14. The Week before the Day From H.E.L.L.


There was so much happening at this time. I’m not sure where to start.

After Mother began to heal from the broken ribs, it became clear that she was going to have to leave the hospital. We could no longer justify her being there. We knew she could not go home, and we knew that living with one of us wouldn’t work out either. We were not in favor of her going to a nursing home at that time, because she was still very confused about many things. Our thinking was that if she could stay a little longer, then perhaps she and Daddy could go to the nursing home at the same time, making the transition easier for her.

In consultation with the doctors we decided to do a mastectomy on her right breast. Even though her cancer was not spreading, this was a necessary surgery. Because the tumor had grown so large before she started chemotherapy, it did horrible, indescribable things to her breast. The first time I saw it, I wanted to cry and vomit at the same time. I can only imagine the pain she must have suffered. She suffered in silence. I still don’t understand how or why she did it.

At any rate, the first week in May, 2003, we had her mastectomy. She came through the surgery just fine and, yes, we were very careful about what she was given for pain. Day by day she recovered from the surgery. Still confused. But recovering.

Daddy on the other hand was battling the affects from the second round of chemo. A battle it was. Soon after the treatment was finished he developed blisters in his mouth and down his esophagus. His white blood cell count went very low. One day we noticed that he was talking less and less. He could not focus on your face. His eyes seemed fixed in his head. He wanted to sleep all the time. He became restless in bed. He moved and moved, making it impossible to keep him covered. Because of the blisters, eating was very painful. He was on a pureed diet which he hated, but that was all he could swallow. If someone new came in the room he seem to become alert enough to say a few words, then drifted back to wherever he was. The doctors could not really decide what was wrong. They tried several new meds. Nothing seemed to help. They suspected that he might have had a stroke, but no tests confirmed it.

This went on for several days. During that time I remember our son graduated from college. There were family and friends who came in for that celebration. They also came to the hospital to visit Mother and Daddy. It was a time for very mixed emotions. We were thrilled for and proud of our son. We were sad and heart sick for our parents.

Daddy finally got to where he would not eat or drink anything. The nurses were afraid to give him his medication for fear that he would choke on it. After of two days of having no medication, I could tell from his rapid heart rate that we were reaching a critical point. It was scary.

It was during this week that we began to realize that Daddy might not have much longer to live.

I need to mention that Daddy’s mother, my grandmother was and is still alive. We all call her Mom. She is a truly amazing woman. In 2003 she was 92. She had lost in death all her brothers and sisters, her husband and one son. I talked to her almost daily during these months. She was my tower of strength. She lives in another town about an hours drive from Abilene.

When it became evident that Daddy’s health was deteriorating quickly, we began to talk to Mom to see if she would like to come see him. Mom was so strong. Yes, she wanted to come. Darla made arrangements to pick her up and bring her to Abilene.

The evening before Mom’s visit, an oncology nurse, thinking ‘out of the box’, crushed Daddy’s medication and mixed it in strawberry ice cream—Daddy’s favorite. He would open his mouth for the ice cream and eat it. A small victory!!! Otherwise he was stil basically unresponsive.

Tomorrow: the day from h.e.l.l. and “I want…….ham”

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