On Mother’s Day, my Mom announced that she had been bleeding for 6 weeks. In June she was diagnosed with anal cancer. In July she started chemo and radiation. By day 5 she was admitted to the hospital for 9 days.
My world got really small. All I could think about was healing my Mom. I was ready to be part of the cure. I researched oils and herbs to heal the cancer and the radiation burns, I wrote guided visualizations for my mom to use, I learned all kinds of things about cancer, radiation, chemo and alternative therapies.
One chemo drug was too strong for her, she was allergic to the other. The chemo gave her sores on her lips, all inside her mouth and down her throat. It was painful to eat, so she refused.
When the oncologist said this kind of cancer was a hard one, he wasn’t kidding. This was the most brutal thing I have ever witnessed. I have never seen someone suffer so much for so long. It broke my heart to see my Mom in such incredible pain.
Luckily for me, I have two brothers and a sister. We took turns sleeping in the hospital with her. One of us was there, 24 hours a day. Holding her in a container of love while she turned inside out with pain. We all became quite proficient in nursing. My mom had to pee and she would jump up to pee at any given hour with a moment’s notice. We would jump up to chase after her with the IV pole so she wouldn’t get disconnected or fall.
It didn’t matter that she was in the hospital. They came. The paramedics came to transport her to radiation day after day. My Mom continued to refuse to eat. On day 8, they said they were going to use intubation if she didn’t eat. She was afraid, so she tried to eat. There was numbing medicine so that it wouldn’t feel like pins and needles, but they always forgot to bring it, even when we constantly reminded them before each meal. The next day, they discharged her. She wasn’t any better than the day before.
She quit the last 3 days of radiation and the last 4 days of chemo. The treatment was killing her. It is now December and she is still incontinent so she rarely leaves the house. She has so many symptoms, sometimes I don’t know which one is more important. I don’t know if anyone is prepared for the role reversal that is thrust upon you when your parent is sick or aging. It’s like taking care of a child, but this child used to take care of you. It is an honor and is humbling. My Mom who used to be so discreet and shy now has to be naked in front of me on a regular basis.
I try to comfort her and soothe her but I am so sad inside. I’m not ready to loose my Mom, but now she has nodes in her lungs. Her shortness of breath is disconcerting.
For now, I am enjoying her stories of her childhood and her past and hearing some stories that explain how she became who she is. I am holding close our time together, tucking it safe in my heart.