Living with Yet More Dying

My mother is dying. It won’t be long now. Maybe a month, probably not more.

She developed some severe neurological and memory problems about 6 or 7 months ago and ended up in the hospital for almost 60 days to address this. What little muscle mass she had wasted away on bed rest and she was not longer able to walk or stand or care for herself. She came home, lived in her rented hospital bed, and had nurses and caretakers watching her pretty much 24/7/.

We figured that she’d come back from this, eventually, to some degree. Physical therapy and occupational therapy and regular doctor’s visits would heal her. It would take a lot of money and lot of time, but it would happen.

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Then she got cancer. The initial prognosis was positive and the treatment was chemo by pill – a gentle, targeted version thereof that wouldn’t cause much fatigue or hair loss or any of the normal symptoms. A few months of that, some radiation therapy, and then surgery to remove the tumor once it was dead. Simple. Nothing to worry about.

Except that they did remove the tumor and found that it had metastasized and spread to other organs.

My mother has stage 4B colo-rectal cancer and it is killing her pretty quickly.

She is 57. She is young, really. And I’m only 32 and didn’t expect to have to say goodbye to her any time soon. But it doesn’t matter what should be because this is what is. She’s not in much pain anymore, not now that they’re hitting her with dilaudid every few hours, but she used to be. Like me, she has lived in chronic pain for years – since I was young.

So while I’m not ready to say goodbye (who ever is?), I’m grateful that, at least, she won’t be in pain anymore. Thank goodness for small favors. But the toll that all of this death and mourning in my life takes is massive. It’s a huge expenditure of energy just to keep moving forward. The psychological stress of grief, experts agree, can be devastating.

So there’s nothing to it but to march forward. Where do we go from here? Not sure. But it must always be forward, never back.

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