Saturday, November 20, 2004

2 Years Ago Today

Today is the 2nd anniversary of my mother's death. She died of endometrial cancer, which had spread to her lymph nodes a year after she had a hysterectomy. She had the hysterectomy because she had unexplained bleeding and she had finally convinced her gynecologist to remove her uterus after numerous d&cs over several years. No one knew about the cancer until the surgery. When her doctor came to talk to her after it was over she told her Oh by the way, there was a 6 pound tumor in there. Excuse me, but how in the world did she miss that during all the exams my mom had been to? Anyway, she advised my mom that it was entirely contained within the uterus and all removed. She probably didn't need any follow up treatments, just the usual annual check ups. My mom had heard horror stories of radiation therapy and was very glad to be told she didn't need it. This doctor told her she could consult with an oncologist if she wanted but probably didn't need to. You didn't need to tell my mother twice. She pretty much treated it as if it had never happened once she got home. In fact, none of us even knew about the tumor until almost a year later.

I have to say, I hold quite a bit of bitterness towards this doctor for advising my mom not to follow up on it. But she is not the only one to blame. At her one year check up, my mom passed with flying colors. Of course, they were checking for spread in her abdomen. Soon after that she developed a big problem with what she assumed was her asthma. She went to her regular doctor and he began a series of prescriptions to treat the asthma, but it kept getting worse. It never occurred to him that it wasn't asthma. Also, a few months later, she developed a horrible pain in her lower back. Her doctor told her it was arthritis. He began a series of prescriptions for pain meds for that, none of which even touched it. It didn't occur to him that it wasn't arthritis.

About 4 months after her 1 year check up, my dad had to take her to the emergency room because she couldn't breathe. It turns out that the cancer had spread to her nodes in her neck, which caused fluid to be trapped around her lungs, which compressed them so she couldn't breathe. They had to do emergency surgery to drain the fluid, which gave her relief for less than a week, when she could already notice it building up again. They decided she needed to have an operation to seal the membranes around the lungs so that no water could get there at all. This basically involved blowing a powder into that membrane to irritate it so it will scar and adhere to the lungs themselves. Sounds painful? You bet. She was miserable. Meanwhile the cancer was still having a heyday in her body. She needed to start chemo, but the recovery from the lung surgery was supposed to be 7 or 8 weeks at least. She started chemo after 4 weeks.

Needless to say, she was in horrible pain. She still couldn't breathe properly, and now from the chemo was throwing up constantly, even though she couldn't eat. She could barely get out of her chair. From the day in August that she was first admitted to the hospital to the day in November when she died, she had never set foot in the upstairs of her house again. She had a rally in October, after 2 chemo treatments, and we were all encouraged, but her doctor and she both agreed that the chemo was too hard on her and she needed to wait a bit longer for another treatment. Well, within 2 more weeks, she was worse than when she started. At her last appointment with him, exactly a week before she died, he told her it was too late, and all they could do was make her as comfortable as possible. At that point they still thought she'd have a few months left.

I took Troyer and Noah out to see her on Tuesday, and had Micah with me, because he was only 6 months old. She was able to hug them and talk to them. She let Noah scratch her back, that was his special favor he always did for Grandma. During our visit, she decided that she needed to go back to the hospital to be more comfortable, so I was there when the ambulance came and the men carried her out. I kissed her and waved good bye, and told her I'd be back in a few days with Samuel and Caleb, who hadn't come. As they drove off, my dad and I hugged and cried; we knew she wouldn't be coming home again.

Even so, none of us suspected that that was the last time she'd be conscious. She got settled in her room at the hospital and they medicated her, and within hours she was barely able to communicate. By Wednesday morning my dad called me to tell me the doctors said it wasn't going to be long. I called Chris and told him to come home, I was going back out. He was home in less than an hour but it seemed like forever. It took 4 hours to drive there, and it was endless. I got to the house and no one was there! I needed someone to take me to the hospital, because it was downtown and I had no idea how to get there. Dad and Aimee were out making arrangements for her. Finally they got home and Aimee and I got in the car and drove to the hospital. On the way Dad called Aimee on her cell phone to tell her that the hospital had called. Mom was gone. I was so upset, I had really wanted to be there at the end. I only missed her by an hour. We got to the hospital and met some of Mom's friends from her church. They had been there praying with her when she died. I am glad she was surrounded by her good friends. We went in and said good bye, and signed the release form, and went home. We met her doctor in the hallway on the way out, and he had a look of shock on his face. He really never expected her to deteriorate so quickly. He was probably the only good doctor she had through this whole ordeal. I am steaming mad at all the others who pooh-poohed her symptoms and ignored her.

That year Thanksgiving was not as bad as you would have thought. Since a lot of family was out for the funeral, they stayed for the holiday as well, and it was nice to all be together. Last year Michelle had Thanksgiving at her house, and Aimee and her family, Chris and I and the boys, and my Dad were all there. It was crowded and noisy but it was nice to be together. This year none of us will be together. Michelle wanted to do dinner again, but Aimee's dh wasn't keen on doing the drive again (it is 7 hours for them to get to her house), and my dad decided he didn't want to drive either. He moved to Florida 6 months after Mom died; he claimed that now that he was retired he could come up and visit us in the summers when it was too hot down there, and stay down there and skip winters. Well, it seemed kind of far to us, and he had never mentioned Florida before Mom died, but whatever, it's his life. Of course all his plans to visit have gone out the window. He has not been north since he moved 18 months ago, except that Thanksgiving dinner last year. This year he is not even going to come for that. He has never met his newest grandson, and I guess it doesn't matter to him. He's not a baby person, you know. Can you tell I am bitter about this too? LOL

To make matters worse, this year since we are in the midst of trying to move, Chris isn't even going to go home to his parents for dinner. He wants to stay here and work on the house. I can understand, and I am going along with it, but it means that it will only be the 2 of us and the baby and Micah for Thanksgiving. The other 4 boys are going to MIL's for a week so we can work on the house. I don't think Chris is thinking about what this time of year means to me, or maybe he doesn't realize how I feel about it. He hasn't asked, that's for sure.

So, except for my beautiful Levi, this year pretty much stinks. I hope Christmas will be better.

Anyway, I want to say, "Mommy, I love you. No one loved me as much as you did, and I miss you. I hate that life is so unfair."

Here are some pictures of her:

Her high school graduation photo, from 1959

Mom at Christmas time in the 80's

Mom and Dad dancing at my sister's wedding

Mom with my nephew Danny

Mom's portrait for her church's directory, only a year before she got sick

There is a beautiful picture of her from her wedding, but it was too big to scan. I am a bit distressed that I don't have more pictures of her. I am hoping that they are in some albums that I already packed.


Chris said...


I can't believe it has been two years, I vividly remember all of it as Rob's sister was sick at the same time.

There are no words to say, are there? Just know I am thinking about you.

Lisa said...

I am so sorry (((Hugs))). My mom's story was very similar so I know how painful it is. There's really nothing to say but know I'm thinking of you.