Friday, May 12, 2006

Mom's final days

Mom gets weaker. She eats about a tablespoon of food a few times a day. I ordered potato salad from the corner store. I order it specially, as this is not tourist season and they do not have much in the store. They were most amenable to helping me out. She ate little of it. She sleeps and eats a mouthful and that is all. She is very tired. Today I leave for Toronto for the Conference. I phone the Community Care Access (CCAC) people yesterday and asked them to send someone. Rob and Dad are expected form Toronto around noon. Until then she will be alone as I have two workshops to present on Friday and one on Saturday.

I check on her at 7:45 a.m. and she cannot physically get up. When she woke she said she feel pressure on her lung. She cannot breathe very easily and when she sits up she gets dizzy. I tell her to lie down. She is coughing up small amounts of dark mucous. She has a sip of water and then I phone her Doctor. I ask if she wants to go to the hospital and she said, “No, Let’s wait for Doctor. To arrive. He may have a solution.” She sent me out of the room. I know I am stronger than she thinks I am. It is a peculiar situation for me. I had seen all the shows where the family gathers around a bedside. They get back as much as they receive in being with ailing family members. I did as I was told and went downstairs.

By 8:00 a.m. the cat is pacing and the dog is upset. I clean the basement out since they are coming to install a propane furnace. It takes me two hours to sort through the years of junk. The dust is incredible. It is good to do something worthwhile.

It is pouring rain. It cleared, but another weather front is moving in. The water pond pump is off, likely broken, and I have another phone call to make. The rain lasted all night and the pond has over flowed. Maybe it is just a circuit.

By 9:15 a.m. Mom is wearing her adult diaper and I have to change it for her. She cannot do it herself. It is humbling to help her this way. Finally the doctor arrived. He tells me that there is thrombosis in her right leg, which means a blood clot. He said it is the tumour that is pushing up on her lung and she is now palliative. He asks her wishes and I tell him that she wants to stay at home. There is nothing else they can do. Dying is hard. It is comfortable here and the same things will be done here as in hospital. He tells me he will order oxygen to help ease her breathing. Lana, another nurse who has never been here before, is coming for 11:00 to 2:00 p.m. I meet her at the front door and explain the situation. Mom do not bother having her pain pills Rx filled a few days ago after the failed 2nd chemo visit. Robin will have to do this. Big mistake. Rob and Dad are due about noon. I have to leave.

After I leave, a company delivers oxygen: a mask and a tank, which they take upstairs to her. Mom wants to come downstairs, but I want her to save her strength. In my note to my brother, in the communication book, I fervently beg him to keep her upstairs. I need a place to sit to get a break; if she is down here there will be nowhere to go. There has to be a place for me to just sit and relax. If she is in the main living area it will be very difficult. She has been coming downstairs every day – a few steps at a time. I have to walk behind her when she went upstairs at the end of the day. I am afraid she is too weak to climb them.

I buy Mom some flowers in flowerpots before I leave for my conference. She always liked large flowerpots on the deck. I buy a small bud vase for the table, with a carnation and a little bear that said, “#1 Mom!” on it. I am so glad I did. I will be back the day before Mother’s day, the 14th, but I know I have to act quickly. Who knows what I will time for later?

I take off around noon to go, driving to Toronto, and preparing for the three workshops I will deliver. It is a pensive drive. How relieved I am to get a break and take my mind off the stress of caring for Mom; an independent, fiercely private woman disinclined to let anyone know how ill she is. I continually asked relatives for help but Mom denies that she needs anything from them. She tells close friends not to visit. I think, in retrospect, that she is ashamed of the state of her home and her inability to keep up the meticulous housecleaning practices she is used to maintaining. She refuses to wear her adult diaper except when I nag her. There are spots on the carpet all over the house.

The Red Cross caregiver gives Mom a half glass of SoyNice. Since Mom has problems with milk tolerance, this is a terrific meal replacement. Easy to drink. Corinne, the CCAC nurse, came by and leaves a note. She will have a nurse there daily.

I made it to the hotel, take valet parking, check in, and try to get organized. I unpack my things and change my clothes. I buy myself a nice dinner and check my e-mail. I spend some time working on my three workshop presentations. I should have phone home, in hindsight. I do not want to disturb anyone, I guess. I trundled off to the university where I will present that evening. It goes well and I quite enjoyed the experience of sharing my expertise with colleagues. It is comforting being at this end of the learning curve. I feel confident finally after years of feeling as if I do not know anything.

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