I only spent a few hours at the hospital with Mom yesterday. She is stable and receiving great care. She has had a lot of visitors as well. I decided to take a few days and get caught up here at home. I feel a little guilty about taking any pleasure in her hospitalization, but knowing others are tending to her gives me the opportunity to do some cleaning, yard work and grocery shopping.
I got a few things done outside yesterday, and this morning I had tackled my bedroom and was just heading to the bathroom to give it a thorough cleaning when I decided to call the hospital and check in with Mom. She sounded a little agitated or discouraged or… I can’t quite put my finger on it. She says her tummy is still bloated and tender. I tell her I’m going to call the nurses station to get the update from the doctor. My assumption is that once they allowed Mom to have “food” (liquid diet only), her bowels acted up again.
After being admitted to the hospital on Thursday, the doctors decided to run more tests and do everything possible to avoid surgery. At first, they said her bowel had a blockage, but have since back off that diagnosis. There is unexplained fluid in her tummy. Even though its a holiday weekend, Mom is getting xrays, ultrasounds, and physical exams.
When I call the nurses station and talk with Mom’s nurse, I am prepared for her to tell me that they took Mom’s diet away and she is back on ice chips only. I am prepared for them to talk about a bowel blockage. I am not prepared for the word I hear: cancer. What? Some of the testing that has been done has shown a high probability of cancer. Another doctor is being called in this afternoon to do a physical exam. The nurse assures me that the doctor explained thoroughly to Mom that they were testing her for cancer.
I drop my dust cloth and do not even bother to put my sweeper or cleaning supplies away before I change my clothes and head to the hospital after all. It’s one thing for Mom to watch TV and rest while waiting for test results, but it’s quite another thing to be alone in the hospital as you ponder a cancer diagnosis.
When I get to her room, she appears relaxed. She doesn’t seem upset at all. I guess that is the blessing of dementia. Your short term memory isn’t worth a hoot. So even though the doctor and nurse explained that the fluid could be caused by cancer, Mom doesn’t seem to remember that conversation. I decide not to “go there”. Why borrow worry? There will be plenty of time to talk and worry and plan if or when that diagnosis becomes a reality.
We make small talk for awhile and then her liquid lunch arrives. Mom seems very unimpressed with the choices on her tray. I agree.
I haven’t even let myself think about the cancer today. I can’t think about it yet. If I wait a day or two, maybe I won’t have to think about it ever. The test results are not back yet. I am going to wait to worry.
Was it just Wednesday that I was thinking, ‘we are managing the AFib and Congestive Heart Failure pretty well. We are dealing with the dementia and trying to get educated about that disease. Mom can’t live alone, but she could live in an assisted living apartment, and still have a lot of independence’. I thought most of the really hard questions were out of the way. Then Bam! Cancer. Wow. I wasn’t expecting that.
Does that mean chemo? Radiation? Or not. She is almost 84 years old and has been a very sick woman for several months. She has begun to gain some strength back, but is still 45 pounds lighter than she was six months ago. She is weak. She is frail.
What does a cancer diagnosis mean for her?
Now that I have sat down from a busy day, and begun to relax, I realize “not thinking about it” may be impossible. Yes, it will probably fill my mind for the next several days as we wait for the holiday to be done, and the full hospital staff to return to their duties.
This is a long and winding road: This taking care of an elderly mother. Just when you think you “got it” and things settle into a routine, a new challenge slaps us in the face. Isn’t AFib, CHF, and dementia enough? Don’t we have enough to
worry think about? Cancer. No. I envisioned a heart attack. I almost expected a fall and broken hip. I even thought the dementia could actually be Alzheimers. But not cancer. It wasn’t on my radar.
As I finish up this post, I hope to end my train of thought about the cancer. Yes, she may have cancer. But maybe she does not. She has defied the odds many times before.
I will not borrow trouble for today.
I resolve not to worry.
And I pray that Mom does not have cancer.