After spending the two day and nights working like a crazy person deploying software, I relished the fact I could spend Sunday sleeping and enjoying the sun. I woke up late, enjoyed a couple cups of coffee, read more of Sherlock Holmes, and decided to run a few errands before finding a place to shoot photos. I was almost done with the last errand when my phone rang.
Seeing it was my dad’s number was my first clue something may be wrong.
Calling him back, getting no answer, then having him answer my mom’s phone was clue number two that something was wrong.
“What’s happening?” was what I asked the moment I heard his voice.
“We made it to Oregon City, but Mom is in the ER now.”
Thankfully my last errand was halfway to the hospital she was at, so I headed to the hospital. Not how we had planned to meet up, but the best laid plans and all.
It has been a month since I last saw my mom. Seeing her in the hospital bed, I knew she had lost another 15-20lbs since the last time I saw her. She looks 20 years older than she is which is bad given she usually looks 10-15 years younger than she is. I could tell she was in pain. And I could tell my dad was at wits end.
Our family’s way of handling most any situation is to joke. Puns, bad limericks, and other forms of humor are pretty much a standard anytime we are together. I could feel their stress, so I held up my camera and announced I was there to document her current stop on her tour of ER hospitals in Oregon. I got the laugh I had hoped for – got a strange look from the ER nurse – then gave Mom a hug.
Some of you know the trials and tribulations of my mom’s health over the last three months. She has been diagnosed, rediagnosed and misdiagonosed several times. They believe she has ulcerated colitis – a fun intestinal disorder that flares up with stress and certain foods. When I left her in December, she was looking better. Then, a few weeks later, she found a lump that was breast cancer. Surgery was the right option, but the stress made the ulcerated colitis flare up again. This time worse than the last time. They finally sent her to a new specialist in Oregon City to try to get it sorted out now that the cancer is gone. Mom, over the past 3 months, has lost 45lbs, has had about a dozen ER visits if not more, and has seen a dozen different doctors.
My brothers are both in denial about what is going on. They live near my parents, yet don’t call or stop by as they cannot handle my mom’s state. They get angry. They get sad. They get scared. So they stay away because they can’t deal.
I spent 3hours in the ER today, making jokes, teasing my dad, and threatening to make exam glove animals for my mom like I did for my niece last time she was in the hospital. Asking her how her blue boob is (she still has the dye in her system from her surgery.) They finally released her to go back to the hotel. And I walked next to my mom as she shuffled down the hall to the lobby – feeling like I should be holding her upright – wanting to take the pain away from her as she can no longer handle it. I pushed those thoughts out of my head. And focused on the now – focused on what she needed. Then I spent more time with them both until I had to go home to my own family.
My dad walked me out which I knew meant he had something he wanted to say away from my mom. He started talking, his voice cracked, I could see his eyes shimmer as the tears started, then his wall broke down and he started crying. I hugged him – trying hard to give him back the hope he was losing – trying to make him believe it would be okay – she would be okay. Trying to give him what he needed so he could put back on the mask that kept my mom from seeing his fear. I hugged him long and hard – then kissed him, told him I loved him, and drove home.
Hope is something that is hard to have right now. I realized about half way home that being Pollyanna for those around me is hard – takes a lot out of me – especially, in situations like this, when I’m feeling like this is never going to end. I keep trying to remind myself that life is what happens while we make plans. I keep trying to remind myself to hold onto the hope myself. But fuck, it is hard right now especially seeing her.
Yesterday, I learned that they think she might have Crohn’s Disease now. This will be her fourth diagnosis in three months. I’m not sure what to think. More info will be given next week.
Until then, I will do what I have been doing.
Checking on her.
And trying not to worry. Trying to have hope that this will be the last thing.
And trying to keep my head focused on what it needs to be – and that’s on her.