Friday, October 14, 2011

Remembering the Beginning of the End

On this date in 2006 was what I call, "The Beginning of the End."

I remember because October 13, 2006 was a Friday and a man died at Restaurant.

Anyway, so October 14th was a Saturday. I was at Sis's house and was sleeping in "my" room when I woke to hear sirens going down the street a few blocks away. I absent-mindedly thought, "I hope that is no one I know." Just then Sis burst into my room saying, "Get up! We have to go to the hospital!" I thought, "OH CRAP! Did BiL electrocute himself!?" (He's an electrician).

Anyway, Sis said that Mom's friend called from the Emergency Department to tell us that she had taken Mom there. Mom had blood in her urine (a symptom called "hematuria). Mom's Friend drove her to the hospital where they performed some tests and then referred her to a urologist.

Fast forward to the urology appointment a few weeks later. Mom was diagnosed with bladder cancer. It ended up being Grade (not stage) 4. Grade speaks to how fast and aggressive a cancer is while Stage speaks to how advanced it is. So, she had a weird Grade 4, probably stage 2 or 3 bladder cancer. The doctor took a scope and burned the tumors off at first. That's how he staged and graded it. The next course he tried was intravesical chemotherapy, which is different from systemic chemotherapy. Systemic is what you're probably thinking of where a person gets an IV for a while and then usually they feel sick and often lose their hair. Intravesical chemo is such that the doctor inserts a syringe into the person's bladder, puts the chemo in the bladder, and then it sloshes around for at least 20 minutes before it is eliminated. After the four treatments were done, a follow up appointment was scheduled.

Just after her chemo ended, I moved to Seminary. I had taken care of her in the best way that I could while I could, and felt called to a new venture. The chemo treatments hadn't been TOO hard on her...They certainly seemed easier than when she'd had breast cancer and had endured systemic chemotherapy. I had driven her to all her bladder appointments and had handed the baton to my siblings.

I probably hadn't been at Seminary for more than a week or so when YS called and said that Mom had more hematuria. I suggested she call the urologist to see what he thought. So, they went back, he burned off more tumors with the scope thing, and it was decided that "Big Surgery" was the only way to get rid of the cancer. So, we convinced Mom to have the surgery, and so it was scheduled.

She had her surgery on March 21st. The procedure is called a radical cystectomy, in which the surgeon did a complete hysterectomy and bladder removal. At that time, the doctor guided her ureter to a stoma on the outside of her body. That's how people without bladders eliminate waste...The ureter goes to the stoma which then empties into a bag that is attached to a person's side. The adhesive gets changed about once a week or so, and a person empties the bag as often as it starts to fill.

But the thing is...Mom had dementia even then. And when she woke up, she was never the same. Looking back, and having talked with some professionals, it seems like she may have had a stroke while under anesthesia. Post-Surgery Mom was drastically changed from Pre-Surgery Mom.

So, that's a long post to basically share a short sentiment-Dates are important for those who grieve. It's been a year and a half since Mom died, and yet I still grieve. I think about her every day, and especially on days like today that hold significance for me and for our family. This date marks "The Beginning of the End" for Mom's earthly pilgrimage. It marks the "jumping in point" for really having to face dementia head on. I'm still learning from this, but also still grieving. I hope that in another five years, I'll have more time and more peace with it all. Peace to you wherever you are in your own grief journeys.