to your mother


Thursday, June 29, 2017

This is the Hardest Part

Don't worry people, the hardest part isn't all that big of a whoop, but for me it's heart wrenching at times.

The following pictures are from a visit in May (perhaps) with Becca (Mom's super-woman physical therapist/sister of Mom's palliative care dr.. Dr. Kent/dear friend) and her entourage of kiddos. My words won't match the pictures, but they sure are pleasant at which to look.

Here it is, June 29, 2017. About three months after Mom returned home from the hospital for her last stay there.

Mom for the most part is feeling better than she has in maybe years. No swelling in her legs. She is usually alert and peppy. She makes lots of people laugh and smile. Mom, for the most part, feels great.

Normal hemoglobin levels are about 11. Hemoglobin is the stuff that transports oxygen around our bodies. Low hemoglobin can make a person tired, make their organs and muscles not function correctly, make them feel yucky. The highest Mom's hemoglobin gets is just over 10. Let us not forget the episode a few year ago where her hemoglobin was hovering near a 5...the same day Mom had dressed herself, made herself a fried egg, transferred in and out of the car a few times to get her blood drawn, then was casually reading the paper when Dad got the call to take her to the ER. People, someone else with a 5 point level of hemoglobin would be dead in the bed. This lady? Just another day in paradise. 

Let us remember that mom's newest Dr holds the title palliative care. No life-saving episodes for Mom anymore, just trying to keep her comfortable and have a good quality of life. So. Without chemo, Mom's hemoglobin level drops 1 point a week. Her hemoglobin starts at a 10 after a transfusion, then each week drops a point (do the math, do the math) so about every four weeks she has been getting a transfusion.

When the blood work comes back with a 7.6, I get on the phone with Dr. Kent and she asks me the same question every four weeks.

"How is her quality of life?"
"Well, she went to the bonfire last Saturday night and roasted marshmallows."
"Okay, I'll order the transfusion for tomorrow. Peggy Anne? Remember that at some point this is not going to be the solution."
"I understand Dr. Kent, it's about quality of life. Thanks so much for all you do for my mom."

Then Mom gets the transfusion.

Fast forward to four weeks later. I call Dr. Kent.

"How is her quality of life?"
"Well, she went to the tea party last Tuesday. And when my husband took her Chinese food on Wednesday, she hooped and hollered and caused a good ruckus."
"Okay, I'll order the transfusion for tomorrow. Peggy Anne? Remember that at some point this is not going to be the solution."
"I understand Dr. Kent, it's about quality of life. Thanks so much for all you do for my mom."

Then Mom gets the transfusion.

Aaaaaaand four weeks later? I call Dr. Kent.

"How is her quality of life?"
"Well, when I spoke to her Friday, she fussed at me cause she wanted new bras because her current ones didn't fit right. She insisted that she wanted to go to Walmart HERSELF to try some on."
"Okay, I'll order the transfusion for tomorrow. Peggy Anne? Remember that at some point this is not going to be the solution."
"I understand Dr. Kent, it's about quality of life. Thanks so much for all you do for my mom."

Then Mom gets the transfusion.

And so it goes.  Mom's pain level has increased (cancer progressing, deep bone pain) so we upped the meds and that seems to be working.  Today life is good for Mom.

Okay People, HERE is the hardest thing.

This. This picture right here. For me? This is the hardest thing. You see, since the stroke close to 12 years ago, this is how Mom's place at the kitchen table has looked. There was a place-mat there and she had her ice cold water and a hot creamy cup of coffee, straws in both, please. 

For a little over a year now, since Mom has been at the Manor, I make sure the place-mat is there before I bring her to the house. I fill the cup of ice cold water and make her a fresh creamy cup of hot coffee instead of how she did it herself over the years. We have a grand old time futtsing around the house, cleaning out closets, straightening fabric, and moving Dad's papers so he can curse her with a smile after she has left.

People? This     breaks my heart. 

Cause after all the hootin' and hollerin' is said and done and I've returned Mom safely to the Manor up the mountain, I return back to the house to see this.

These mugs shout at me:

Mom is not here.
The house seems to have a Mom-sized hole in it.
She will not sip from these straws tomorrow.
She doesn't live here anymore.

Seeing these bad-boys sitting on that place-mat hits me in the gut like a punch. For a moment, it truly takes my breath away.

Then as quickly as it came, the feeling escapes me. I put the mugs in the dishwasher, laughing because when I open the dishwasher a month from now during my next visit, those mugs will be in the top rack, freshly warm and clean, cause Dad prides himself at having each dish in the house clean before I come, regardless of how long it's been.

Hey, People, I got a little drippy on you, but know that my sad outlook and attitude can quickly change into an attitude of gratitude. This lady is ALIVE, People, when she should have been dead years ago. 



Ain't nothin' to be sad about that.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Just a Quick Update

Just got off the phone with the Manor, just checking up on the lady. Desi laughed. She said "Well, your mom really gave us a hard time at supper tonight." My rapid-fire thoughts: mom threw up,  she refused to eat, she fainted, she tried to stand up to get something and fell.

Nope. None of that. With a giggle in her voice Desi said "Your mom rolled herself out of the dining room, stopped at the door, and turned off all the lights on us and rolled on out the door...she laughed all the way down the hall!"

People? She's doing okay today, keeping on truckin', she is.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

This is What We Have Been Waiting For, People

All of the following pictures are from our beginning of February birthday gathering...and have absolutely nothing to do with this post. Just trying to bring some lightness to such a heavy subject.

Okay. I'm just going to dive right in. Get the tissues. As Mom's oncologist told me Thursday, this is what we have all been waiting for...(and it ain't the circus, People).

Brief review:

Mom had a stroke over 11 years ago. Read HERE to read a little about that.
Mom was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma 5 years ago. Read HERE for background on that.

Now we are ready for the here and now...

Two weeks ago Mom was in the hospital with coughing, hacking, gasping stuff. She had a touch of pneumonia, five days in the hospital with iv antibiotics and breathing treatments and she was sent back to the Manor last Thursday, March 23rd.

Tuesday, March 28th Mom woke up puffy, vomited and had a bloody nose. After she facilitated moving all of her belongings from her two room suite to a larger, sunny room near the front door and dining room, Mom asked the staff to call an ambulance. Low and behold the woman was in renal failure with a creation level of 8.6 (should be around 1 or under) but bless be all her crap was where she wanted it in her new room. Mom has not changed a bit, she's still got her priorities.

Now, People, I'm not going to give you the nitty gritty. Here's the highlights: (after proofreading this, I think I gave you the nitty gritty, but whatever)

Chambersburg Hospital ER found two main issues going on: trouble breathing and kidneys that were struggling to filter toxins from her blood. X-rays from Tuesday show nodules in her lungs (pneumonia? cancer? flip a coin) so more iv antibiotics and breathing treatments were administered. Mom received a slow drip of iv fluids to help with fluid retention and creatin level as well as medication to bring down her toxic level of potassium, all due to the kidneys saying "We're done".

Now, it took me a few days, but when I spoke to Mom's oncologist Dr. Cashdollar on Thursday March 30th, he confirmed what my internet searches had determined. Mom's health concerns seem to be a direct result of the Multiple Myeloma that Mom has been fighting for the past 5 years. Dr. Cashdollar said he never expected Mom to last this long. She has been on numerous rounds of various chemotherapies throughout the 5 years and it seems as if this last round, on which she has successfully been on for awhile, is not working anymore. All of Mom's various bloodwork levels have been gently going up or down, all in the direction we don't want them to go. That said, Dr. Cashdollar quietly told me that Mom is not a candidate to try a more aggressive chemo. Her 82 year old, stroke-mangled body is too fragile for such powerful drugs.

So. Mom was still in the hospital and we decided to get her feeling as best we could, under the circumstances, so she could return to the Manor in the best shape her body could be, so she could, well, live out the remainder of her life. We expected Mom to remain in the hospital over the weekend. Another iv bag of fluids, reintroducing solid foods, and some breathing treatments resulted in Mom being able to get her creatin level down to 6.something and get off the oxygen. She impressed physical therapy when she transferred from a chair to a wheelchair with little assistance and wheeled down the hallway to look at the artwork on the walls. Saturday at 10:45 a.m., in walks the palliative care doctor.

Let us take a break here and morph back 11 years. After the stroke, Mom was on the 4th floor rehab facility at Chambersburg Hospital. From there she went to Quincy Village (nursing home) to receive intensive physical and occupational therapy. Those therapists did amazing work with Mom. When Mom returned home, she continued OT and PT in the basement level out patient rehab facility at Chambersburg Hospital. It is there that Mom and Dad met Becca West. I could create a completely new blog about their adventures with Becca. In short, even after she was finished with PT in the basement, Mom and Dad continued their close friendship with Becca. Most recently Becca has taken her entourage of biological, adopted and foster children up to the Manor to visit Mom. Mom can remember when she and Dad visited Becca's sister Anna's house for Becca's baby shower, what, 8 years ago? Anna, beloved Becca's sister, is who you need to remember here.

The palliative care doctor who was on-call Saturday, April 1st. The doctor who walked into Mom's room. Was Dr. Anna Kent. Anna, beloved Becca's sister. No. Lie. People. Mom whooped and hollered as only Mom can when recognized Anna, pure relief and joy.

As Mom sat in the hospital recliner next to the sunny window of room 2238 Chambersburg Hospital, it was Becca's sister, Anna, and her trainee Hans who guided Mom and I through the paperwork/questions/tears/handholding/hugs of learning about end-of-life-care. Anna.

We decided there was no reason to wait out the weekend for Mom to return to the Manor. She had been off iv fluids for 24 hours and her kidney function bloodwork continued to gently improve. Mom seemed more like herself, although still tired and, well, tired. Anna said she would give the hospitalist doctor her recommendations for medications and we could get the discharge process started. I determined that Mom was strong enough to transfer from the wheelchair into my car, I called the Manor, Dad, Mike and Paul with the news and Mom settled into her last meal in the hospital.

After lunch, our drive from the hospital to the Manor was uneventful. When we drove up to the front door, we were greeted by two personal care angels, smiling from ear to ear, so happy to see Mom. By the time I parked the car, Dad was pulling up in the lot. By the time we got in to her room, friends where already sitting with her; the word had spread that the queen of the Manor was returning and her friends were anxiously awaiting her arrival. All told, including Mike and the kids, Mom had 10 people hanging out in her room, laughing telling Mom gossip about what she missed while she was away, what was for dinner that night and other such important stuff.

After a quick 15 minutes, everyone dispersed. These folks know how exhausting a hospital stay can be and showed tremendous respect by leaving quickly so Mom could get some rest before supper.

People? As the mosquito control guys used to tell me, you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig. Joy, marigolds, and sunshine Mom is back at the Manor. That's great, we are all happy she is able to return.

Truth be told? Mom is sick. She will get sicker each day. We, with the super hero strength of the loving staff at the Manor and the grace and knowledge of Dr. Anna Kent (Becca's SISTER, bless be!), will do our best to treat her symptoms to keep her as comfortable as possible. Although Mom has surprised me over and over again with her bull-headedness strength, I believe this may actually go quicker that I'd like to imagine. I pray to be proven wrong, just one more time please Lord, on this one but in my gut I don't believe there is much time left. What else can I say? I think I've said enough.

In lighter news, these are a few of the public school four year olds I teach. (What? You didn't know I went back to teaching? Well, where have you all been? You don't even KNOW me anymore.) I'm looking forward to getting back into the classroom tomorrow a.m. where the problems traditionally are not mine and I can usually solve them with a cold drink of water, a band-aid (one and done), or a big squeeze (bigger! one lil fella likes to tell me as he chokes my neck). A big squeeze.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Queen of the Manor

I know it's been too long since I blogged. Perhaps we will think of it as no news is good news? Okay. Onward.

You heard it right, People, Mom was somehow declared Queen of the Manor. I don't know if this is an elected, hired, or assigned position but who cares, this lady is righteous in her own right.

Dad first found out about this new accomplishment when he walked into Mom's oncologist appointment this afternoon. There stood Doris (the angel who cares for Mom as if she was her own mother) and Mom, proudly wearing this crown as if nothing special was going on. After Doris shared the announcement, Mom was greeted by people far and wide throughout the oncology office; hand shakes, pats on the back, smiles, giggles, fist bumps, high fives, the oncology office...a place where people are doing their best to fight off cancer and death...I tell you, this queen never ceases to amaze me. She brings joy everywhere she goes.

Well. I call Dad this afternoon. He relays the Queen news. We have a good laugh over it. We hang up and I decide this is an event worth blogging about. I call the Manor to see if someone can text me a picture of the Queen in all her glory. Brianna answers the phone (just another everyday angel who walks this Earth, who's job is to care for Mom, as if she is her own mother). I introduce myself and say that I heard Mom is the Queen of the Manor. Brianna is bubbling over with excitement to find out who I am and that I have heard the news.

Bri: "I was going to look up your cell phone number and call you to see if it was okay for me to take a picture of me with your mom!" (Some sort of HIPPA crap policy I'm sure.)

Me: "Honey, you take a picture of my mom whenever you want. Actually, I was calling to see if you would take a picture of Mom and send it to me. I write a blog about Mom's progress and I figured this is noteworthy."

Bri: (more bubbles, more excitement, talking faster than an auctioneer) "Oh yes! I'll grab someone and go down there now, is this your cell number? Can I text it to you? Can you let me know when you blog about it? We just love your mom!"

Well, Brianna came through. She captured some great pics of Mom in all her regal glory.

 Oh hello Brianna, thanks for loving my mom so much. YOU ARE AN ANGEL. You and all the angels at the Manor are why I can sleep at night. Big thanks to you ALL.

When Brianna called me to confirm she had my correct cell number, she let me know that the activities director is sending a pick of the regal couple to the local paper. That's right, Mom's going famous in the Public Opinion.

Oh, did I not tell you? There is a King of the Manor as well...

He's 91 years old. Aren't they a lovely couple?

This post is long enough. As Nancy says "My fun meter is up and I'm out of quarters". Next post I'll report about Mom's incredible good health (all things considered) and why I've been incognito.

Wow, what a cliffhanger! Stay tuned, People!