Wednesday, December 19, 2012
The morning began slowly. Mom had made up her mind days (maybe weeks) ago, but today felt like the time that she had to make a decision. We gave her space to choose. We packed things in preparation of the event that she may arrive at the cancer center and decide to continue with chemotherapy or choose a different treatment. If she so decided, she would have plenty of entertainment, reading, music, food, and hydration. She had plenty of support as Matt, Cheryl, and I accompanied her to the center. She also had support at home. Mickie worked feverishly while Mom was away to cover the wall near her bed with frames of pictures of friends and love ones that she had been preparing for weeks. Glenda started early in the morning preparing red beans and rice. The aroma tortured those of us who were fasting. Elois helped clean the house, send thank you notes, and arrange her nightgowns and robes so that they were accessible and organized since these are Mom's standard attire these days.
Matt beat us to the cancer center and checked her in so that when we arrived we could proceed to the area where her port would be flushed, the needle inserted, and prepared in case she decided to continue treatment. It was immediately emotional. The potential finality of her decision weighed very heavily. When it was her turn, she simply wiped away her tears, tilted her head and smiled as she told the nurse okay, and joked with her as they made their way to the lab. The next tidal wave of emotions hit her as the nurse performed her blood work. A woman walked up to her and said, "I know I don't know you, but I'd like to pray for you." And she did. Mom came out of the lab smiling, held an arm each of mine and Matt as we walked her to the elevator. A very nice and pleasant social worker stayed with us during the visit with the oncologist because the staff could sense that Mom was stressed. The doctor, assuming that we were here for chemotherapy asked how she felt and if she was ready to go. "What if I choose not to continue the treatment?" she asked. Not immediately understanding, the doctor offered a different, less toxic, but also less effective option. Mom asked questions about the milder treatment as though she were actually considering it. "The infusion period is much shorter and we can start right now," the doctor pitched. As though she hadn't already made up her mind, she seemed to become resolute upon hearing the doctor warn that due to the time of the year and the frequency of the infusions that her holidays would be ruined. She gave the doctor the decision she told us earlier that she was 99.9% sure of. The doctor and a clinician described to us a bit about hospice and the process of setting it up. It was comforting to hear some intersection of our initial research and their recommendations. We returned to the lab and mom informed the nurses that she needed her port de-accessed. A nurse whispered to her, "We aren't supposed to say this, but I would do exactly the same thing if I were in your shoes."
Her liberation materialized in the form of hunger. She wanted to go to breakfast. While at breakfast, she talked a lot about how confident she felt about her decision. "I feel like God lifted 10 lbs off me," she said. "That's almost exactly how many pounds God took off of you," I joked. Her decision gave her the ability to look forward to the holidays with her family. She no longer has to prevent her grandchildren from coming over, or into her room. She doesn't have to worry about wearing a mask around people or sanitizing her hands before rubbing her eyes or eating. At the table, she decided that all the granddaughters (and parents) should come over that afternoon and stay for dinner. She squeezed, held, hugged, and kissed each one and turned on a children's show to invite them to lay with her.
Glenda's red beans and rice were worth waiting until sundown for. Mom ate relatively well, as did the girls. Sensing that G.G. (Gorgeous Grandmother) was tiring, we got the girls ready to leave, kissed her good bye, and let her rest at the end of a pretty happy day.