Today my mom was so much better. She was coherent and almost back to being herself. In talking to the staff at the nursing facility, it seems that my mom had an unusually high level of digoxin (heart medication – mom was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in March) in her blood. According to the staff, that could have been the cause of her being so delusionary over the weekend.
It was pretty scary to see mom that way. She had this very blank, far away look in her eyes. She was seeing things that were not there, pulling at things in the air, talking to people that were not there. She even tried to get out of bed to turn the tv on – and the nurses found her on the floor. When I told her about that today, she had no memory of it.
It is so hard to know what to do for her. The doctors say that she hads 2-6 months to live, and so it is hard to know if these episodes, when they occur, are caused by the medication or by the cancer progressing. It is so important for people in these situations to have someone advocate for them. Although the doctors and nurses try to do there best, communication can get miscontrued and you need someone who is on top of things all the time.
I have off of work for 3 weeks now and I am anxious to get back – if just to have some time that I am concentrating on something else other than sickness, medication, death, etc. This experience has been very hard for me, and it has given me a new appreciation for the protected life I had for such a long time. We will all be faced with this at some point in our lives, and this is very difficult and gut wrenching when you are making decisions for someone who is so important in your life. I know my mom knows that I am doing my best – but you feel like your in Las Vegas playing the odds of when someone will live and when they will die and what is the best thing to do for them at the particular stage they are in.
Everything I have read about small cell lung cancer, which is what my mom has, is not pretty. Chemotherapy is the preferred treatment, and even in the best of all situations, the prognosis is no longer than 5 years. Without chemo (and the doctors do not recommend this for my mom as her lungs are so scarred from 60 years of smoking) the prognosis is less than one year in the best of circumstances.
Every time I see someone with a cigarette in their hand, I want to rip it out of their hand and have them see what my mom is going through. Her cancer is most typically caused by smoking. And the deadly part about it is that it generally is not detected until it has spread and caused some other type of complication. In my mom’s case, it was a tumor that pressed on her spine and caused a compression fracture of her vertebrae (bone resting on bone). The pain progressed until it was unbearable and then she was hospitalized and diagnosed.
It is very therapeutic to journal this journey. I will continue to so do on a daily basis.