It has been a few weeks since I last posted. I've attempted several times and really didn't know where to begin and how to get started. I am not sure what to write about, what story to tell or what pictures to share. I am a little overwhelmed with it all.
I guess I will go ahead and tell the story..... the short version of what happened with my mom. I am so mad at myself. I kept planning on starting a private blog about her illness, so that I would always have it, but I never got around to it. Now it is too late for that. Lesson learned once again, the hard way.
Wednesday, January 27th, I went to meet my parents at Duke University Hospital for my mom's chemo treatment. She was in pretty good spirits. My aunt from Texas was with her and I think my mom was a little upbeat because of that. When I say she was in good spirits, I do not mean she was walking, full of energy and looking good. She looked awful. She was 100lbs, old looking and frail. We had to push her in a wheelchair at Duke. She wasn't able to walk steadily. She was always cold and had to bundle up. She was the sickest looking person in the entire chemo lab. That always bothered me. Go back and look at the picture taken in December and you will see what I mean.
During her treatment, she laid in a bed. Usually she would talk a little or watch a little TV. This time was different. She slept the entire time, a deep sleep and I sensed something was different with her.
Friday, two days later, she began to get very sick. She would not eat, would not wake up and needed help just to sit up. My dad and two aunts were up with her a lot during the night. This continued through the weekend. On Sunday morning she was taken by ambulance to the hospital in her town.
We live about one and a half hours away . We went to meet everyone at the ER, but had to navigate the snow and icy roads. We were told that she was in bad shape and that there was a great concern about her surviving. She was in pain and having trouble with her respiration. It was low. The pain medication that she needed would also slow her respiration even more and the doctor explained there was a great risk of her breathing stopping all together. We, my dad, brother and myself all unanimously agreed she needed to be out of pain no matter the risks. My dad had to sign a do not resuscitate paper.
She was eventually moved to a room. She stayed in that room for eight days. She had a bacterial infection and they treated it with antibiotics. Her white count had improved one day and then suddenly the next day showed signs the infection was getting worse. This was a bad sign.
She had a lot of trouble with the medication. Her respiration became really low and at times the nurses would not give her the pain meds because of it. We would have to demand and go get the nurses when it was time for her medication. Some of the nurses were wonderful and knew the best thing for my mom was to be out of pain, others were afraid of what would happen. My mom would then become very distressed when the medication started wearing off. She was aware of everything that was happening to her, was afraid and was in pain. She cried a lot and wouldn't let people leave her bedside. It was stressful and I wasn't able to be in her room much. At one time there were over seventeen people in the little hallway taking turns being in the room with her. Because of the infection we had to wear gowns, masks and gloves to go in.
Relatives came from all over. Aunts and uncles came from Texas. One drove straight through from west Texas. My cousin Lori (hi lori!!) flew from Tulsa. Another aunt and cousin drove two hours each way several days in a row to lend their support. It was almost like a circus, but a good circus.
Later in the week, after most everyone returned home, the doctor spoke to me about some test results. He started the conversation in front of my mom and I asked if we could talk in the hallway. He explained that my mom was septic, she had a toxin in her blood and it did not look good. He thought that we might want to consider moving her to a Hospice facility. My dad and I had gone to look at the facility earlier in the week. I do not know what I expected it to look like, but I found it to be a very difficult place to be in. I was very uncomfortable with the idea of my mom being moved there. I knew she would know where she was and it would upset her. The doctor also discussed the possibility of having my mom's treatment there in the hospital being switched to comfort care only. That means all antibiotics would be removed along with fluids and she would receive enough pain medication to allow her to rest 24/7. Think about what that means..... think about that decision. Although we knew the direction my mother was moving in was not a good one, it was a big reality check to agree to make that decision to remove all IV fluids. If someone would have told me that I was going to face all of these decisions in a very business like manner a few months ago, I never would have believed them.
After speaking to the doctor in the hallway, I went back into the room. My mom spoke to me for the very last time. She told me how sorry she was that this was happening to me and that she loved me.
Friday afternoon (Feb. 5th), my mom was placed under comfort care only. We put my mom's life in God's hand.
My girls visited their grandmother Friday evening by themselves. She was sedated, but I know she knew they were there. It was the last time she was with her "beautiful granddaughters" . Over the past week, everytime they would go into her room, she would say, "There are my beautiful granddaughters." She would also get upset. She told them she was so sad that she wasn't going to see them do things. I know she wanted so badly to see them graduate from college and go to their weddings. She loved doing and going to everything with them. I promised her that she would always be with them, no matter what, because she had made such a huge impact on their lives.
On Saturday, the man of the house and I went to the funeral home that my mom requested. (I have a really great husband!) I did everything I could do ahead of time. I hope this makes you smile.....during the week while she was in the hospital, out of nowhere, my mom opened her eyes and told my dad what funeral home she DIDN'T like. It kind of caught my dad off guard and he just said, "okay ". My mom then said, "Nobody ever looks good there" - and then she shut her eyes and went back to sleep. That was totally my mom! It makes me smile!
On Sunday, I sat in my mom's room with my cousin Lori, brother and sister in law and watched the Super Bowl. It was very surreal. When I left that night, that was the last time I would see my mom alive. She was totally at peace and FINALLY resting. My dad spent the last night at the hospital with her. After 53 years of marriage, it all came down to that one last night.
My mom was diagnosed with this cancer on November 4, 2009. After receiving two weeks of immediately needed radiation treatments to her brain, after weekly trips to Duke, spending three months in the bed, losing her hair, losing 45 pounds, losing her short term memory and so on, she passed three months and four days later. She is in a better place and as soon as she got there, she never looked backed. She is happy and I am happy about that. The cancer, it died.
The next week flew by. It is all a blur. My mom had told her pastor that she wanted her funeral to be a celebration and not to be sad. She wanted him to start the service with a joke.
We did it just as she wished.
I spent one day going through pictures to place around the tables at the funeral home.
I don't know which picture I love the most here....
her "glamour shot" when she was 30
her and the sassy italian waiter in Rome.
I also found these.
I love them!
We used them too.
We had a video/slideshow playing.
Can you tell who that is with her?
The flowers were gorgeous and
pink for her four granddaughters.
One of the men in my dad's Sunday School class gives all of the women in the
"Golden Girls" class chocolate kisses every Sunday.
It is a joke between them all.
He tells them they all need a "kiss" from him so that they can have a good day.
He gave my mom one last kiss.
He placed it on her at the visitation.
The day of her service was beautiful but cold and windy.
It worried us so much that all of those beautiful flowers were going to be frozen over night.
We pulled out enough to dry, press and then made several bouquets at home.
Thank you for ALL of the comments, well wishes, emails, cards and even the
chocolates Miss Linda!
I am very fortunate.
I cannot tell you how it makes me feel to open an email and read that someone
just said a prayer for me, is thinking about me or is just checking up on me.
I feel very blessed.