Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Crying Wolf

The trip to mom's went ok, for the most part. We got a lot accomplished, as far as clearing out my room went. My sister and I sat and listed to the hospice people be as comforting and vague as they possibly could. They did, however, give us some booklets to read - hopefully I'll be getting my own copy soon. I read them at my parents house, but I want them here, where I can access them when I need to. There was also a poem in the back of two of the books, both of which almost made me burst into tears. When I get them, I'll post them.

According to the "very flexible timeline" that the books put forth, mom has between one and three months. Dad thinks a month and a half, mom says three. Either way...before the end of the year. This information, along with a half-assed comment that mom made about me skipping a semester, made me re-evaluate school. There were a few days of intense discussion around here that culminated in me deciding to just talk to my profs before classes start - see what they think will happen if I miss a few weeks. Will I be able to keep up? Will they be willing to send me my assignments so I can try?

Today I talked to mom and that whole discussion might very well have been moot. Her kidneys are shutting down. The doc is going to try her on a new diuretic to see if they can jumpstart them, but if they can't then I don't know what they'll do. I suggested dialysis, until the rest of her body is ready to go, but mom says she can't think that far ahead. My sister is supposed to be going down in a little less than three weeks and mom said "I might be dead by then" which is what prompted the whole kidney conversation.

I am going to try and go down this weekend, since I don't have to work on Monday. I'll go when I get off work on Saturday. I just don't know how long I can keep doing that. The lead TA at our other office put in his resignation, two weeks ending on the 7th. Until school starts, I can take all his shifts so that they're covered - we're not busy enough at my office that my boss HAS to have me and they desperately need me at the other one, so off I go. Once classes start, though, they'd better have someone in place or they're going to be SOL. If mom dies, though, I'll need the time to go down there and they'll be SOL anyways. As horrible as this sounds, mom being gone in a few weeks would actually be the best timing possible...if one can truly have a "best time possible" to die.

Here's where crying wolf comes in: Husband says I should tell my boss and my regional about this latest crisis. I feel like I'm saying "Mom has six months. No wait, now it's closer to 2-3. Oh wait - her kidneys are going and it might be only a few weeks. Oh - nevermind, they solved that crisis and her kidneys are going again...we're back to the 3 month mark. Oh - another crisis has popped up...." Well, you get the idea. On the other hand, if I DON'T tell them then they have no time to prepare and are caught in the lurch. I know death isn't SUPPOSED to be plannable, but if at all possible...head up is nice. I just don't want them to roll their eyes and say "here she goes again...wonder if her mother will actually die this time."

My outside is relatively calm - I'm fidgety, and typing like a mad woman, but I'm relatively calm. The inside, however, has been reduced to a gibbering mass. I want to flee, but I have no place to flee too. I want to call everyone, but I don't really want to talk about it. I feel like I'm spinning in circles and it fucking sucks.

Friday, July 25, 2008


I'm not sure how much sense this post is going to make. There's so much in my head that needs to get out, so I'm probably going to ramble. Where to start? Let's see...

Mom was allergic to the oxycontin, so she couldn't take that. Instead, they put her on methadone - you know, the stuff they give people who are getting off heroin. Yeah, THAT stuff. At any rate, it seems to be working pretty well. The first day she was fuzzy as all fuck, but after that she sounded better than she has in weeks.

Two days ago she woke up very dizzy and unstable. She had to use her walker all day, because she just couldn't walk. It cleared up a bit after she ate, which indicates it was a blood sugar issue. Mom said "I have the feeling that I'll end up with some form of diabetes before this is over. I think my pancreas is giving out due to all the pressure on it." It's times like this when I think mom really doesn't get what's happening. She'll have a complete system shutdown as the cancer spreads to each of her organs. Anything that can go wrong when an organ fails, will. Diabetes will be the LEAST of her problems as this thing snowballs...but I'm not sure she gets that. Maybe she just can't think about it.

Yesterday she couldn't breath. She called me, sounding really out of it, and it took me a few minutes to figure out what she was trying to tell me. (Apparently my father was trying to lose at his online Omaha Poker game, in case he had to take her to the hospital, but he just couldn't lose!) Hospice finally came to the house to check on her and call the hospital to see if they could get her in for a CAT and a periocentesis. I was very proud of my father - the man who can't pronounce c'est la vie no matter how often he sees it managed to correctly pronounce periocentesis AND tell me what it was. Anyways, I called last night to see if they fit her in...nope. As a matter of fact, they can't get her in until MONDAY. My mother can't take more than a few steps without puffing like an asthmatic, she hurts pretty bad, sounds like shit...and they can't manage to squeeze her in for a CAT until Monday. I hope she doesn't asphyxiate...

When I was talking to mom last night, she suggested that I might skip this semester of school. Talk about being blindsided! Mom has refused to even let me think of missing a day to come and see her, or dropping out to take care of her...until now. I don't know what to do with this. I've already got an application for the FMLA leave that I'm working on, just in case I have to go take care of her. Dad needs a break sometimes, you know? There are so many ups and downs to taking a semester off. I tried to list them, but I can't seem to find all of them this morning. I blame the lack of sleep. I managed to remember these:

The lead TA at one of our offices quit, so I'd have more time to pick up the slack, which means more hours for me.

I would be available to take care of mom whenever I was needed - no working around school.

I"m feeling burnt out as it is.

I would also be able to take care of dad for a while, without having to worry about school and work.

We have been planning on me going full-time in January - all the finances are set up that way. If I take time off, we may have to use savings...and then we wouldn't have any for while I was in school, which means finances could get royally fucked.

Mom may NOT die while I'm out of school, which means I'd still have to deal with it all when I go back anyways and it would have all been for naught.

I'm currently on a special dispensation for my financial aid - they weren't going to give it to me because I have too many credits, but if I promise to graduate in december they'll let me have it. If I don't, none for the following semester. (I will talk to them about extenuating circumstances...)

I'm going to my parent's house tonight, as is my sister. Tomorrow mom is having a hospice/social worker come to the house to talk to us, answer any questions we have and tell us what we can expect. (I hope we don't get the "Cancer affects everyone differently so we don't really know what to expect" stock line that they give - I may strangle someone.) Aaron and I will decide after that what I'm going to do about school. If it were him, he'd just do it and get it out of the way, and if mom dies during the school year, he'd deal with the special dispensation then. Part of me thinks that's a good idea, part of me thinks that I really don't want to battle the college at the same time I'm trying to deal with everything else. He says that he promises not to think any less of me for whatever way I decide to go - he knows what he would probably do, but this is a very personal decision that he can't really help me with. I know this...but I also know that it could very well screw things up for both of us, so there's a lot riding on me making the right decision.

I think I'm also going to make an appt to see my old counselor from the beginning of the year. I am ill-equipped to make these decisions on my own, and being paralyzed because of options doesn't do any of us any good. Ok - I have to go to work. I'll probably update again after the weekend, assuming I have the energy to get my thoughts out.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bring on the drugs, baby!

Mom heard about a new chemo, called "warmed chemo". She went to talk to the oncologist about it yesterday. Apparently, it's for use in the abdominal cavity if the cancer hasn't spread. For example, if there was a spot on her liver, they could use it there. Essentially, they cut you open and apply the chemo directly to the spot. Doesn't sound pleasant to me, and most people who have this type of chemo end up with peritonitis. Also not pleasant. These things are beside the point, because mom can't do it.

The cancer is spreading again. They found it in her liver and lungs. The hydrocodone she's been taking is no longer effective, so the doc is now giving her oxycontin. If that doesn't work, it's off to happy happy morphine land for her. She's looking into starting hospice, because they can't put her on the morphine unless she's in hospice care.

Mom says "I'm starting to feel discomfort around my liver." Discomfort?! I know my mother - if she's mentioning it, she feels like hell and hurts very much. She has a high pain tolerance, way higher than mine. This is the woman who drove herself 20 miles to the hospital with a rag around her finger after she pulled the tip of her index finger off! Evidence of this pain? The drugs they're giving her. These are end stage drugs, from what I can figure out.

The train is rolling, and it's gaining speed. Not that I didn't expect it to - cancer grows exponentially...the bigger it gets, the faster it grows. If I keep thinking of it in terms of biology, I'm ok. Once I start thinking about what's actually happening...not so much. I feel like I'm in shock. I don't know what to say to mom, what to do, how to act. I'm going down there next weekend and I don't know what to expect. I'm scared, I'm worried...and you're all I've got. And my husband, but...I'm trying to save him for when I REALLY fall apart.

Oh mommy...what am I going to do without you?