My Mother’s Story – A Cancer Journey Part 2
On June 28, 2014 I shared with you the beginning of my mother’s cancer story, which can be found here. At the end of the post I shared with you that my mother was to begin chemotherapy on July 11, 2014. On July 8, 2014 my mother and I arrived at the Cancer Clinic of the Peterborough Regional Health Center for a chemo FYI session. The session was to go over the specific chemo drug my mother would get and all the symptoms she could expect. We have all heard of the usual symptoms – hair loss and nausea/vomiting. Those symptoms are minor compared to what else can happen.
One of the particularly scary symptoms from one of the two chemo drugs my mother was to receive (and which actually made her second guess if she wanted to receive chemo) was that any cold air or even cold drink or food could cause a feeling of not being able to breathe. The nurse assured my mother that she would still be breathing, but there would be a gasping effect and she would think she wasn’t. Some of the facts which were disclosed to us made my mother begin to think if she really wanted to go through with chemo. Unfortunately, due to an infection and subsequent hospital stay, she was unable to start chemo on July 11, 2014. The silver lining was that it gave her more time to consider the pro’s and con’s of receiving chemotherapy treatment.
While my mother was focusing on the infection clearing up and thinking about her treatment options, I was secretly planning a surprise birthday party for her to celebrate her 52nd birthday which was on July 30th. In a time of such pain and confusion I knew we all needed something to lift our spirits and give my mother a day off of thinking of the cancer that was growing in her pancreas, to give her a day full of family and love.
The day went off without a hitch! My mother thought my husband was just picking her up for a day of food, fishing and Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon. All of her children were there as well as three out of four of her siblings (one brother was unfortunately unable to make it, but made sure to FaceTime so she still got to see him!). She was definitely surprised! The whole family hasn’t been together in a very, very, long time. She was so excited to see everyone the first thing she did after hugs was take an anxiety pill!
After her birthday celebrations my mother had a few more Doctors appointments to more questions regarding the chemotherapy. My mother was having a hard time deciding whether it was worth going through with the treatment. We know the chemo will not cure her cancer. It would, however, give her a few more months. She had to ask herself if it was worth going through the treatment just to get those few extra months, and what would her quality of life be during that extra time?
On August 21, 2014 my husband and I took my mother to her Doctors appointment where blood work was taken and chemotherapy was discussed again. The Doctor advised us that the cancer mass had gotten bigger but it did not look like it had spread to the rest of her body. She decided to give chemo a try to see how it made her feel and if she could handle it. She was scheduled to start her first treatment the next day.
On August 22, 2014 my mother had her first chemo treatment. We arrived at the Cancer Clinic at 8:30 a.m. By 9:30 a.m. she was sitting comfortably in a big chair with the first of two chemo drugs dripping through the IV. The first drug took 2 hours to drain into her system, then it was time for drug number two. About 20-30 minutes after the second bag of chemo was hooked up, she began to not feel well. I called the nurse over and she gave my mother a shot of medicine to make her feel better. It did not. Shortly later I was helping my mother rush to the bathroom where she proceeded to vomit off and on for over 30 minutes. I again called a nurse over who decided to get the Doctor who was working on the floor. While we were waiting for the Doctor, my mother’s mouth and neck had gone numb and she could not speak properly. Two nurses helped my mother back to her chair, and then the Doctor arrived to look her over.
After asking a series of questions, which my mother was having a hard time answering due to being so ill, the Doctor advised the nurses to stop the chemo treatment immediately. They then gave her medicine to help with the symptoms my mother was having and said we would be free to leave once they started working. At 2:45 p.m. we were allowed to leave the Clinic. The Doctor advised us that she would be emailing my mother’s normal Doctor at the Clinic and see what she thought the best plan of action was and get back to us.
On August 23, 2014, my mother had to be rushed to the hospital by ambulance as she was having chest pains and a hard time breathing. After numerous tests, the Doctors did not know what was wrong with her. After some time the chest pains subsided to a point where she could breathe, though it still hurt. They made an appointment for my mother to go to a heart clinic the next week (where they found nothing wrong).
On August 24, 2014 my husband and I had to rush my mother to the hospital again as her blood sugar was extremely high at 24 (normal blood sugar rates range between 4-10). The Doctor prescribed her insulin and advised that she should never have been taken off of it back in April, 2014 when my mother was first diagnosed with cancer.
After what had happened with the chemo treatment my mother decided to discontinue treatment. She did not want to have a similar reaction to the chemo (the Doctor’s plan was to just give the chemo drugs to her slower, as if that would stop the reaction from happening), but she didn’t want to chance it. The Doctor advised my mother that she believed the one chemo treatment did help and that my mother would have 2-8 weeks before she was bed-ridden (this was 2 weeks ago and she is still active!) and 6 months to live. My mother is not receiving any treatment for her cancer with the exception of the Essiac tea she drinks twice a day.
On September 18, 2014 I was getting extremely worried about my mother. I hadn’t heard from her in over 24 hours, which is very unlike her. When I got her her apartment she was so sick and tired she got out of bed to open the door for me and was back in bed before I had even closed the door behind me. I determined I had to call 911 and order an ambulance.
She spent the night at the hospital as they ran numerous tests and released her after pumping her full of Gravol and fluids. They advised that her family Doctor would be sent the results of the tests (test results were negative, however she had a UTI and had be prescribed antibiotics).
The day after she was released she wanted to go out and do something, so my husband and I took her to the Peterborough Zoo and bought her Subway (special request).
She has her days when she was tired and doesn’t want to do much, but she also has her good days when she meets up with her CMHA worker, goes to the local Hospice and meets up with me regularly for coffee, dinner or to the movies. She has also started a Facebook page called PenPals for Support, where she encourages people to write to her or send a postcard. Receiving mail brings great joy to my mother, even a small note. And if you want her to, she will write you back. If you would like to send my mother a letter, postcard or want more regular personal updates, the details are on her page here.
My mother is strong and surrounded by friends, family and even strangers giving her continuous support. My mother has accepted the fact that she will not beat this cancer, but damn if she won’t go without a fight!