Fighting off the scary, scary, scaries

(I had a quirky post started on the subject of my mother and a very funny conversation we had a week ago Tuesday after she and my father had spent 12 hours in the emergency room — the ER wasn’t funny, nor was the reason for the visit, but my mother is pretty funny when she’s feeling bad. Not crying is really my only job right now — being strong and upbeat so that they don’t know how sad and scared I really am — and the black humour we share helps. But it’s hard, so very hard today.)

In an attempt to treat the cancer in her body, my mother will be undergoing three rounds of chemotherapy, followed by surgery, and then three more rounds of chemo. I don’t know what specific type of chemo she gets; I just know that she gets it for something like six hours at a time, and that it is particularly toxic. In the time since she had her first round three weeks ago, she has lost all of her hair and has taken to wearing biker hats instead of scarves or wigs. (She picked up her first wig, a lovely shade of dark brown that she has never in her life ever had, at the Cancer Centre this past Tuesday.) We use the “kidney stone scale” to judge how bad she’s feeling — if she feels less sick than when she’s passing a lot of kidney stones, it’s OK. Her “OK” would flatten me, though. She’s a far stronger person than I am.

This past Wednesday, she went in for her second round of chemo. Within minutes, she had a severe anaphylactic reaction that, among other things, caused her airway to close. They gave her epinephrine, antihistamines, oxygen, and I don’t know what else, and when she was able to breathe again, started the chemo back up. Subsequently, the line came out of her arm, spilling the chemical cocktail all over her and everything else. But they all soldiered on, finishing up the round.

Late Wednesday night, she sat down on the couch and couldn’t get up again because her left leg had a palsy. My Dad carried her back to bed and the next morning, after she slipped onto the bathroom floor while trying to get dressed and Dad couldn’t pick her up, they called 911. The EMTs took them to a different hospital than usual. After seeing that the x-rays of Mom’s knee showed nothing wrong, the doctor told them it was probably just an side effect of the toxic amounts of chemo she’d just had and sent them home.

By this morning (Friday morning — it’s late night Friday/early Saturday as I write this), she was starting to have trouble with her left hand so my oldest brother and my Dad trundled her off to their usual emergency room. Where they learned that she’d actually had a stroke yesterday. A small one, but a stroke nonetheless. (Wouldn’t it have been nice if, oh, I dunno, maybe the ER doctor from yesterday had have considered “stroke”? Nothing like waiting an extra 24 hours untreated.) She’s going to have to stay in the hospital for at least a week and undergo physical therapy. I know little beyond that.

I’ve been talking to my parents every evening for the last eleven days…

I’m a little afraid for tomorrow’s call.


5 thoughts on “Fighting off the scary, scary, scaries

  1. Aw, Louise..I’m sending you a big hug. Having been through something similar with my father, I know a little of how you must be feeling right now. Watching a parent go through something like this is devastating. They’re supposed to be the big, strong ones who guide you and advise you and love you all that is crumbling — quickly. And you’re scared of losing them, of their pain and suffering and you’re angry about the whole thing and you want to do something – anything – to make it all better; but you can only stand by and try not to fall apart. I know you want to be strong for your parents, but my advice is when you’re not with them, allow yourself to feel everything you’re feeling — share those feelings, talk about them with your friends and family or even a counsellor if you need to – because it takes a long, long time to get through and past an experience like this. Losing my father to a long, lingering illness was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to cope with and I just didn’t have the faculties to handle it well. It’s been 25 years and I still have residual issues. So, I’m just saying, I know it’s bloody hard and I feel for you. Take care of yourself and keep us posted.

  2. Thanks, XUP. I appreciate it, I really do.

    Part of my problem may be that I’m not actually watching this happen. My family is in Halifax, and I”m here. There’s a limit to how I can support, and how I can be supported, from this distance. Still, I’d never be able to hold it together in person, and the last thing they need is me bawling all over the place, so maybe it’s just as well I’m not physically there right now. I really miss talking to my Mom, though — and it’s a sudden reminder, one that I just wasn’t ready for, of what it’s going to be like when she’s gone.

    I’m not at an angry point yet. I doubt I ever will be. I don’t believe in the kind of God that you can work up a righteous anger against, and, for all that I occasionally bitch about incompetent doctors, I’ve never wondered why anything has ever happened to anyone. Shit just happens.

  3. Ya, that’s pretty much what I meant by anger. Not at “god” but at doctors and nurses whenever they didn’t treat my dad the way I thought he should be treated; or over some of the stupid/thoughtless things they said; anger that this had to happen at all; etc., etc. Can’t you take some time to go over for a visit? I’m sure she’d love to see you no matter how bawly you get. They have some amazing deals on airfare to Halifax right now.

  4. My going to Halifax depends on a lot of things that I can’t (or maybe “won’t” would be more accurate) go into here, things that are currently up-in-the-air, things that have to be sorted. It’s definitely on my mind, though.

    I got to speak with her briefly on the phone a couple of times today. She can talk, which is good, but she sounds slightly different (in a way I can’t really articulate except to say that she sounds like a slightly drugged version of herself) and it’s clear that there are some neurological signal disconnects as she struggles to put thoughts into words. She apparently has some tiny movement ability on her left side, but otherwise is paralyzed on that side. It looks like it’ll be a fairly long haul to get her back anywhere near where she was a couple of weeks ago. And we don’t know what’s going to happen with the whole cancer treatment thing.

  5. Pingback: The long, lonely road « Life Begins at 41…or maybe 43

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