I was at the hospital for the past 36 hours. The bad news: I slept 3 of them. The good news: Mom slept a lot more than that. Our night was rough-we were up at 12am, 1am, 2:30am and 5am. I stayed up then, but Mom was able to fall asleep again around 6 and sleep until radiation prep at 8:30. We were up all night because she had a horrible stomach ache-it was so sad. And I'm a heavy sleeper, so I'm sure she called out to me a few times before I woke up each time-I decided at 5 I couldn't do it anymore. She fell back to sleep and I rolled out the yoga mat until I had a work call at 7am-PST vs EST-man, what a challenge!
She had a longer than usual radiation treatment at 9:15 and I was very worried about her comfort. There are always three radiation technicians helping with the treatment and I mentioned her upset stomach to them. I also insisted that they give her a signal in case she needed a break. They couldn't shorten the treatment, but as soon as we were done, all three of them literally ran to Mom's side to get her off of the uncomfortable treatment bed. Little acts of kindness like this, coupled with lack of sleep, made me extremely weepy all day. I also asked one of the technicians if they treated this kind of cancer a lot. "Oh, yeah, all the time. We're treating someone right now who has the exact same thing." "As young as my mom?" I asked. "Younger."
And my heart broke again for this stranger, who maybe has little kids at home, who also has to endure this pain, this disruption, this fear. And as sorry as I'm feeling for myself, I know how so very lucky I am to have had 30 amazing years with a healthy, vibrant mom who has always been my loyal ally. I know how much the past two weeks have been a gift; when I first heard her diagnosis, I prayed so hard that I would get to have just one more coherent conversation with her. And I've had SO many. I've been able to tell her so many times how much I love her and I've been able to hear so many times how much she loves me. She's teased me, inspired me, awed me and taught me so much about faith, grace and love. And I get to be aware of those gifts and appreciate them.
I am going home tomorrow. I am terrified and relieved at the same time. I need to sleep in my own bed, exercise for over an hour, kiss Gary, do work. I also know that my heart and mind will constantly be in Seattle, feeling guilty for leaving my family and scared I'm missing time with my mom. I will be back in three weeks at the latest , though I plan to continue the blog from NYC-it will be posted earlier in the day, though, and some information will be second hand.
Anyway, despite the rough night, the afternoon and evening were amazing. Mom slept hard as soon as we got back to the room after radiation until 12:30. When she woke up, she felt so much better and was in a great mood. She ate well. She picked on my dad. She and her friend told their favorite stories of each other's kids when they were little. She had a fantastic physical therapy session, walking farther with the walker than she has since she arrived. And best of all: she's off the IV! Her pain is so much better that she's just taking an oral morphine twice a day. She even skipped her pre-radiation Tylenol and felt fine afterwards.
The sad news is something I alluded to yesterday: her hair is falling out. After the shampoo, I noticed a lot of strands on her pillow. When she leans against me, she leaves hairs on my shirt. When I run my fingers through her hair, massaging her head, my fingers leave wrapped in her hair. Yesterday was probably the last shampoo she'll get. The hair loss is from the radiation and is permanent. She has already amassed an amazing assortment of hats and head scarves-all gifts and all gorgeous or hilarious (my favorite is a yellow fleece hat with frogs on it-a nod to the Kermit voice), but it's sad to see this side effect taking hold. She doesn't seem too upset by it; I'm not sure if she really knows and she's so focused on wanting her vision back that anything else is minor. Today we were showing off her quilt again and I said that I was so excited for her vision to come back so she could see it. She replied that all she really wanted to see were her children again. My heart was about to break again when Dad chimed in, "don't you want to see me?" And she said,"...ummm, yeah, I guess." It's amazing how laughter repairs all those heart fractures.