Friday, May 6, 2011

Descending Plateaus

So, my mom is out of the hospital today. I feel like a schmuck for not visiting her ... felt ill, and she does not need germs, both of the real or imagined variety. (Imagined--as in it's possible that I just had severe pollen allergies today) I'm not sure when I will get the next "Oh my god!" call about her health.

There's one thing to realize, when it comes to living with a relative's severe cancer. It's not the same, for everybody. So, the treatments that may have worked for other people will not necessarily work for my mom. Even if the cancer is of the same type, it is never exactly the same from person to person.

For example, my mother was diagnosed back in 2008. Her initial diagnosis covered tumors both in her brain and in her lungs. Back then, it was "inoperable" which is not "terminal." In short, they couldn't cut the tumors out, but they thought they could manage it. This meant a lot of chemo, basically. Plus, my mom has had two rounds of whole-brain radiation. The second bout of whole brain radiation (Several, several months ago) adversely changed her cognitive abilities. Plus, her multiple medications have lead to some damaging side effects. For awhile, she was suffering and in pain, partly due to degenerating bones in her spine. She also lost the ability to walk, due to blood clots in her legs.

And that brings me to my point, which is the following metaphor. This whole process is like walking down a stair case. Death awaits at the bottom of this staircase. However, while descending this stair case, somebody with my mother's condition will stop along the way. Consider it as reaching a landing in that staircase and hanging out for awhile, before descending another level.

The recent hospital stay and discharge is just another landing stop on the journey to the bottom. Only, this landing is very close to the bottom. Before my mother went into the hospital days ago, her home situation could be termed as "managed care." Coming out of the hospital, the descriptor is now "managed hospice care."

She's dying, basically. She had a do not resuscitate order put in place at the hospital. Only, we don't know when she'll reach the bottom of that metaphorical stair case. Could be tomorrow, could be next week, could be three months from now. We (my family) do not know. However, if I look back at the last three years, I can pick out the milestones of how she's gotten progressively worse.

Edit to Add:

She's not in a coma, or anything like that. Her cognition comes and goes, lately. Sometimes, however, it can leave in the middle of a conversation.

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