This Sucks

18 Sep

Even thought I’ve known for three months that my mom is dying, sometimes I see her and it hits me all over again. It’s like Groundhog’s Day for heartbreak.

This week has been one of rapid decline for my mom.

Monday was my birthday. My mom was very agitated and barely able to talk, and didn’t know what day it was. She and my dad had gotten me a birthday card and my mom’s writing was illegible so my dad had to write the message. This was the first year of my adult life my mom didn’t call me ridiculously early to sing me “Happy Birthday.” And it will be the last year of my life when she’s alive for my birthday.

That night, my brother came to my house for dinner. As he was leaving, my dad called because my mom couldn’t stand up to go to the bathroom (actually a bedside commode she’d been using because the walk to the bathroom was too exhausting). My brother helped my dad get my mom taken care of and then spent the night to be around in case my dad needed support.

Tuesday was more decline. The hospice nurse came to visit and we changed a lot of my mom’s medicines, increasing the pain pills and Aitvan (for agitation). We also added oxygen for my mom, whose pulse ox was very low. She had a tiny bowl of Rocky Road ice cream; the last thing she will ever eat. I stayed the night that night — and have every night since — to help with medicine and to be there for my parents.

It was a long night. My mom had stopped talking and making eye contact. She was up for a half hour at 2 a.m., trembling, staring off into nothing. I tried to get her to lay down, but she wouldn’t, so I just sat with her and rubbed her back.

Wednesday was another step into hell. That morning, she wouldn’t (couldn’t?) swallow her morning pills. She had her jaws clamped tightly shut. My dad and I were able to wait until she opened her mouth slightly to put her painkiller and Ativan in, and then hold a water bottle to her mouth for her to drink. But those were the last pills she took; all of the other prescriptions to combat discomfort resulting from her cancer were done. That was also the day she got catheterized since it had been 24 hours since she’d been able to get up to go to the bathroom. And we found a bedsore (thankfully only one, and it’s actually scabbed up since then).

We were told on Wednesday to give my mom all the liquid morphine she needs/wants, and the Ativan as we think appropriate. I feel like a druggie (which is so not me), crushing the Ativan and mixing it with the morphine, so I can squirt it into my mom’s mouth.

Thursday was another heartbreaking conversation with my dad, who has been struggling emotionally. He asked me why my mom isn’t eating anymore and said we should ask for a feeding tube. That it seems like torture to not be feeding her. I told him it would prolong her life and he looked so broken as he replied that yes, we should.

The sleepless nights and stress are starting to get to everyone. My brother has been super irritable and today he screamed “shut the fuck up” at my dad as they argued about something completely ridiculous and inconsequential (literally, it was about whether a burrito is a snack or a meal). I then told my brother he was out of line and that he should leave it he can’t be decent, and then I became the target of my brother’s anger.

Let’s play a game called “Why does Music have a headache.” The options are my parents’ un-airconditioned house, where it regularly gets up to 85 degrees inside; stress from my mom’s situation; stress from work; lack of sleep; general existential dread; other; or all of the above.

I went home for a few hours this afternoon. Turned off my work computer, drove home, took a cold shower, and passed out for a nap. Woke up from the nap and Mike informed me that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. I admired the Notorious RBG very much, but all I could think was, “If a white lady had to die of cancer while I was sleeping, I’m so, so thankful it wasn’t my mom.”

Now I’m back at my parents’ house. I’m sitting on the bed next to my mom, who is snoring. I keep wishing I could just wake her up and tell her about my day and talk about how well Rafa is doing at the Italian Open and fill her in on Michaela’s homeschooling.

She was been a tiny bit lucid today. Not enough to have a full conversation. But she smiled at Michaela when she came to visit this morning. And she opened her eyes and looked at me when I told her I love her. And when she’s having pain and is moaning and thrashing around, she’s nodded when I tell her I’m going to give her medicine, and she’s able to swallow the liquid I squirt into her mouth.

The hospice nurse who came to visit today said they talk about “how much longer” in terms of hours, days, and weeks. My mom has days, she said. But not many. And so we wait.

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