Hello and happy Tuesday. It is currently 12:07pm on Monday for me and I am sitting in my Mom’s room in Surgical
ICU watching her take a breathing treatment. She is bound and determined to get out of ICU today so she is blowing as hard as she can. She just paused and said, “Can I get out yet?” The response was, “Not yet.”
But she’s close. Maybe today. Maryday is in here with me and Mom knows you’ve all been waiting for a blog, so she’s given me the green light. My Dad is on his way over and might show up in a wheel chair.
But I’m getting ahead of myself .
Here’s what’s going on with my Mom. I figure some of you know a little, some of you know a lot and some of you know nothing, so let’s review. I will start with what the final diagnosis was and what happened, and then I will go back and explain how we got here. My Mom has small bowel cancer (okay, but as the nurse just reminded me, we haven’t gotten the final pathologies back from the lab, so we can’t say that for certain….but that is what all the doctors are saying it is.) She also has bb sized spots in her lungs and a larger tumor, but that doesn’t seem to behave like cancer at all (Medical details for the doctors in the house: It isn’t the right shape, it has an “adhesive” quality to it and the way it’s attached to her vertebrae all adds up to it not appearing to be cancer.)
In layman’s terms what this means is she had two big surgeries done at the same time. The first part, which took about two hours, was a lung biopsy (which involved taking a “wedge” of her lung plus two other spots) and the second part (they “flipped her over”) was a much longer and more intense surgery on her bowel. They removed a large section of bowel that appeared to have a neo-endocrine (sp??) tumor and it was a carcino-something or other. (That is the official Latin term) If any of you were fans of the “Don’t F%&* With the Pancreas” series from last summer, you may recall that I do have a medical degree from the University of Google with a residency at WebMD. You may also recall that if you Google image “Pancreas diagram” the algorithm specialists at Google have decided I am the expert on pancreas diagrams and you will be sent to blogisode 6 of Don’t F%&% With the Pancreas. That is a true story. Try it. Anyhoo, the point is, they took out about 18 inches of bowel (I just made that number up, but it’s close) and they took her gall bladder and her appendix and part of her colon and checked some spots on her liver. I told her before they went in that that should shave her legs and give her a haircut while they were already there and doing so much, but Mom said, “I really want them to take some of my stomach fat.”
I was kidding. She was serious.
Overall the surgery lasted about 6 hours and she will ultimately be fine and I will get into more detail about all of it in a bit.
But first, let’s go back in time a little bit. I should start with a small set up about who my Mom is and why I want to write this blog about her.
So most of you know that I wrote a book a few years ago that was a memoir about growing up overweight. The book was (obviously) intensely personal and involved many of the closest members of my family. My biggest regret was that I didn’t do my Mom justice in that book–I find her very hard to write about–and while nothing was outwardly negative or bad about her, I didn’t do a good enough job at capturing her spirit. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to right that wrong, and I think this might be it.
Besides. She’s so hopped up on pain meds she won’t remember any of this anyway and will enjoy reading it after she’s better.
Okay, I’m back, I had a small break while I had dinner with my PTBF and PTGF. I am back just in time for Mom’s breathing treatment. It’s 8:17pm.
So here is the thing about my Mom. She’s really active. Not in a “go climb a mountain” kind of a way, but in a “work 40 hours a week and then go and do a bunch of volunteer work, and then take a water aerobics class and then weed the garden” kind of way. My mother never stops moving during the day, but once she hits the bed she falls asleep so quickly even Rip Van Winkle would be jealous.
The point is, I can’t ever keep up with her, even if I’ve had 65 cups of coffee. No one can.
So now it’s 10:18pm and I’m at Mom and Dad’s house. Clearly this blog will be written 5 sentences at a time while I am in the hospital. Let’s see if I can do any better now that I’m home. Dad (let’s call him Chuck….because that’s what I call him and have since I was about 5 years old), Chuck is in parboiling tomatoes and making a chicken pot pie. I am hiding on the couch in the living room trying to write this blog. Let’s see how I do.
So the point about my mother is, it is bizarre to see her down at all. Here are some fun facts about my mother (get out
your highlighters, this will be on the quiz.)
1) My mom is half Italian and has brown eyes. My sister calls her daughter Maddie and my Mom the “brown eyed girls” and now Beatrix has brown eyes so there are three of them. This brown eyed girl story, though, focuses on the original.
2) Being Italian my Mom makes a kick ass spaghetti sauce. I have never in my life seen her use sauce out of a jar. I remember the first time I had jarred sauce (probably in college) and I couldn’t get over how sweet it was. My Mom’s sauce takes hours to cook, it has about a bajillion ingredients, she learned it from her mother (who was NOT Italian) and I don’t think I could make it if I tried. Not because I can’t cook (I CAN cook, Creason, it’s just that I choose not to…. on an almost daily basis…) but because my mother “wings” it. Once I had her write it down for me as she made it, and quite frankly the length of the recipe was enough to dissuade me from ever trying. It took up two notebook pages. Also, the directions themselves were vague and said things like, “put in a big bunch of tomatoes and some spices, I use different things, and sometimes I simmer pepperoni in there and sometimes just meatballs….” I mean, frankly, I’d ordered dinner in before I’ve even finished reading the first page, I was so intimidated.
3) My mother is very popular. She fancies herself to still be the shy girl who grew up on Britton Avenue in Madisonville, but I’m here to tell you, she’s got a million friends, so don’t believe her for a second when she acts shy.
4) My mother is a prankster. Consider yourself warned.
5) My mother eats healthy food. Not like kale, but more like she always orders the veggie pizza and thinks blueberries in cottage cheese is dessert (are you kidding me?). She does have vices (carmel corn, spiced gum drops) but overall she eats the way any doctor would want her to. Dr. Oz would approve. She also eats small portions and is often “stuffed” and says, “I’ll never eat again”. Mary Jo (Mom) also exercises regularly. She did yoga in the 70’s before yoga was hot, she did Jane Fonda tapes, she sweated to the oldies with Richard Simmons, and now in her early 70’s she walks on the treadmill, lifts weights and takes water aerobics. She can walk as fast as I can and will go on a 3 miler with me without missing a beat.
All of this behavior makes her sister Nancy laugh and throw her hands in the air as she says, “I don’t know where she got all of this motivation, but I sure didn’t get it. I think she’s crazy.”
Nancy thinks a dozen doughnuts is dinner.
One more fun fact: Mom dragged Nancy to a “fat camp” in the 80’s and Nancy got busted for sneaking out and buying snacks at a local convenient store. I love Nancy. P.S. They were both about a size 8 when they shipped off to fat camp. Hilarious. Nancy would tell you it was the most miserable week of her life. My mother loved it. They exercised at dawn as a group. My mom’s idea of heaven. Nancy’s idea of…well, you get the point.
So, given all of this, you can imagine my family’s concern as my unusually fit and perky energize bunny mother started to get a string of “stomach flu” and “food poisoning” bouts this fall and winter.
Because of what Rob had just gone through, we were sure she had gall bladder issues. She was sure she had gall bladder issues. The doctors were sure she had gall bladder issues. They did an ultra sound and didn’t see anything, so they ordered another test, which was scheduled for a Thursday. She never made it to the test. She was in the emergency room by Saturday.
(To read the next post in this series, go here.)