My mother had a CT Scan this past Saturday to determine the progress of her disease and whether the current medication is doing any good. This afternoon, the doctor called to talk to her, then he called to speak to me at her request. She has trouble processing the things he says over the phone; I took notes while he and I were talking as best I could. He’s a nice person and very compassionate. I feel like he cares about my mother, and by extension, me and the family. I’m appreciative that he is honest, though he tries to couch things the best he can. I think he is a bit more straightforward with me than with my mother. But in the end, I generally tell her what he has said, because I don’t want her to not know things. There is little I won’t discuss with her, even when it’s difficult. I know my parents’ end of life decisions, as I’m their health care agent. We’ve done the paperwork for both of them, with me in the room to discuss things openly. I’ve spoken to my mother about concerns my brother had about my father’s mental health condition due to the pain he is in from his diabetic neuropathy and some back problems he is having. I know about their wills and their wishes. We’ve talked openly about death.
This time, I don’t know how to share with her. This time, I want to keep the words to myself, even from my brother and my husband and my mother’s brother, all of whom have been a part of this ongoing journey.
My mother’s doctor confirmed that her disease continues to progress, despite the current medication she is on. Spots are developing on her lungs, previous spots on her liver and in her lymph nodes are increasing in size. He is ready to try a new protocol at her option. But upon being questioned by me, he told me that this disease is going to continue to progress at a fairly fast rate, as it has to now. Post chemo, she had a recurrence in less than 3 months. Post radiation, basically the same time-frame, another three months.
We’ve been dealing with this since March of 2014. Eighteen months. What do I wish for at this point? That she makes it through to her birthday at the end of the year? To my birthday shortly after the new year? My husband’s birthday in early spring? The 2nd anniversary of her diagnosis? What do I hope for? No pain? No being bed-ridden? No needing 24 hour caregivers? No loss of dignity? No feeling of being a burden on the family?
The doctor is ready for us to talk to a social worker in his office about palliative care. He offered information to me on “what is to come”. He says Mom will start to lose weight for no reason. She’ll start being more fatigued and have even less stamina. She’ll move to being chair or bed-bound.
Those are the things I don’t want to discuss with her. The words I didn’t want to repeat to her.
She has been using a wheelchair and/or rolling walker with a seat (called a rollator) due to the stress fracture in her pelvis. But her ability to rebound from that has been poor. She’s been using the wheelchair and now the rollator since my niece’s wedding at the end of September. She’s tired a lot. Walking hurts her, and she’s exhausted after a short walk through the house. Is that the fracture or the disease? She’s short of breath sometimes, but she says it’s fatigue, the doctor is concerned it might be the spots in her lungs.
She tells me she wants to keep moving. She wants to go out and do things. I certainly don’t want her to give up. I just ache for her. I ache for what is to come. And I’m finding myself conflicted as to what to share with her…how much of my concerns I should and can share with her. There’s nothing she can do to change how I’m feeling, so why burden her with that? But I don’t know how to stay UP and positive all the time, especially since I’m working hard to hide the pain I’m in a lot of the time. I’m struggling to stay positive, to be her cheerleader, to put on a good face every time I see her.
It was easier to talk to her about all these things when she was still on the high side of this disease. Now, on the downward slope, it is all too painful and too real. I hope she will lead me to what she wants to talk about. But at some point I know there will be things she WON’T want to talk about that I will need to find the strength to address.
My mother is dying. How fast it will progress is beyond any of us. What to hope for, what to wish for, what to do…all beyond me at this point. I’m lost and angry and overwhelmed and sad and crying.