Mom finished her radiation treatments today. The nurses at the radiation center are beyond amazing women. I can’t tell you how phenomenal it is that these women go in to work every day and help people who are battling life-threatening diseases. How they go in every day, knowing that they’re seeing people who are so sick…who might not make it in for the next treatment. Some who can’t get out of chairs because they are so weak and frail. And yet these nurses smile and hug and encourage…and they love.
This was the second round of radiation for Mom. The first was pelvic radiation, this time it was brain radiation. When Mom came back in for this second round–the first was last summer–the nurses recognized her. They hugged her. They carried her puke bucket for her. They showed her pictures of their lives–weddings, children–and they remembered that she crocheted special hats for them. They greeted me and they greeted Dad like we were friends.
So Mom rang the bell at the radiation center for a second time. The nurses gave her a certificate–that they each signed after they wrote very sweet things–as well as a cover for her puke bucket that re-assigned as her “crochet bucket”. I took pictures of Mom ringing the bell, but it was harder to feel excitement. This was the second time she’s rung the bell for treatment completion at the radiation center. Adding in the chemo center, she’s rung a bell three times…and yet I know that the cancer is continuing to grow. There’s no question in my mind. This cancer is so aggressive, there’s not going to be any stopping it.
I smiled and cheered Mom on as she rang the bell. Afterward, we went out for lunch with Hub and my oldest brother, and my other brother and his wife surprised Mom by showing up as well. After we all stuffed our faces, I went back to my parents’ house with them to get Mom settled. We talked about cutting her hair as we drove back to the house because the radiation was causing Mom to lose her hair again (due to the location of the radiation beams). She had pulled out some clumps already and we’ve seen her shedding hair at home. It was clear she was irritated, so I offered to cut her hair really short. She usually wears her hair short-ish, but I’d say it was about 4″ long at the longest area. I started cutting and then my brother brought down his hair clippers, so I proceeded to shave her hair (with a guard) really carefully so I didn’t irritate her scalp. I left her with about half an inch of hair. Enough to keep her head from freezing, but not long enough to irritate her when it continued falling out. She thanked me and then we got her settled onto the couch so she could rest. Dad and I cleaned up the hair from the floor, then we ordered pizza and calzones and strombolis from the local pizza place. Mom wanted the food for the weekend (she had a hankering for it), in case the restaurant wouldn’t be open after the snow. I rubbed Mom’s fuzzy head, kissed her cheek, and I came home.
I never expected to have that memory with me. I’m glad I was able to help her feel more comfortable by shaving her hair, but I don’t know how to cut hair. I do a terrible job trimming the dogs–even though I do it when it’s needed so they don’t have to sit in a cage at the groomers waiting to get trimmed–so I wasn’t looking forward to cutting Mom’s hair. I did it because she needed it, but I hated doing it. I hated that it needed to be done. I hated it.
I walked home in the lightly falling snow. We’re expecting an actual “official” blizzard here (it’s going to meet real criteria for a blizzard, they’re not just saying it’s a blizzard…who knew?). 20-30″ of snow when all is said and done. It was that eerie quiet outside as I walked home. I let my mind stay blank and felt the snow touch my face, wet my hair, linger on the scarf I was wearing that my grandmother crocheted for me a million years ago. Inside my house, I took off my coat and hung it on the back of chair, then went to throw something away in the trashcan in our mudroom. The can has this latch thingy that requires you push the lid down to latch and unlatch. I pushed it to unlatch it, threw out the paper in my hand, then pushed it to latch it again. Only there was a towel on top of it (that we use to dry the dogs from the snow) that got caught under the lid. So I yanked on the towel while simultaneously trying to push the lid down to release the latch again. It didn’t work, and I swear I stood there and pounded my fist on the lid repeatedly as I yanked on the towel. BANG BANG BANG BANG. Hard. Loud enough that Hub stuck his head in the doorway to see what was going on. I finally got the lid to pop open, pulled the towel out and closed the lid again. I shrugged at Hub and said, “Guess I had some rage to get out.”
Poor guy did the right thing and scurried away without comment.
Last night when Mom texted me (she’s getting into this texting thing now that she has a stylus…she’s texting her grandkids and my non-local brother) “Alarm! Hair is falling out! Just thought you’d want to know.” she also told me she was eating some store-bought ice cream leftover from a recent visit from my nieces. So after the rage incident, I mixed up her favorite ice cream–chocolate peanut butter–and dumped it into the ice cream machine to churn. When it was done, I put it into a blue freezer container, then called Mom to say I was coming over and I was bringing the snow with me. She said, “Only if it’s chocolate covered snow.” The steroids have really cranked up her appetite for everything, including her beloved chocolate. She’s eating a lot of food now, and we make it into a joke…that no one should stand still too long in her house or they might get chewed on. So I suited up in my coat and scarf, and walked back to her house to deliver the freshly made ice cream. Again, the quietness of the snow, the gentle touch of the icy flakes, it was all so serene and so…engulfing is the only word I can come up with. I’m not sure how it really made me feel, it just was so noticeable.
I showed Mom the container of ice cream and promised that by her snack time later that evening it would be firm enough to eat, then I stuffed it into her freezer. She told me she talked to her good friend on the phone, she talked to my brother who lives in another state, and she thanked me again for cutting her hair. I told her I loved her. I told her to text me later to say good night. And I was outside for the walk home. Crunch crunch crunch. The snow was sticking the ground by now–maybe two or three inches-and I tried to duck-walk my way back home, following my footsteps only now I was leaving prints that were backward to the original. I know it sounds confusing, but at the time it seemed important to make those marks in the snow in just the right way.
When I got home, I realized how tired I was. I realized how much my body hurt. I cleaned up the stuff from the ice cream machine (it cleans easier if you do it right away) and got myself a big glass of water. I sat down and nearly couldn’t get back up when it was time for dinner.
If it really does snow as much as they say, I won’t be able to get over to Mom’s tomorrow. That’s why I ran back over tonight with the ice cream, so she had it for the weekend. If it really does snow as much as they say, I’ll have nothing to concentrate on. Mom’s doing well enough that they don’t need me over there if Dad and my brother are there (my brother lives with them). I don’t have to worry about figuring out how to get over there in 2+ feet of snow. I can stay home and do my best not to think.
Maybe I’ll be able to get outside with the dogs. I might not be able to get off the deck as my knees are really unhappy and walking through the snow in the back yard would be too painful. But maybe I’ll get some pictures. Maybe I’ll see the dogs romp. Maybe I’ll be okay.