Friday, June 13, 2014

chemo wigs and other fun

Everyone home from the hospital and we are trying to find a rhythm to our lives. We have home health assistants, hospice nurses, social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, etc that we must schedule and open our house to as they make their mandatory visits. Often we are tired and exhausted but every once in awhile there are moments of mercy and grace that swoop in unexpected and refreshing. We are grateful for these moments.

A family dinner recently was spent in laughter as we talked about our day and remembered funny stories from the past.  The good feelings hovered in the air around us and we felt least for a least there was that.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


warning: there may be extreme expressions of emotions and sentimentality that some may find offensive.  For those who are or know my family you will understand I hope.

I take Dramamine when I fly. So when I arrived I was just a bit groggy. My flight arrived on time, my bag appeared in a timely manner and good friends drove me to my mother's house to pick up her car and head for the hospital. My mother was coming home that day. I drove there with no problems, got the room number from my sister, left the car in valet parking and hurried inside. The room was missing though. I walked up and down the hall in my Dramamine fog but there was no such number. I finally went to the nurses' station and found there was no such room number in that hospital. I felt irritated and confused until it hit me...I had driven to the wrong hospital. Both my parents were in the hospital...less than a mile apart from each other, on their 61st wedding anniversary, no less. Dad was in because he had become suddenly weaker, leaving him unable to walk, even with the walker he uses to support himself. My mother, who has been battling cancer for awhile was admitted to the cancer hospital due to pain. The oncologist did not bring good news and palliative care to reduce pain and alleviate discomfort has begun.  Since I was in the same hospital as my dad I ran up to the physical rehab unit for a quick visit with him. He was greatly amused that I had driven to the wrong hospital. He seemed happy to see me though disappointed that what he thought was a bag of popcorn was actually just my purse.  My father's dementia has worsened and even more so when out of his normal routine.  Finally arriving at my mom's hospital room I was struck by how small and frail she looked. But once she smiled and I held her in a long deep embrace I felt better. The hospice nurse was there, they were discussing assisted living facilities so that my parents could be together in a home that provided my mom the help she will need to care for my dad. She has been his primary caregiver for many years. She has Herculean strength and a stubborn constitution that has served her well. But this latest cancer pain was taking its toll and she would not be able to care for him as she always has.  My sister lives with them and helps as much as she can but she must work so we have to find some solutions. The entire prospect is overwhelming and discouraging. My sister shut down after I arrived and let the fear wash over her in waves, leaving her quiet and withdrawn.  The fear and despair is almost palpable at times.  I want to be the one that brings peace and calm to the situation but what can I do?

After bringing my mother home she wanted to visit dad as it was their anniversary and insisted on taking herself.  She came home in tears, overly tired and exhausted. It had been one of his difficult days and nothing she did or said could please him.  This journey...this transition will be a perilous adventure for all of us. A friend talked to me before i left about how to handle it all without being engulfed by the emotions. She suggested I hold the there but don't try to 'fix' everything. I am practicing holding the space, pausing, responding not just reacting and, most of all I am practicing breathing and trying to be in the moment.

Later my sister, my mom and I enjoyed a pleasant evening talking and laughing and just being with each other. It was a gift that I will cherish. I have always loved my family but times like these make you realize even more about each of them and yourself.  My sister is a beautiful, generous, tender-hearted soul. My mother loving, lion-hearted and brave.  Despite the difficulties ahead I love being with them.  I am grateful I have the time to be here to help if I can.

I will spend the summer here and we will see...