Friday, September 4, 2009

Social Vibe for Ovarian Cancer Research

This post has nothing to do with homeschooling.

On my sidebar is a new gadget, Social Vibe, that helps earn money for charity each time a reader interacts with it. It doesn't take any money from you, only a minute or two (or more, if you wish) of your time. My chosen charity is the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, in honor of my mother, who is battling this disease.

Below is a post I'm bringing over from my journal, dated July 2005. It's about my family's experience the day she went into the hospital for exploratory surgery. Just for reference:

Melissa and Jennifer = my sisters
Weesie and Papa = our maternal grandparents
Trey = my nephew

Incidentally, September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

July 1, 2005, The Day of Her Surgery

We gather at the hospital...Dad, Melissa, Jennifer, Weesie, Papa, and I. We are a close family...whenever we gather, we are talkative and this is no exception. We laugh and make jokes in between sharing uneasy glances and watching our watches. It seems to be taking too long...the more we wait, the more worried we become. Dad is concerned that the doctors are giving other families their reports right there in the waiting room. He wants privacy. I ask the desk nurse if we can meet with the doctor somewhere more private, and she says she has just spoken with him...he would like us to gather in the chapel.

My heart sinks. I know that because we have been asked to gather in the chapel, the news is bad. I pray silently and gather my family together, and we enter the small room that is designated Temporary Chapel. There are people in there, using the chapel as a private dining area. The nurse asks them to leave, and they gather their boxes of Kentucky Fried Chicken and look at us with sympathy. The room smells of chicken and grease and my stomach lurches.

We are side by side around three walls of this room. Weesie, Melissa, Daddy, myself, Jennifer, Trey, Papa. Trey is sleepy–-he has been such a good boy today, he doesn’t realize what is happening, but it has been hours and now he is tired. He falls asleep on the chair beside his mama. The doctor enters the room with a somber expression and shakes my father’s hand. You are all family? We introduce ourselves briefly, not by name, but by familial association.

He sits down and says What we found was not very good.

We all sit quietly and keep our eyes upon him. No one moves, no one speaks. He explains that the cancer is covering a larger area than he had hoped. He begins to explain how this has happened, but we want to know how he is going to treat her. Someone, I think Melissa, asks what he is planning to do. He says Mom will need to gather her strength and hopefully begin chemo, but her cancer is widespread. It is as if someone has dumped a bucket of cancer paint inside her. No one looks at anyone except Dr. Oakley. His resident Dr. George is beside the door and I can feel her watching us. She is quiet, says nothing to interfere.

He begins to explain the treatment options, but he is explaining also the extent of her cancer. Still no one moves. We are silent. Then Melissa asks, Will the chemo give her a chance? The doctor says gently, Is it curative? No.

Sharp intakes of breath can be heard around the room. My abdomen is clenching, sucking inward with the breaths I am taking, moving outward as I struggle to maintain my composure. Dad doesn’t understand; he looks at Dr. Oakley and begins to speak. With the chemo...will she...will the chemo...and with that his lip begins to tremble and I take his hand and ask, Do you have a prognosis? The doctor looks at me and says nothing for the space of a second, an eternity, then I’m not sure that she will leave the hospital.

The shock is intense, and I put my arm around my Dad. I try to keep my composure...I am the eldest daughter, I must be strong for him. Papa is in shock, he is crying, and his chest is heaving... Weesie puts her hand to her mouth and cries softly. My sisters are like me, trying to be strong for Dad, for everyone else, but we can not hold back tears. We ask could this have happened, she has been seeing a doctor for over a year, how could they have misdiagnosed this...there are no easy answers. We go back to the beginning and ask for clarification...what does this mean, how will he treat her? Surely we are misunderstanding him. With each answer, he gives us more and more information, and it is always worse than before. He is leading us down this path instead of throwing us there. He is trying to be compassionate and deaden the blow, but nothing can ease the shock of the words he is not actually saying...she is going to die.

He tells us everything hinges on the ileostomy. Her bowel is kinked with cancer. If the ileostomy does not work, her bowel will shut down, and she will be gone in a week. We are all crying now. We went in thinking at the worst she would have five years; now we find she may die in this place, this week.

He spends a long time with us. We ask the same questions over and over. We are confused, we are frightened, and he is gentle and patient, taking all the time we need, never glancing at his wrist or the door. He is kind.

When he senses we are ready, he leaves. He closes the door behind us, and we all begin to sob. I am holding my Dad and we are crying together. We don’t know what to do. Someone, I think Jennifer, says something about God, and I make an unflattering remark about Him. I hate God in that moment, I deny there is a God.

There is a knock at the door, and it is Papa’s sister Betty and her son, Michael. Michael is four years older than my mother; although they are cousins, he says they are practically siblings, and therefore we are his nieces. We make room and Melissa leaves the room to call Aunt Vicki, Mom’s sister. Michael says he will pick her up at the airport.

We sit in the chapel and suddenly Weesie says to Daddy, We have plots available at the cemetery in Rome (Ohio). Daddy’s shoulders shake. I look at his face, and he has aged ten, twenty years in this hour. He says, I don’t want her that far from home, and we all begin to cry again. I have never felt such sorrow.

Jennifer says Mom wants to be buried near Weesie and Papa, too. Weesie says there are plots at Highland, they will give two of them to Dad and Mom, and Daddy agrees, and we all cry again.
For a time there is quiet in the room, with only an occasional murmur. Betty is making me angry, she is saying things like God just needs her more than we do and She will be in a better place, and I want to smack her, want to scream at her and tell her to shut up. But I don’t. I am quiet, I put my head down and cover my eyes, and Michael says Come here, honey, and he takes my hand. I’m going to take care of my niece, he says, and he leads me from the room. He puts his arm around me and we begin to walk the hallway. I have to stop, I am going to break down, and I begin to sob. He hugs me and I hug him back, then I pull away and wipe my eyes. We stand in the hallway and hold hands, and I tell him I want to call my husband.

I call home, and I tell him it is bad. I look up and Melissa’s husband is there, telling me Mom is here, she is out of recovery, and I rush to her. We are surrounding her bed, smiling and asking her how she feels, and she seems groggy, but she looks at me, looks into my eyes and we are communicating. She is telling me she knows, but she isn’t speaking a word. I tell my sisters later, and they say no, it didn’t happen that way, she was too groggy, but a few moments later she does it to them.

We stand outside her room, devastated and hurting, and wait for her to be settled in her room, to make sure she is sleeping. I don’t remember anything after that, until I arrive back at my mother’s house that evening.


Kez said...

How devastating that must have been for you all.. {{HUGS}}

Wendy Hawksley said...

Wow. That is intensely personal. Thank you for sharing. I'll be clicking the widget each time I visit your blog.

Arby said...

I cannot help but wonder how you can hate a God that does not exist. You cannot even deny a God that does not exist. This is a very well written account of a personal and painful experience. I will say a prayer for all of you.

Bleu said...

Thank you, everyone. My family had never experienced anything like this before. All of our relatives, especially on my mother's side, had lived well into old age. I knew both sets of my maternal great-grandparents, and my grandparents are still with us.

Arby, this took place in 2005, when I was still trying to determine what I believed. I had not yet come to any firm conclusions about my faith or lack of it. I was very confused.

Meg_L said...

What a moving story. I'm sorry.

I like the Social vibe idea, but at least for me, it's not visible.

Mark Davis said...

You instinct for caring for those around you needs to be converted into a virus. :)

Tigers Moondiva said...

I am so sorry. This is so hard. My grandma (who raised me) passed July 26.

She was diagnosed in April.

The few months between were the hardest I have ever known.

Stay strong. and Remember to cherish every moment you have NOW. Mourn her after she is gone - CHERISH every moment you have until then.