part four really starts at day three of the journey. monday, november 22nd is 'day three', for all intents and purposes. late saturday mom went to the er, early sunday we got the first diagnosis of cancer, and monday morning had me waking up at revbobdad's after having slept in the same bed my mom was staying in. i packed up some underwear and tee shirts for her (in case they let her put them on) and asked my dad to drop me off at the hospital on his way to work. he obliged and i landed in icu with mom around 8:30am.
of course, not normal visiting hours. yours truly has devised ways of getting around those annoying visiting hours. they involve 'but i'm visiting from florida', 'but i can't come later', 'but the nurse said i could', etc. my technique with icu nurses is to be super cute and super nice and smiley and superhelpful. mom needs a pee? i'll grab the bedpan and ring when she's done. more ice water? i got it. lights on or off? done. after the icu nurses have seen me assist with 'their' job a few times, i mention that i really would like to spend time with mom while she's here, and i have my (book, computer, ipod, whatever) to keep me busy while she's resting. i usually do this while handing someone water or being otherwise helpful. icu nurse usually tells me 'oh, sure - just tell them up front that nurse fillinmynamehere said you can come back'. it's worked every time i have had a parent in the icu so far.
yes, it's happened more than once. revbobdad had a few bouts with ketoacidosis that landed him in the hospital/icu a few times now. yup.
anyway. so i set up camp in mom's little icu cubby and tried to get her to eat. she ate a little bit but was kind of weak. which is understandable because she hadn''t actually eaten anything useful since saturday morning. i got her some ginger ale and turned on the television. and sat with her all day. she was talkative and jokey some of the time, and resting the rest of the time. i'm sure this is the day they did the biopsy and some other tests, but i can't be sure without looking at the HUGE PILE of medical forms and bills that i'm steadfastly ignoring. my aunt came to visit that night and was like 'stay at our place, use our extra car' and i was all yes, please. so i had a car for a few days while mom was in the hospital.
monday was the day, if i remember correctly, where we heard the other organs were involved. originally we had lung and brain. monday we added liver and spleen to the list. no one was even mentioning chemotherapy, just radiation to keep the swelling in the brain down.
so, nothing for the lung mass? the actual cancery bits?
nope. and no one would give us a time frame. this is when we (when i say we, i really mean mom, my brother, and i - awesome husband and revbob dad figure into a lot of this too, but so much of this was really me, mom, and my bro) realized that the family vacation might not be an option. but we'd have the holidays - mom would stay in new york, awesome husband and i would dump the house and just settle the mortgage, and we could be together for the time we had left. we were kind of guesstimating a couple of months, three or four maybe.
tuesday i set off a bit later, and it was more of the same. except this day we had some visits from social workers. one who helped mom and i set up her healthcare proxy (me). one who started the paperwork for her medicaid application. we had long conversations with the worker who helped us set up the proxy. sharon. she was very nice, very smart, and cursed in front of me. i appreciate a professional who can say 'shit' in the right context and know it won't offend me. it makes me feel like i can be more like myself. my mom's best friend from childhood came by and made mom eat some cake. which was nice. mom was still not eating a lot, mostly sipping water and eating bits off the trays of food they brought in. but she was still 'mom'.
we knew we didn't have long. we were talking about being able to take her out for thanksgiving. her friend was talking about taking mom to her house to care for her because she would need help - real help, not the kind of help i could give her. mom's brother and sister offered rooms to sleep in, cars to drive mom to appointments, whatever we needed until we could all be together again.
my one aunt even offered to let our loud, shouty, obnoxious cat taylor come stay with her so mom could see him one last time. i would have liked that. i think taylor would have too.
we had that blow on monday, that the cancer had spread. tuesday was the first time anyone offered a stage - stage IV. lung cancer, stage IV, also attacking her brain, liver, and spleen. and gods knew what else at that point. we revamped our ideas - a few weeks, right? it was almost thanksgiving, we'd have till the holidays. the new year. we'd spend it together in new york, as a family.
yeah, our lives change every day. they change depending on choices we make, paths we take. saturday we had a mom that was freaking out because she couldn't see right. by tuesday night we had a mom in icu with stage IV lung cancer that had spread to multiple sites and was not treatable.
things were about to change again.