Tuesday evening I went and visited a close friend who was going in for surgery Thursday, hoping to offer her support, comfort. Instead she offered it to me, as I dealt with what is probably IBS, or a spastic colon. Washcloths on my face, laying on her bathroom floor until the pain subsided. I pulled it enough together to come home and deal with the last two hours of it. While doing this, I was also calling my mother to find out what time her appointment was Wednesday, she is being treated for advanced kidney cancer (her 3rd cancer). MGH (Mass General Hospital) in Boston MA basically saved her kidney, thus her life. She lost her other kidney to cancer a few years ago, and before that, advanced colon rectal cancer. She was scheduled for surgery in November, but we had to cancel because I wasn’t fit to drive her. One of my struggles is insomnia. They go in and check out the ureter, kidney, laser off any tumors, and place stents. She gets anxious, and misunderstood that she could now accept phone messages, and they had called her back 8 times. She deleted them. So after calling oncall service, I learned that we needed to be there at 11:15. Great. I can hopefully get enough sleep.
Arrive at my brothers in NH to pick her up at 8:00, he tells us to take his car, because mine has no heat. That was kind of him. But my brother smokes in his car, and I get very sick when I’m around it. But you do what you have to. We arrive early, 10:45, check in. We aren’t there too long before they call us in. I look back at the large waiting room full of people, guesstimated, probably 60 between patients and their caregivers. Everything was going well, until 12:15 came, and my mother who hadn’t eaten since 7pm the night before was getting irritated (who wouldn’t?). At 4:30 they came and said “We’re going to take you to the o.r. now. I wished her well, and hiked down towards the cafe. The hospital is like a maze and fairly confusing, but I’d managed to learn my way around a few years ago upon my own stay there. Upon reaching the entrance to the cafe the beeper starts beeping. I need to go back. Up I go. They made a mistake. It was now postponed until 6:30, then 7:00, then 7:30. Ended up we waited for a total of seven hours before they took her in for surgery. I’ll skip the whole ordeal because frankly, I don’t want to revisit it. An hour and a half later I get a call from her doctor, NO CANCER. Words most people would be delighted, overjoyed, very grateful to hear. I was. For a split second, and then I got angry. Strange reaction, eh? One I didn’t expect.
I texted my sister. “Do you remember when they told Dar (kid sister) she was in renal failure and would fall to sleep and pass in her sleep?” (If only that happened.) She was afraid to sleep particularly that first night after being told, the next morning she awoke, and was so angry she was slamming cupboards. “That anger is what I’m feeling right now”.
Every hospital, every surgery, test, procedure, every waiting room brings back very painful memories. One would think it would get easier. I had brought plenty things to keep me busy, but my mother nothing appealed to me, and I kept busy by talking to my mother and trying to keep her from walking out. (She has done that before). Selfishly also because I knew it would be on me again, if this happened. I was now in that large waiting room by myself. They were closing the unit. Someone came with her bag of things and brought me to another building, another waiting room. One of the “conference rooms” where they pull you in to tell you dreadful news. But there was no dreadful news. I had already heard from her doctor. Why was I feeling so emotional? So angry? Where was my gratitude?
A few minutes later someone came to get me, to sit with my mom who had gotten VERY sick upon awakening. The usual naseau meds that we ask for in the o.r. were no longer enough. So they administered another drug, but only half dose because they wanted her to be able to get in the car so I could drive her home. And by this time, this unit was shutting down. Thankfully it worked. and rather quickly she bounced back, she wanted to be out of there as much as they did. So I went to go find my brothers car (we use valet, it’s cheaper for patients than the garages), they had closed. So I went to the parking garage that they advised me to, got the car and off to the Main Entrance to pick up my mother who was VERY uncomfortable. Starting enroute, I was trying to navigate and help make her comfortable, she was all over the seat, wanting to put it back. It’s not my car, I don’t know how to do it. I text my brother, and my phone dies. It dies. It had been fully charged an hour before. Where had all the battery life gone? And the four year old iphone doesn’t always charge when I want it to. Every attempt takes about 20 different times before it starts to charge. Now, in Boston, with a patient, I missed a turn, lost my way, and I’m lost, with no gps (phone). Anxiety is through the roof. I’m trying to calm down, I pray, I ask my angels to help me, and my mother needs to now lie in the back seat. So I find what I believe to be a safe place (?) and she maneuvers the doors and crawls into the back, my whole knapsack and pocketbook spill out on the back seat. Also want to mention that the drivers side headlight is much less bright than the passenger side, I was having a very hard time seeing. “There is no need in getting angry, it isn’t going to help, Donna”. I said “I’m not angry, it’s fear. I’m petrified. I am lost, in Boston, without a phone, in the middle of the night with a sick mother”. This lasted about 30-45 minutes until I found 2A. During this time my mother wants me to stop so I can get her back in the front seat because she determined how to put the seat down.
I’m on Rte 2, I try to calm down, adrenaline rush that has my head throbbing, and feeling like I was going to get sick. She is now calmer, lying still, hungry. 30 minutes later I arrive at our normal stopping point, and get out of the car to find the money that once was positioned nicely in my purse, in my knapsack. We order, I just get a drink. She is eating, and I’m driving looking for a route to NH that I’ve only driven a couple times. She lives in NH, I in VT. And she wants nothing of coming to my house, nor would I, I would want to be home in my own bed. We find it, we think, now mind you, it’s pitch black, no street lights, I know I’m not where I’m supposed to be, nothing is familiar. (As familiar as it could be at dark). I’m praying, looking for civilization. This lasted for another 20 miles, finally found the route and brought her home. I arrived home at 1:45am.
I sit on the couch to unwind, each time I close my eyes I see cars coming at me. So I try to meditate and release the angst. Decide on a glass of chocolate milk. I drink the milk, and so begins the cramping and repeat of the night before. This time, thankfully, I’m home, on my own bathroom floor. Two hours later it subsides. I crawl into bed, turn on the tv, and my legs start cramping. Up I am again. At 6am I’m finally ready to fall asleep, which I did. Set the alarm, call my mother at 10 “Go back to sleep, I’m okay until afternoon”. Three hours later I wake to the alarm at and look at my phone which had miraculously charged to 60%. There is a text telling me my girlfriend made it through surgery, it went well. I smile, I thank, I praise. I’m up, jump in the car, picking up her meds, some meals for her, and a freshly baked raspberry pie.
She is happy and grateful to see me, and was thrilled about the pie. We have a piece together. Calm, peace, gratitude set in. And something else, familiar, but couldn’t yet define it. I get into my car to drive home and it hit me… STRENGTH. My strength returned only 2 times more powerful. Okay, all is well, now you can rest, now you can wholeheartedly offer praise, and thanks. All is well. My family is blessed with a nice holiday season. Two more cancers survived this year. We are fortunate.
I arrive home, look at my cell (which charged up to 30% this morning) “Unknown Caller”. “Hey Donna! Calling to set an appointment for your mothers next surgery in six months!
I breathe, mumble about pouring salt in a wound, and then laugh. I can do this. I’ve got this. Thank you Lord!