FFTFL premiere

FFTFL premiere

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Preparing For the Worst, Hoping and Praying For the Best

I think I have everything under control. We have water, food, snacks, candles, clean clothes, a tub full of water for flushing, the kids charged all of their electronics, there's gas in the car... Thankfully where I live specifically has not been evacuated, but my parents and my sister in Mastic Beach have. There's seven kids in my family, one boy, then five girls, then one boy. My mom and dad were busy Catholics! Surprisingly enough, we ALL still live on Long Island, all in Suffolk County, all within 20 minutes of each other. We are all pretty close, for the most part. None of us fight, we're all speaking to each other and we all love our parents dearly. Our family sure was tested this year.

My mom was diagnosed with bladder cancer in November 2010. On January 18, 2011 she had a complete hysterectomy, a radical cystectomy and reconstruction for a urostomy. So, my mother now lives with an external bag that collects her urine for disposal. After this grueling four hour surgery she found out that she would need an 8-week course of chemotherapy. She was not happy about this at all, but said she would do what she had to to be cancer-free.

The course of treatment was to be a 6 hour treatment, followed by a 3 hour session, then a week off. Three cycles of this and she would be home free. After the first treatment on February 16th she was so sick. The chemicals that flow through your body to sweep all of the cancer cells out kill all of the good stuff along with it and the toxicity made her violently ill. So, she missed the 3 hour session. When she went in after feeling better, she found out she had to start back at the beginning with another 6 hour session. My mother was extremely upset, depressed, angry, etc. We just kept telling her to do what the doctor said, drink plenty of fluids, eat, rest...trying to convince her to stay the course and push through. At one point Mom told my brother and I that she was done, that she'd take her chances and everyone else will go on. I couldn't stand to hear my mom talk like this!

Continuously visiting and helping out at the house managed to keep my mom going. She did stop talking on the phone because just talking would make her nauseous. Because she had a couple of lapses during the cycle (once due to a low red cell count) Mom's last treatment wasn't until April 27th. Our family managed to get her through not 2 months of this torture, but 3! Unfortunately, my mom started experiencing some stomach pains through the last 2 weeks of treatment. The doctor prescribed some Prilosec since chemotherapy is infamous for causing digestive tract issues. Well, on Tuesday, May 3rd, Mom was in such agony that she couldn't get out of bed. Of course when these things happen my Dad's not home. He was out picking up the new car he just purchased about 40 minutes away from home. Mom managed to call my brother-in-law at his job since she knew Dad was stopping to show off the car. She told him that when my dad got there to send him home.

Steven knew that something was wrong in my mother's voice. He immediately called my sister and she called me. When I got to the house dad had called Mom's urological surgeon's office and was waiting to hear from them. Mom was still in bed and she was in pain from the slightest touch or movement. My dad finally called the office AGAIN and someone told him that there could have been a complication from the ileostomy and she needed to get to the hospital. The closest hospital to us SUCKS, and that's where an ambulance is obligated to take you. My mom's doctors are all at the University Hospital, so that meant getting her in the car and taking the 40 minute drive there.

Mom couldn't fathom getting up, dressed and out of bed to get to the car. We decided to get her seat/walker, get her in that and then wheel her to the car. Once she got seated she was in such agony that she actually fought with us to get back in bed! I told her if she didn't get in the car, an ambulance would take her to the bad hospital. That was enough to keep her moving.

I rode in the back of my dad's new car with my mom. It was the longest car ride ever. Mom sat, slumped over with her eyes closed, moaning with every bump and turn the car made. I could see her pulse in her neck she was in THAT much distress. I was constantly checking this because I was afraid the pain was going to literally kill her. Thank God we made it to the hospital and got her in the ER. Then we answered all of the RIDICULOUS questions that should be in her fucking charts at that hospital!!! UGH!! You just want to scream "WILL SOMEBODY JUST FUCKING HELP MY MOTHER??!!??" We sat in the hallway for what seemed like forever, my mom looking up at every person that passed, hoping he/she would be the one to make it better. Once she got in an exam room she seemed SO much better.

Then we all sat vigil around my mom. There was only 2 of us missing because of childcare issues. We made the best of the situation. When all of us get together it's just about who can get the most laughs. I think I win this competition every time. My other siblings probably think this about themselves as well. So, after hours and hours of blood tests and cat scans and x-rays, the doctors determined my mom had pancreatitis, another LOVELY side-effect of chemotherapy and dehydration. With a few days in the hospital and plenty of fluids we were hoping Mom would be released by Mother's Day. Everyone else left and I stayed with my dad until my mom was admitted to a room. We got home at 4:30 in the morning.

That was the morning of May 4th. That afternoon I got a phone call from a doctor looking for my dad. I asked if everything was ok and he said he just wanted to touch base with him. Not an hour later the family finds out that my mom's extreme pain was being cause by a perforated ulcer of her duodenum. The doctor calling was looking to get clearance to do an emergency surgery on my mother. She needed to be operated on right away to save her life. The ulcer was allowing stomach contents into her abdomen causing a horrendous infection. My sister and I got there just in time to see her before surgery.

We waited. The surgery only took about an hour and a half. The surgeon came out to tell us he was able to close the ulcer without any dissections of the intestines, etc. which would have made the surgery that much more complicated and life-threatening. He also told us because of the infections my mom was "a very sick young lady." After talking to the surgeon my dad sat down and sobbed. We found out he wasn't crying because of how sick my mom was. Dad was crying because my mom SURVIVED THE SURGERY. Little did we know she was only given a 50% chance of making it through. She refused consent for the surgery because she wanted to see my dad before-hand because she wanted to talk to him and tell him she loved him. My dad didn't think he would see my mom alive again.

Next day, my sister and I went up to ICU to visit mom. She was asleep so we just turned to look for a nurse to get an update. When I turned my head back towards her bed she was awake and asking me how long I had been standing there. Can I tell you the relief I felt when I heard her voice? It was like music to our ears.

We had to visit with Mom in the hospital on Mother's Day, but she was in a regular room by then, with a roommate. She did so well, she was released only a week after her surgery. She was very weak, but insisted she get up and walk so she wouldn't have to go to a rehab facility. Mom had a nurse come every day to change and wash her incision. Can you believe the wound was left open to heal from the inside out???? I shudder to think of what that must have felt and looked like, but my dad did it all. He's been amazing throughout this ordeal. That night in the surgical waiting room was the only time we saw him break down and let us know what he was feeling. My mom and dad would be lost without each other.

Mom and Dad at Mom's 75th birthday celebration
 So, it's August 27th. Mom and Dad are weathering this storm with my sister and her family. But Irene can't scare them. They have been through the worst storm of their lives this year and came out the other side with some scars, but by looking at them, you'd never know it. The house can get destroyed but it doesn't matter. It's all just stuff. Stuff can be replaced. People are what matter. Love is what matters. None of us are truly prepared for the worst, but we cling to each other to get through it all and we'll manage.

Mom blowing out her candles on her 76th birthday cake- thank you God!!!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what an awful mess your mom has been through! I'm so happy that she came out of surgery okay. Your dad sounds like a great guy.