My mom has cancer. This is nothing new. I think it’s been about 3 years since she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer- maybe 3 and a half years. I’m not sure what stage it was in when she was diagnosed, just that it was advanced and while they were able to remove a large 6lb tumor from her abdomen, they were unable to remove all of the cancer because of the way it had grown in and around some of her organs.
Originally, the news was extremely upsetting and I had a hard time accepting it. Over time, life seemed to go on and my mom seemed OK. Things sort of got back to normal, a new normal, and it was nice to think that maybe we could just live with cancer-for like 20 years or so. I might have been in a bit of denial- I still am.
Things have gone downhill more recently. I’m beginning to think that this is the beginning of the end. Maybe it’s past the beginning of the end- I’m not even sure. I live three hours away from my family and I am very much out of the loop. Tonight I read on Facebook that she’d been admitted to the hospital. It seems like it’s not too big a deal- a bowel obstruction I think. The details are fuzzy yet. I called my sister when I saw the post from my mom’s friend on Facebook and she told me what she knew which isn’t much yet. My mom will go for a CT scan tomorrow and then they will know more. They know that the cancer is very active- we will find out just how active once the tests come back I guess.
My mother has been fighting and enduring round after round of chemo. When the doctors told her last year that they didn’t have any other treatments to suggest she found a clinic in the US that would suggest treatments based on samples sent to them. We were very hopeful about this option and the clinic suggested a combination that my mother’s doctors would not have considered otherwise. At first, the treatment seemed to work despite making my mom very ill. My parents were able to go up to their house in Florida for the winter but had to come back early very hurriedly when my mother noticed some rapid cancer activity. Cancer causes fluid which builds up very quickly and is extremely uncomfortable to have to endure. My mother has it drained sometimes. It is too bad they had to come home early as my parents love it in Florida and it seems to be really good for them but it is important for them not to get stuck down there where healthcare isn’t free like it is here.
My mom started back on a chemo routine here but has been very ill over the last month which has led to some skipped chemo sessions and some extra emergency room visits. We were down very briefly over the Easter weekend and she mentioned that she’s not sure that she should continue treatment as at some point she needs to consider quality of life over length of life. She is not old- she will be 65 in a couple of weeks.
I am not sure what I am supposed to do. Being as far away as I am, it is very easy to pretend that nothing is wrong or downplay the severity of the situation. It is hard when I go up there because I am reminded when I see her of how sick she actually is. The phone is very kind.
We don’t have unlimited time to take off work. Do I go down there now or do I wait until things worsen? We are going down for the weekend after this one and then again for a weekend in June. Is that enough? How do I know what is enough? How do I know if this is the end? This could go on for another three years. My sisters are asking if I will be spending more time down there and I don’t know what to say. They are all much older than myself and in different stages of their lives. Everyone gives the blanket suggestion that I should spend more time down there but reality says that I still have a mortgage here that needs to be paid, a dog that needs to be looked after, and two jobs that need to be kept. I’m not looking for absolution or anything but I am honestly wondering what it is that I should be doing?
If I go down there, what will I do? Do I just hang out with my Mom? Is a week enough? A weekend? Two weeks? Are there things I’m supposed to be doing- for her? with her? for me? What sorts of regrets might I have later? How can I avoid them? I am the youngest of a very large family and am very used to being told what to do. I just need someone to tell me what I’m supposed to do now. Are there some things I could do for my mother from further away?