Mom and me with Tom Braxton (jazz superstar!) and his lovely wife Sharon on SJC 2015! I only have this photo and photo opportunity because I am a huge jazz nut and an excellent groupie!
Mom has follicular lymphoma. I noticed that her leg was quite swollen, so I had Sis take Mom to the doctor, who ordered a scan, which generated the need for more scans, which led us to discover that Mom has cancer throughout her body. It is a non-curable cancer at stage 4, which means that we will not cure her. You may remember that Mom has dementia.
That is the bad news. The good news is that Mom is still her very cheerful self! When she found out that she had cancer, she called me several times over the next few days to ask what time her radiation treatments were (once she asked for the shuttle driver’s phone number so that she could take herself there!) I told her we were still testing, and that no treatments were scheduled yet (the truth). I told Sis that CLEARLY, she wants some treatment!
This is partly because of the other good news about Mom: Her church is still actively supporting her. They visit her, they drive her to church, they bring her fresh flowers (1 or 2) to refresh her vase every Monday (from the alter flowers – divided among other church members). She is in assisted living just 3 miles from her church – the one I grew up in. As long as her dementia does not keep her from enjoying these friends, how can Sis and I even think about moving her?
Last Tuesday I drove up from Houston to Dallas to spend the day with her (to ensure fasting) and take her for bone marrow and lymph node needle biopsies, so that the oncologist could recommend correct treatment. We understand that she is not going to survive this cancer, but we want to beat it back enough to alleviate cancer symptoms (like grossly swollen whole leg now due to tumors blocking flow of anything) until the treatment symptoms surpass those. That is where we are. Here is the email I just sent to my sister tonight with attached documents of my reports on biopsy day last week and oncologist result day today. My sister is bleary eyed and just returning from a trip to Israel today. My email to her:
I love you!
Full disclosure for my next two out of the country trips: June 8-16 (sailing in the Bahamas) and Oct 18-27 (Egypt!).
Keith and I are going to our property this weekend with just our dogs to totally relax and “Selah”.
Driving home last Wednesday, the weather was terrible for driving. Misty rain to drizzle to not rain but spray from other cars’ tires creating its own kind of fog while sporadic wind gusts blew my little Prius side to side — all in heavy traffic. By the time I reached the highway construction just south of Huntsville [Texas], my hands had been gripping the wheel so tight that I realized that all 10 of my fingers had gone numb. I then proceeded to have the worst panic attack I have had in YEARS. I managed to exit and head down the road to the State Park until I found a pull-over lane next to a public trash can. It was then lunch time so I called Hubby, not expecting him to answer, but just to leave a message to let him know what was up and that I would not drive any further until my heartrate slowed down. He actually answered and gave me a great idea which was to head over to old highway 75 instead of the interstate. No construction. Less wind due to the forest. A few scary pass-bys of logging trucks going the opposite way on the still wet and now only 2-lane highway, but better.
Later it occurred to me (as I wondered why I was having a panic attack after so many years without one) that my worst period of panic attacks were triggered by my grief over losing Dad. I think I am already preparing to grieve for Mom somewhere in the background of my subconscious. I shared this with my 2 closest friends after bridge yesterday, and as I told them this, I started crying. (I don’t cry much.) After hugs, I went home and cried some more. I told Hubby, that as positive as Mom and I are trying to be, I am hurting on a slow burn deep down. I know we are doing the best we can, and that we must just live through this, but I wanted you [Sis] to know that I am feeling sad/tired/dread/accepting/love/grace.
My church’s sermon last week was perfect for me. It was about Lament, and how these periods when we must lament connect us to others in ways that even joy cannot. It is a part of life. It is a part of being alive. I will remain positive and cheerful, but please know that I am so, so grateful that I have you to share this final journey of Mom’s with. I could not ask for a more perfect companion. I love you so much!