perhaps they might have been able to extend her life rather than what the treatment has done - at least IMHO - which is to shorten her time vs. doing nothing but pain relief at this point.
Not really asking for sympathy or empathy from any of you. My mother is not afraid to die, and we speak openly of how to deal with stuff once she is gone. She has always darkly said as long as I've known that "the cancer is going to get me like it got my aunts and my grandmother" and that would always p'o me as cancer does like to get people who smoke and won't take care of themselves... and yet she wouldn't change her behavior but make excuses that "it won't matter..."
Watching her in so much pain - tough. Its a little deceiving when you walk into her room as she's always been a little vain and had propecia for a long time and has worn wigs for several years, so with the wig on, and a little lipstick she doesn't look like a 74 year old cancer patient with 3-6 months to live. The thing that's driving me nuts is while the cancer may not ultimately been avoidable, much of the situation she's in medically right now could be different.
I left her Tuesday evening wondering if this would be the last time I see her alive ... we talk daily as she has a cell I gave her. Right as I'm getting on the plane to Sacramento in O'Hare yesterday - the door had been shut and its almost turn off cell phone time - I get a call from my cousin's wife, who is the main info conduit, saying "They're taking your Mom for a scoping - she just threw up 500ccs of blood this morning." It turned out its an ulcer - and an old one in their estimation - that was clipped off, but now they're saying Tuesday - maybe - for her getting out.
Welcome to our health care system, boys and girls, as my GF points out. There's got to be a better way for us to handle end-of-life issues rather than throw tech at the probs. I'm at the point where if I were her, I'd say "take me to Taylor House, get the pain under control, and let me go home for a few days... even if that is all I have left."
Thanks for letting me vent.