It’s taken me almost two weeks to write this post. I can’t find the words. Imagine me, at a loss for words. How do I sum up something so horrible and yet strangely beautiful. Everything I put down seems to cheapen it. Nothing I write has enough depth, enough dimension to describe my feelings. Please know that anything I put down here barely scratches the surface of my feelings.
In March we held an amazing 70th birthday party for my Granny Rose. Family from all over the state came in to celebrate her life. The day before the big event my mother, sisters and I gave her a spa day. We had a massage therapist, a make up artist and pedicures. We pampered the woman we loved so much. And she loved it.
But she wasn’t feeling very good that weekend. She let us know that she had been having a pain in her shoulder, had apparently had it for awhile but was too stubborn to go to the doctor. She also said her appetite had changed and chalked it up to being in pain. I distinctly remember when she was telling us about it, I had a cold wave of fear wash over me. I just knew something wasn’t right.
When she returned home she decided to finally get it checked out. After a flurry of X-rays and then a CT scan our worst fears were confirmed.
It was lung cancer.
I remember after getting the call I tweeted something along the lines of “With one simple call my world has forever been changed.” Little did I know how true that was.
For five months our family battled lung cancer along side her. Her specific form of cancer was apparently very rare and hard to combat. To compound the situation her tumor was pressing on her superior vena cava-the second largest vein in the body which moves blood from the upper body to your heart. This meant the tumor was inoperable, the surgeon simply can’t work that close to the superior vena cava and risk cutting it.
Chemo and radiation were offered up as a way to hopefully shrink it away from the superior vena cava. But a perfect storm had been created. The tumor was preventing normal blood flow and her upper body was filling with fluid. In order to have radiation treatments she had to lay down on a table, but with lungs full of fluid she was unable to breath laying down. Doctors scrambled to make adjustments to treatment to do anything they could to help, but no matter what they did things got worse. They would give her dieuretics to get rid of the swelling only to create dangerous metobolic and electrolyte embalances. They tried several procedures over the months, each time causing more issues instead of helping. Her systems were shutting down under the stress.
As soon as we had the original diagnosis I told my husband I would be out of town a lot. I never wanted to look back with regret and say “I wish I had taken the time to be there.” My mother is an angel on earth and gave up her life entirely for 5 months to live with my grandparents. I spent as much time down there, or more than I did at my own home in the last couple of months, soaking up all the time we had with her and doing anything I could to ease the burden.
I came home from a weekend work trip on the 23rd. Two days later I received a call that my Granny was back in the hospital, she had been disoriented and had difficulty breathing despite being on oxygen. I scrambled to wrap up a work project and rearrange plans, remaining true to my vow that I take every chance to be with her. I left Dash with Charles and headed to Sugarland.
I was shocked by what I saw and remember texting Charles “I don’t even recognize my own Granny.” She hadn’t been sleeping wouldn’t or couldn’t eat, was disoriented and was basically a shell of the vibrant woman I knew and loved.
My mother and grandfather had been by her side, also not sleeping. They went home that evening and I stayed at the hospital alone with my Granny. It was one of the hardest nights of my life. She was hurting and crying out in pain all night, no matter what the nurses gave her she couldn’t find comfort. Most of the time I’m pretty sure she didn’t know it was me with her as she often called me by my mothers name.
At one point she sat straight up in bed, looked at the foot of the bed and said “I see you. Hold my hand Dennis, help me cross the street, I’m scared.” We were alone. Dennis was her brother that had passed away as a young man. I was terrified. When she first started talking I thought she was trapped in the past, but the focus on her face as she stared at one spot at the end of the bed convinced me she really did see him. I was so afraid, thinking it meant we’d lose her soon but soon found comfort knowing she had loved ones ready to welcome her when she passed.
We made it through that hellacious night and morning brought a little more clarity for her, but not comfort. My heart was breaking seeing someone I love in such pain. Nothing we did could ease her discomfort. There is no worse feeling than the one of helplessness.
to be continued…..