Thursday, June 9, 2011

The ONE WORD that's keeping me up at night -- Part 1

And it's not NEWBORN.  Or CRYING.  Or REFLUX or COLIC.  Nope, I'd give anything if it was any of those things.  It's CANCER.  Such a poisonous word.  A sad word.  A devastating word.  And a super scary word that can turn your world upside down in an instant. 

My mom is a 24 year cancer survivor.  Which is completely amazing (considering the advancements in cancer treatment we have now and the increased survival rate they've given us).  She was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 10 yrs old.  My youngest sibling was 4.  My mom was a young 36 years old. 

But she beat it, and over the years I've taken such pride in that.  My mom is a fighter.  But now it's back.  24 years later and it's back.  It all started less than 2 months ago....

On March 30 (a Wednesday I'll never forget), my sister called me at work.  Don't panic.. but Dad took Mom to the ER because she's had shortness of breath... and they just drained 2 liters of fluid from in/around her lungs.  Okay, I was 9 months pregnant... I'll let you guess if I was able to refrain from panicking.  My parents are the type to avoid the doctor at all costs unless there's a visibly broken bone or someone isn't breathing.  So, the ER?  Serious stuff.

However, I was having issues of my own.  The baby had suddenly stopped moving.  I had tried drinking tons of fluid, I had tried sugar and caffeine, anything to get that baby moving.  But I wasn't feeling anything but miserable.  A trip to my OB showed I was having contractions every 3-4 minutes and was in preterm labor (the contractions were keeping her from having any room to move - that's why I couldn't feel movement!)  I headed home for strict bedrest until a Monday appt - leaving me with nothing but time.. time to put the focus back on my mom.

Mom insisted she was fine and that they were testing the fluid and we wouldn't know anything more until the results came back.  My longtime friend (we've known each other since we were 11 and call each other our "forever friend"), a nurse at my hometown hospital, assured me that it was most likely pnemonia and not to worry. 

But I'll never again be able to enjoy April Fools Day.  April 1 was a Friday, but mom's doctor promised to call if her results came in over the weekend.  I had barely gotten the kids in bed when I got the call from her Fri night.  Cancer.  But not just breast cancer.  It was back, but this time it was IN HER LUNGS.  Mom was so strong while she gave me the news... told me they'd be running tests in the next wk or so and let's not get too upset until we know more.  I tried to keep it together while I was on the phone with her, but I doubt I did very well.  And once off the phone... I literally collapsed and have never heard sobs like that out of anyone.  Ever.

I've since learned that Diagnosis is the hardest part of the cancer journey.  Not just for the patient - but also for their family and friends.  It's shocking.  It's scary.  (And when you're 9 months pregnant, and a hormonal mess.. it's even more intense.)  It was another 11 days before we got the full picture of what we were dealing with.  During that time, there were scans and tests and more scans.  I didn't function.  Friends fed my family often... and when they didn't, there were dinners of cereal or takeout.  I tried to hide it from the kids and be strong, but I often failed.  Sissy caught me crying a few times, and I explained it away, unsure of what or how I'd tell her.

The good news:  the cancer is confined to the one place, and all her other scans came back clear.  The bad news:  it's cancer and it's in her lungs.  The fight would need to  be immediate and aggressive.  Chemo - 6 rounds, 1 every 3 weeks. 

So, April 18th came, and mr. fix-it's amazing mom came to town for the birth of #3.  My mom met with her oncologist, sooo very far away from me and my big belly.  And on April 19th, our dear, sweet baby was welcomed into this world by me, mr. fix-it and my mom.in.law.  It was special.  But the pain of not having my mom there was so deep.  She was here for the birth of our other 2 kids.  And we had planned that she would stay that week - with the big kids at night and with me during the day.  But cancer has a way of derailing your plans.

So, on that spring Tuesday, I was in Texas, having a baby.  Mom was in OK, getting a port in her chest for chemo. 

Wednesday, I was in the hospital.  At times all alone with my newborn, instead of hanging out with my mom.  She was in OK, shopping for wigs with my sister.  They texted me pictures, asked my opinion. 

Thursday was more of the same for me - hospital food, visits with my mom.in.law, precious visits from friends.  My mom started chemo.  And I wasn't there for her, couldn't be there for her.  I wanted to cry, over and over... not fair, not fair, not fair..... 

Not being able to be there for her for that scary time after diagnosis and the first treatment broke my heart.  Much as it did that she didn't get to meet the baby until I was cleared to travel... for Mother's day.

And here's my sweet momma... with her new look (because her hair fell out the first week of treatment... the bottom picture is from my baby shower in March, where she's sporting her 'old look').... that top picture was taken on mother's day... holding her newest granddaughter.  My mom... th every person who taught ME how to be a mom... how to live semi-homemade... how to be crafty, and cook, and entertain, but to be quick and move on to the next thing... My mom, the fighter.



If you read all this, thanks.  I honestly wrote it almost as my own therapy.  I'll try to wrap up my thoughts in Part 2... and thanks to everyone who has shared prayers and good thoughts with me in the last few months.

15 comments:

Cassie said...

My eye's couldn't help but get watery as I ready this, my little heart starting aching for you.

I will pray for your mother, I will pray for you and your family that ya'll can all make it through this hard time peacefully. I will pray that your mother stays strong through this time and that she beats her cancer again.

God bless you and your family.

Special K said...

Oh I'm so sad for you! I imagine this must be overwhelming and scary.I can only hope you have some great friends to lean on (those ones that brought dinners sound like keepers!) and all goes well with Mom. Thanks for sharing, I know it is hard, but someday we all will go through something similar and we can bring back memories of your emotions and know we are not alone.

Ben and Emily said...

I will keep your mom and your family in my prayers.

Decal Monograms said...

I am so sorry about your mom! I will be praying for her. My grandfather is dealing with all of this now. It's just not fair.

Erin said...

Oh Elaine, God bless you and your wonderful fighter Mom! Prayers, hugs, and healthy thoughts going your way.

Grove Gals said...

I have been there! My mom was diagnosed iwth cancer the first time when I was 4 and then when I was pregnant with baby C is came back...thyroid cancer and required radiation....which meant she couldn't be around him until 1 month after her final treatment. She didn't get to hold him until he was almost 6 months old. She is now cancer free and I hope your mom gets the same diagnosis. It sucks...a horrible horrible disease!

Anonymous said...

I came to your blog from Kelly's Korner. The exact same thing happened to my MIL last year. She had breast cancer 25 years ago and it returned in her liver last Spring. She knocked out chemo and is just doing awesome!!! Hope you feel the prayers and words of encouragement- it's just amazing what they can do with cancer these days.

Kristie said...

Hugs and continued prayers for your family.

Sasha said...

You guys have been in my prayers.... cancer is so rough and just not fair. I wish I was closer and could help more. Big Hugs!

Sbuckley said...

My prayers are with you and your family.

Susan

Mrs. Sitcom said...

Thank you for sharing. My mom went through a similar thing with my grandmother, so my heart goes out to you all. You will be in my prayers -- stay strong, and keep us updated. xo

Tiffany said...

There are just not the right words to comment on this post but to say I will be praying for you and your family! I can not imagine what you have gone through over the last couple of months.

Jess said...

That was really hard to read! I'm so sorry for what you're going through right now! My mother-in-law had breast cancer 21 years ago and beat it. Then 2 months before our wedding last year, she called me to tell me it had come back. She didn't have the heart to tell her youngest son (my husband), so I broke the news to him. But, after many tears and a fight, she did her treatments, was able to make it to our wedding and is in remission again. I'll be praying for your mom and your family that she will recover from this again! It sounds like she's a fighter and that she has tons of support! I'll be thinking of you and keeping you and your family in my prayers!

C. Beth said...

I'm just now seeing this, Elaine. I am so sorry! I know it must just be so hard on so many levels. I'll pray for your mom.

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