On July 10, I brought my mom to Tucson. Mom hadn’t been feeling well for some time. In fact, just a few days before I got her, she was diagnosed with pneumonia and given a steroid and antibiotic.
The day after we got to Tucson, she needed to go to the ER – she couldn’t breathe. She was given another Rx for antibiotics and sent home. Five days later, we went to Urgent Care and were given a nebulizer. Three days after that, we had to call an ambulance and she was admitted to hospital. Almost immediately after being admitted to the hospital, she lost use of her legs and was catheterized. She was in the hospital for seven days. On her sixth day there, she was informed that she had stage 4 lung cancer, adrenal cancer and cancer in her bronchia. The oncologist told her that she had a couple of months and that she could double that with chemo.
Mom at Hoover Dam
My mother decided she didn’t want to do chemotherapy. She didn’t want to feel even worse for the time she had – not for just a couple of extra months. I honored her wishes and called the oncologist to let her know. The oncologist yelled at me and discharged my mother the following day. Mom had asked to go to Hospice and was transferred.
Mom was in hospice for five days. She’d been insistent that she didn’t want to come to my home and we were having a hard time trying to figure out what to do to accommodate that wish. I finally just told her it would be easier if she’d just come home with me. She was transferred to my home on Wednesday, July 30.
The following Monday, she stopped eating and drinking and was mostly unresponsive. I used swabs to get water into her and made sure she was not in pain. The next day, she rallied and was eating and drinking some, her eyes and her speech had changed a LOT, but she could communicate to a degree. She did that a couple times that week, fall into a mostly unresponsive state then she’d rally a bit the following day.
Friday, August 8, my brother, his wife, my sister, her husband and their baby came. Mom was somewhat communicative – sometimes she’d start a sentence, fall asleep and wake up to finish the sentence 10-20 minutes later. But she did not perceive the time lapse – she thought it was no time at all, so she’d think that someone disappeared. That day, she asked me “When will that man be here?” and “I’m ready to go, where is that man?” I’m certain she was referring to my father, who passed in 1991. Earlier, I’d related to her what I’d seen when I died with my pulmonary embolism and told her I knew dad was waiting for her. I think she was ready to go and terrified to let go at the same time. There were a few times she saw someone standing next to me that I couldn’t see – she’d ask me “who is that?” and I’d look where she pointed. “Who does it look like?” I was not going to tell her “I don’t see anyone there, Mom”. No.
Saturday, August 9, Mom slipped into a completely unresponsive state in the early evening. While we kept her meds going for her round the clock and gave her drops of water with swabs, it was obvious that she was on her way – there would be no more rallying.
The following morning about half past 8, her breathing slowed to a stop. One month to the day from when I brought her here.
Where did that doc get two to three months? I know that it’s a guesstimate to begin with, but seriously – mom lasted two WEEKS from the day she got diagnosed, not two months. This is not expressed with anger or resentment (honest!), but with some astonishment. This has been like a whirlwind.
For her, I am glad it was quick. Her pain was massive and global – not just in her back, but everywhere (adrenal failure – the little oh-so-important organs couldn’t mitigate inflammation). But quite honestly, it feels so fast to me and so slow at the same time – I think my brain really hasn’t fully processed this yet.
I’ve completely lost Monday and Tuesday even though I went to a meeting at the funeral home one of those days.
There are some funny stories that happened during all of this. After that Monday’s drastic downturn, but during one of her rallying days, Mom wanted some dried pineapple. But she couldn’t find the word. She kept saying pumpernickel. Pumpernickel, pumpernickel. No. That’s not the word… It’s small and yellow. Now, Mom had been watching a lot of Spongebob on Roku (her nerves – remember, the adrenals were pretty much gone – so the only thing they were producing, if anything, was adrenaline and she couldn’t move her body to burn the adrenaline off), so when she said small and yellow, I thought “oh, she wants me to turn on Spongebob”. So I asked her “Spongebob?” and she said “no, but he lives in one under the sea”. OH! Pineapple.
My mom’s dog, Sadie, came along with mom. Now, my mom was not one of those ladies who has a little pooch she hauled around with her. Sadie was born underneath my mother’s neighbor’s house. The house is a rental and the people who lived there at the time had 3 dogs. When the mama dog was gravid, they did not increase her food. Mom didn’t realize that until one day, when a pup dragged itself to my mother’s doorstep – it’s eyes weren’t even open yet. Mom put the pup back under the house with the mama dog and she saw that the mama dog had separated the pups into two groups – the keepers and the can’t-keepers. Mom called around trying to get some intervention for the situation, but no one could or would help. Mom started feeding the mama dog. Even so, that pup dragged herself to mom’s door a second time. That pup was Sadie. She weighs 70lbs today.
While Mom was in hospital and hospice, I’d put Sadie outside every morning before I left to go visit Mom. Well, she’d decided I’d done
Sadie – AFTER she’d decided I wasn’t Cruella.
something terrible to Mom and wouldn’t let me near her. She acted as though I was Cruella out to make a Sadie coat. I’d have to pick Sadie up and carry her outside, then make it back to the door before she did. Every single morning. She’d howl the entire time I was gone. Upon my return, she’d smell Mom on me, and want to go out to check the garage and car for where I was hiding Mom.
One morning, thinking it would help the dog and maybe Mom, I did take Sadie to Hospice. The place caused Sadie to panic completely (maybe she thought it was the vet’s office or maybe it was the aromatherapy they pump into the air there) – she dragged me out of there with so much force I thought she was going to tear my shoulder up. Even after that, though, Sadie wanted to check the garage and car every day.
The day Mom came home from hospice, Sadie was so happy. She loved on mom, licked her hand and walked over to where I was sitting and put her head down against my knees. She looked me in the eye and I knew she realized what was going on. She didn’t act like I was Cruella again after that.
Sadie stopped going into Mom’s room to visit her on August 7th. The kids take Sadie on very long walks through our neighborhood every day and that’s good for all three of them. 🙂
And life goes on…. She wouldn’t want it any other way.