The perfect mama, and mimi.
This pic below was taken about a month before she was diagnosed with stage IV renal cell cancer. She'd been sick for about six months, but she'd always had illnesses off and on. She was in and out of the ER trying to figure out just why she was sick this time around. So, a particular ER doc decided to do some scans of her tummy. They admitted her for fluids and probably the flu.
You have renal cell cancer, stage four. If you're lucky, you'll have 6 months to a year. You need to get your affairs in order. We can give you palliative treatment. We need to check the path to be sure it's RCC and not ovarian, then we'll start sutent and radiation.
So many tears were shed. We were scared- Mom, Jen, Mike, Jimmy (BIL), the kids, her best friend, G.
"You'll make it, mom. You've beaten some hard shit in your life. This is just one more thing."
She'd agree, and repeat it in her own words.
She said, let's treat this, I'm not giving up.
The radiation on her head and hip worked. The cancer shrunk.
August, the end of the month, ma got more scans. She was about 4 weeks into sutent, and she was in the hospital due to weakness, illness, and a GI bleed. The oncologist came in and told mom (alone, and just before leaving for a 4 day weekend!) that the treatment now isn't working, and that the cancer grew 20% on the sutent.
"You now have 3 months, if you're lucky. My advice is to stop treatment and get the most you can out of these last weeks."
She called me while I was on my way to get Nicky from school, and she said, crying, "You need to come back right now, pick up your sister." Once we got there, she told us. I was a bitch to her doctor, I am told. We decided to get back to Augusta, where she'd had radiation, and get a second opinion. They agreed that the prognosis wasn't good, but they were willing to try. So she started torisel... it didn't work at all. She was only on it for two weeks.
During this treatment, in late September, early October, she started sleeping most of the time. It hurt to move, and she couldn't stand without help. She couldn't walk. She stopped eating, and she barely drank.
And then, a 2 a.m. call from my sister, who lived with her. Please come over asap and bring mom to the hospital, she's not very responsive, but she was okay a few hours ago. She keeps saying she has to pee but she isn't peeing. I think she's just weakened with the flu again. I got there, mom couldn't understand or get up. We called an ambulance- the first time in my mother's life, or ours, that we called an ambulance.
I met them at the hospital. I stayed till 5:30 or 6 am and then I had to sleep, and get Tony off to school while Mike drove Nicky an hour to his school. This was on October 12th, my nephew's 9th birthday and the 13th anniversary of my father's death.
For the next three days, I was visiting mom in the hospital for about five + hours a day, even though she slept most of the time. On the 13th, I had a five minute conversation with her... I broke down, and that caused her mama alarm to go off and take care of me. After five minutes, she got goofy from the meds and laughed herself to sleep.
On the 14th, I took my nephew up to see her. She had see-saw breathing, as she had the other day, but it was more pronounced and slightly rapid. She was moved from SCU to med surg earlier that evening. They said she was stable, but looking back, I think they sent her there to die. She wasn't responsive to verbal at all at this point, but she certainly was to the great pain she was in... in her back and in her hips. Oh, mom...
I spoke to her nurse that evening, who had been through this with her own mother a year and a half before, and I decided to tell mom it was okay to do what she wanted to do- it's her life, and it's her body. I'll take care of Jen, I'll take care of everything. Please, just always be with us. I love you. Then I reminisced with her about our traveling a few years back. We left. I found out later that she'd decided to let go a month ago. She told her best friend. She realized it was over then.
7:30 am the next day: Jen calls, mom has some respiratory difficulty. Be ready, I'm picking you up. Okay. We get there. She's basically in resp. arrest! Her see- saw breathing was unreal; very rapid and exaggerated. She had an O2 mask and she was still barely getting any sat. She was unresponsive. She was spraying fluid on her mask with each breath and her breathing sounded like someone blowing air into a milkshake. I will never drink one again. We decided to DNR. She was kept on O2 and we cranked up the morphine. Two of her brothers and some long lost (and gratefully found!) cousins got to say goodbye briefly. Jen and I put on NCIS (her favorite!) and we watched it with her while she passed. We saw her take her last breaths... the woman who had given us our own breaths.
I love you, mama.