Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Frontline on PBS

I watched Frontline on PBS last night. It was on Undertaking, as in the people who prepare the deceased for a final visitation and burial. It was good, but made me cry all the way through it. It was a family of undertakers, the Grandfather had been an Undertaker, and his son, and multiple relatives, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces. There were 3 story lines. An elderly man and his wife, a young couple with a terminally ill infant, and a single elderly woman in a Hospice center.

The last one had several nieces and a cousin who visited her, but no one that was there all the time. When she died, the cremated her in a simple cardboard box and buried the ashes. There wasn't a visitation, there wasn't a funeral service, just an short interment service at the graveside. This one touched me, I must admit. She was so at peace with her life and death. It just was what it was, and that was all.

But the one that tore me apart was the young couple. All through this hour-long show the Owner of the funeral home was reading from his father's diary. It was from when he started as an Undertaker, and the insights he had. How he never kept child and infant caskets on hand, he ordered them as the need arose, how he never charged for the funeral services for children and infants. The infant had a very rare and fatal genetic disorder. The boy was 18 months before they managed to identify what was wrong, and he died at around 30 months old. It was so hard to watch as the parents came to terms with this final event, that they had watched their son die over the last 30 months and it was finally at an end. The mother kept talking about the connection she had with all of the other mothers in that graveyard, there were many headstones for children that had died, from newborns to toddlers to young children, and how the families had suffered this, and still they went on, and how she knew that she and her husband would do the same thing.

I probably shouldn't have been watching it, what with mom having cancer and treatment and all, but it struck such a chord with me. This is coming. Maybe not this year or next year, but it is coming. I'm sure that in years ahead, it will be good that I will have confronted this demon and made peace with it, but right now, it's pretty hard. It makes me doubt my faith, doubt my sanity, doubt the power of the medicine that keeps me in the middle of the road.

God, please keep me sane during all of this help me to remember your word and keep my faith strong Amen

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

First round of chemo

This is a long post today. I'm trying to get this all out of my head, so it's just going to be a long post.

Today my mother is having a port-a-cath inserted. If the procedure goes well, they will also start a round of chemotherapy today as well. If not, they will begin chemo tomorrow. This is being done at the small regional hospital about 3o miles from my parent's house. The first time mom had cancer, it was ER positive, and they treated it successfully from this small regional hospital. It was a small oncology unit, she knew all the nurses quickly, and many of the patients. In fact, several patients were people she knew from surrounding communities, and she felt at home and comfortable there. So I understand her desire to stay there, where she still knows some of the nurses and she has her original oncologist and surgeon. But this is a much different cancer, harder to treat and fewer options in the treatment.

My dad had called MD Anderson to try to get mom in for an appointment. I love my dad, but he is a racist man. He was a homicide officer for more than 15 years in a large metropolitan area, and he saw the worst that humanity had to offer, and now, he is a racist man. I don't agree, but I guess I kind of understand. Unfortunately for us all, the woman appointed to oversee my mom's case at MD Anderson is a black woman, Leslie. My dad called and asked for an appointment for a "second opinion". My dad's definition of a "second opinion" was to have a second doctor confirm the diagnosis and begin a treatment protocol at MD Anderson. The breast cancer center defines the term "second opinion" differently: it is an appointment with a doctor to have him confirm a diagnosis, and then prescribe treatment at a remote location, i.e. at the small regional clinic mom is at now, and the Breast Cancer clinic doctors have decided not to do that. This is not what my parents wanted, but my dad asked for a "second opinion", Leslie said the Breast Cancer clinic doesn't do "second opinions", and it went downhill from there. By the time I got involved, my dad was furious and Leslie was defensive.

I called mom and dad Monday, and dad told me what was going on. I had him give me the numbers to call, and I called yesterday (Tuesday). It took about an hour, but I finally managed to convince the admitting nurse that the second opinion that my dad was asking for was not the second opinion that the she was talking about, and we managed to figure out exactly what else needed to be submitted to get things rolling. In the meantime, Mom didn't want to delay the chemo any longer.

MD Anderson won't take patients who are currently undergoing treatment from another hospital/doctor/clinic. But mom didn't want to wait, so she agreed to do a round of chemo at small regional hospital.

When I was done talking to MD Anderson, Leslie needed one more report, and then we could have an appointment the second week of November. That's not far off, maybe 3 weeks, which is actually pretty good. But the surgery and chemo were due to start today. What to do? I called home to dad, and we talked, and I told him what was going on, that we could wait for 2-3 weeks and get in at MD Anderson, or we could do the surgery and chemo today. Then I asked him what they wanted to do. For the first time in my life, my dad was flummoxed. He had no idea what to do. After talking for a couple of minutes, I made a decision.

I said to dad, "This is what we are going to do. Mom will go in on Wednesday, have the port-a-cath put in, and start the chemo. When the series is finished, the doctors will look at the results, and then her oncologist will call the breast cancer center and do a telephone consultation with one of the oncologists there, and then mom will move to MD Anderson for treatment."

I said this with an authority I didn't feel, with a conviction that I don't have. I don't know if this is the best idea or not. My dad was so glad to have the responsibility of that decision taken away from him. I made that decision, not him. And he was more than happy to let me make that decision. I have taken that burden from him, I have stepped under him and lifted this off of his shoulders. For the first time in our relationship, I was an adult, making an adult decision, and he was happy to let me do it.

So now I know. My part in this will be to make decisions. My part will be to liaise between my dad and the doctors and nurses, translate, and make my father and mother understand. My job will be to be able to buffer my parents, to remain as unemotional as possible and get the information to the people who need it.

Dear Lord, please be with me. Help me to be strong, and to listen past the words coming out of my father's mouth, to the emotions behind them. Help me to not be so angry, to be constructive, patient, coherent, and realistic in my expectations of my parents, the nurses, and administrators that will be involved in this. Help me to carry this burden, because I don't think I can carry it without your help. Amen

Hey, at least I'm praying, right?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


They've diagnosed mom with incurable breast cancer.

Mom and dad are working on getting to MD Anderson for a second opinion.

Incurable? What? It's breast cancer, not pancreatic cancer. You are supposed to be able to treat, and CURE breast cancer. Of all the cancers, this isn't supposed to be one of the incurable ones.

My mom is only 59. She's too young to die. Isn't she?

Thursday, October 4, 2007



Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Y-e-e-h-a-w Yeehaw

Gabriel went to the Lord and said, "I have to talk to you. We have some
Texans up here who are causing problems...

They're swinging on the Pearly Gates, my horn is missing, and they are wearing T-shirts instead of their robes; There's barbecue sauce and picante sauce all over everything, especially their T-shirts; Their dogs are riding in the chariots and chasing the sheep; They are wearing baseball caps and cowboy hats instead of their halos. They refuse to keep the stairway to Heaven clean, and their boots are marking and scuffing up the halls of Wisdom. There are watermelon seeds and tortilla chip crumbs all over the place. Some of them are walking around with just one wing; and they insist on bringing their horses with them."

The Lord said, "Texans are Texans, Gabriel. Heaven is home to all of my children. If you want to know about real problems, call the Devil."

So Gabriel calls the Devil who answers the phone and says,"Hello---hold on a minute." When he returns to the phone the Devil says,"O.K., I'm back. What can I do for you? "

Gabriel replied, "I just want to know what kinds of problems you are having down there with the Texans."

The Devil said, "Hold on again. I need to check on something."After about 5 minutes the Devil returned to the phone and said, "I'm back. Now what was the question?"

Gabriel said, "What kind of problems are you having down there with the Texans?"

The Devil said, "Man, I don't believe this...hold on." This time the Devil was gone 15 minutes and when he returns he says, "I'm sorry Gabriel, I can't talk right now. Those Texans have put out the fire and are trying to install air conditioning."

Monday, October 1, 2007

more surgery

Mom was in surgery today, they put in a trach tube and a feeding tube. The trach is to protect her breathing, they are afraid that the chemo may cause her throat to close further, so as a precaution, they put the tube in. The feeding tube is so that if she isn't hungry, she can still get nutrition. It is such that it doesn't interfere with eating, so if she's hungry or something smells good she can eat it, but if not, then she still gets nutrition.

Dad called me, I wasn' t there for this one. He said she was out of surgery around 11AM and is doing fine, holding her own in ICU. Tomorrow she should be moved to a regular room.

No one has told them yet to what extent she has cancer. Stage 1? 2? God, not 4 please.

I'm telling all of this very matter-of-factly, but inside my heart is trembling.

Last night, I'm not sure how long I stood at the sink in the kitchen, saying, 'I don't want it to be true' every time I exhaled. I was supposed to be taking my pills, and I was trying to figure out why I was in such a bad mood. I had been in a very anti-social, bitchy mood most of the day. I was standing there, thinking of the things that had and hadn' t happened that day. I was looking for the trigger for the bad mood. Was it A? Was it B? Was it because C didn't happen? I finally pinned it. Mom's surgery was today, and I didn't want it to be true. It seems like a dream, or nightmare. I've been having more of those, since I brought that up. This is going to be a long fall.