Here is the second installment of How I Transitioned from Full-time Designer to Blogger. If you thought the first part was challenging, fasten your seat belts!
December 2011– During these days of my mother’s health issues, my husband and his brothers are dealing with the declining health of his parents, as well. His mother, at 89, is particularly frail. On December 10, his brother is unable to waken her (he is living with them and is their round-the-clock caretaker) and calls an ambulance. The medics arrive and administer CPR. Although uncertain that she will survive the trip to the hospital, she is transported to the ER. Perhaps before anyone realizes what is happening, and because this is what they do, she is placed on a respirator in the ER. I accompany my husband on the 4-hour trip to be with his family. Upon doctors’ advice, and convinced that she will live only hours at most, the agonizing decision is made to remove the ventilator. It is Dec. 16th. The doctors are wrong. She continues to struggle to breathe, and becomes comatose.
Still December 2011– A few days later, I decide to return home, as my family’s Christmas celebration has been set for the 21st at my brother’s home. My sweet sister-in-law has gone to great lengths to decorate for us and set a lovely table for all of our family. I accompany my parents on the short drive to my brother’s nearby town for the feast. When we arrive, we are filled with such joy to see family: little ones, especially! As mother maneuvers to get a glimpse of one of the babies, she trips somehow and falls against the corner of the dining table, hitting her head and landing on her face. Our celebration is turned into trauma in seconds. EMT’s arrive to transport her to the hospital. She hasn’t broken anything, thank God, but a blood clot is found in her brain. She spends the next few days in the hospital for observation. Each time she is hospitalized, I stay nights with her. The thought never enters my mind to leave her, and while Dad says he can stay, I will not let him. This time, she will remain in the hospital until Christmas Eve Day.
While I am in the room with my mom, about midnight on the 23rd, my husband calls to tell me that his precious mother has just slipped into eternity. He manages to come home late on Christmas Eve to spend a quiet Christmas Day with us since the family decides to delay her services until after Christmas. We all return with him and his mother is laid to rest on December 27th. As this year comes to a close, we have high hopes for 2012!
January 2012- Mother’s body is responding to the clinical trial treatments! Back in October, she had a ‘port’ surgically implanted under her skin and into a main artery so that they can just insert a small ‘hook needle’ each time for chemo. It saves her arms from being stuck each week. A typical day is to arrive at around 8:30 or 9:00, see the doctor, and then head up to the clinical trial treatment area. It really is quite swanky! Nice, comfy leather recliners, a pleasant, bright room, even snacks are provided for patients! We visit and my dad stretches out in an unused recliner beside mom. The chemo treatment (there are two separate infusions) will take us until somewhere between 12:00 and 1:00. Her scans routinely show that the pancreatic tumor is shrinking and the primary liver tumor is not growing. We rejoice! She has setbacks on occasion… constantly struggling with low blood counts. This particular treatment eats platelets, that’s what the staff says.
On one of the chemo Tuesdays, she has to have a couple of units of blood after her treatment. We are in the same building for this, as the local hospital has set up a separate area within the cancer center for just such occasions. We walk back to yet another recliner, and Mom is hooked up to receive the units of blood through her port. As we come in, I notice an older man in a treatment chair, and another man sitting with him. While we are waiting with mom, we hear a nurse on the other side of the curtain beside us calling to the man who is in the recliner. Evidently, the other man has left by this point. He isn’t responding. This is a code blue, and emergency personnel are pushing in to come to his aide. Literally pushing in through the curtain toward mom’s chair. Our sweet daughters have come by to check on their grandmother, and one of them positions herself between my mom’s chair and the curtain. We pray for the man, even as all the commotion is going on next to us. I mention this because this episode really shook Mom up. It was frightening for all of us, but almost traumatic for her. Since I had heard the nurse calling his name, I check the obits for the next few days. He didn’t make it; they think it was a heart attack.
February -May 2012– On almost every visit to Clearview Cancer Institute, we are called into our appointment by a most delightful, loving and singing nurse named Shalimar. She is a beautiful soul, inside and out. On our very first appointment, back in October, she sang a gospel song to us and had us all teary-eyed! It’s not easy… that first appointment when you hear what has only begun to sink in: that you have a very fatal form of cancer and that it is in it’s most advanced stage. But Shalimar truly cares about people, and she quickly becomes mom’s favorite. Mother takes a personal interest in Shalimar and wants to know about her life. Later, Shalimar’s own father develops pancreatic cancer and is treated by the very same doctor. In the photo below, mother’s hair is coming back, and I tease her that she has copied Shalimar’s hairstyle!
We begin to see that God has woven many blessings into this ordeal we call cancer treatment. Our family is spending both quality and quantity time together most every Tuesday. Going out for lunch after chemo each week. Meeting the wonderful folks at the cancer center. Each time we are there, it feels like we are at some kind of resort, and we are the guests of honor. Everyone there is very kind and loving, not only to Mom but to all of us. There isn’t the ‘clinical’ atmosphere that one would expect, not at all.
And through all of this, I am still working my full-time design/sales job. Rarely missing work, but able to take off here and there as needed. I manage to check on mom and dad most every evening after work. Knowing that a day is coming that will require my full-time attention for them, I do the best I can to juggle my daily routine.
That’s all for today. Don’t want to overload you with heaviness! And God is so good. He walked with us every step of this journey… and He still does!