Today, I was going through my blog roll and hit a "friend" who was in turmoil. Les Floyd is facing the demise of his mother.
I have to say that I've walked in his shoes. Losing a parent is everyone's greatest fear who's had a loving parent. Now for the rest of the story...
year was 1988. My mother had a sore throat and went to her family
practice doctor. No big deal, right? The doctor looked down her throat,
felt her lymph nodes, and palpated around her throat and then focused
his attention on her thyroid. He focused so long on the area her skin
had actually started to turn red.
Concerned, I asked
him what he was feeling. He said their was a knot about the size of a
kernel of popcorn. He invited me to feel and sure enough, there was one.
Given my mother's history, surviving the Nagasaki atomic bomb, he
recommended a surgical consult. He would have done the surgery himself
but he was healing after a broken hip fracture from a car accident.
off we went to the surgeon. The surgeon diagnosed it as a thyroid
goiter and my mother left armed with a prescription for iodine tablets.
We all breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn't cancer which killed 100%
of all atomic blast survivors. At that time we trusted doctors. After
all, they spent years in school learning so they had to be smarter than
us, right? Wrong with deadly consequences.
later, we were back in the family practice doctor's office for a
routine appointment. He look at her neck expecting to see a scar which
there was none. He felt her neck and excused himself. He must of went
straight to his office and got on the phone to the surgeon because we
could hear him yelling. The words that engraved themselves on my mind
forever more were, "incompetence," "larger," and "surgery now."
We were living in a dream world of hunky- dorry
for three months believing this other doctor. Now all my fears were
realized and soon would be fact. My mother underwent surgery for a
thyroid removal within a week. I was at work in the E.R. The surgeon
came and found me. I had been dealing with doctors for almost twenty
years at this point and one look at his face and I knew all had not gone
"We have to wait for the report, but the tumor
has invaded her thyroid, parathyroid, and her larynx. I scraped what I
could off the larynx to save her voice."
Wait a minute.
We went from a simple thyroid goiter to tumor that invaded? The big "C"
now entered the picture. His next words were lost for the most part in
my brain while it muddled through the information I was given. All
except his words, " I'm sorry. I should have listened better."
walked back to post-op and his next surgery while I was left with my
new awakening. I made two calls before I returned to work. The first one
was to my father at work and I filled him in on what the surgeon said.
The next one was to my family practice doctor. I have to say after that I
buried myself in my work trying not to think of the consequences of the
By the time I got off work, a plan of
action was formed but I needed to talk to my family first. We had
wasted three month already and could not waste anymore time. My mother
would remain in the hospital for further tests instead of being released
the next day. I went ahead and made all the arrangements because I knew
my father or mother wouldn't object. That was one perk of working at
the hospital, I had abundant resources available.
cancer is one of the easiest forms of cancer to cure when it is caught
early. In three months we'd gone from a kernel of popcorn to metastasis.
So regardless of what the pathology report showed, it was time for
action and fast. Decision had to be made and questions answered from my
family. I knew they were counting on me. It was a two-ton boulder of
weight resting on my shoulders.
The first reaction from my
father, sisters and brothers was shock. Then came the questions but I
was armed with some answers. My father was grateful. Then came the
flurry of trips daily to the Mayo clinic in Jacksonville, seventy-five
miles one-way away. Another surgery and heavy duty radiation treatments
for three more months.
Finally we were were referred to
a local oncologist. "Thirty to sixty days." Despite all our efforts the
metastasis had invaded her lungs fully, wrapped itself around her
carotid artery and her brain. Now all that was left was the death vigil
by the family except for me. I was the nurse and caregiver. I arranged
the morphine, delaudid and phenegran.
I gave the injection, monitored vital and conditions, and only cried
when I was in my bed alone at night for a few short hours. I had quit my
job at the hospital because when working with cancer patients in
post-op circumstances, I couldn't keep my personal life from invading my
professional one plus my mother and family needed me.
pushed all feelings aside while dealing with my family and my mother's
care. I stuffed my emotions and became a automaton doing what needed to
be done. My family leaned on me for support so I had to keep it
together. Until the day finally came to past.
received a call from my father who had taken my mother to our family
doctor for an insertion of a peg tube for feeding. I had spent hours
during my mother during her lucid periods explaining the benefits. We
had spent many hours discussing what she wanted and didn't want. A Do
Not Resistant order was written and signed. I knew her wishes.
Discussions about organ donation and who got what of her personal
belongings. In reality they were snippets of conversations over days.
Nothing personal about my feelings for her, it was basically clinical
and social work.
On the day of her doctor's appointment
I had a parent- teacher conference and some other things to do that
couldn't wait another minute to be resolved. At the time my mind was
going a million miles a second and I was slightly irritated that my
father couldn't handle one simple thing without me until he said, "Your
mother stopped breathing."
In disbelief, I asked a
bunch of questions and I realized he was crying. The child in me got
scared. I'd only seen my father cry on two occasions. Him being a former
Marine and a man, real men didn't cry. He said she started breathing
again on her own and was transported to the ER.
quickly arranged for someone to watch my children and drove to the
hospital. The ER doctor pulled me aside and showed me her x-ray of her
lungs. How she had kept breathing was a mystery to me because she only
had quarter sizes pieces of lungs that were not consumed by the cancer.
He suggested this and that which I refused because she didn't want it.
hardest moment came when my father with tears in his eyes said,
"Please, Joey let them do it." I had tears in my eyes when I shook my
head no. If this was the last thing a child could do for her mother, I
was going to respect her wishes. She didn't want a ventilator. I brushed
her bangs out of her eyes, applied the ointment in her eyes and taped
them shut. When another nurse tried to interfere, one look told her to
back off. She was admitted to a room upstairs to finish the waiting
I went home after giving the hospital a copy of
her living will with instructions to call me before doing anything else
to her. I knew the nurses on the floor would do it and offer compassion
to my father while he waited beside her bed. I was one of them. I would
do the same if the situation had been reversed. Now I had to go home and
prepare my children for their grandmother's death. It wasn't a question
of when, it was a surety within twenty-four hours. I had heard the
death rattle in each breath she took before I left.
the phone rang at 4 AM I knew before I picked up the receiver. She was
gone. My husband tried to hold me, but I shook him off, got dressed and
drove to the hospital. Her fight was over. It took me until right after
the funeral to finally be the child who lost their mother. I exploded
with anger fueled by grief at my father how I had been voluntarily
forced into the role of constant caregiver and decision maker
squandering the little time I had left with my mother.
"Joey, I never realized. You're too damned dependable," he told me after I helped him up from the physical punch I'd gave him.
know what. He's right. I'm too damned dependable, and still am. But
lesson learned, I realized how short life really was. My mother was only
fifty-six when she passed this life for the next. Never again would I
let circumstances stand in the way of letting everyone know how I really
feel. Never.Now you know the rest of the story. Now you know why I'm the way that I am.