Seven years and a few months ago I had my first ’round’ of chemo and my first radiation treatment. My mother had driven 800 miles to take care of me while my hubby was at work and during that time period is when I first noticed her memory was going.
My mother is a great talker, or at least she used to be. She could fill the air with words and sentences and stories and never would one have to worry about a gap in conversation. The problem with having a mother like this is that I never really learned to converse with people, though I am very adapt at nodding my head up and down and saying, “Oh” and “I see” and “Wow”. And that is why I so badly wanted her with me five years ago because if she was talking then I didn’t have to think about the chemicals that were going into my arm via a PICC line.
It worked. Before I knew it, I was unhooked and walking to my car to be driven to the radiation treatment center, which was in a different part of the hospital district in downtown Fort Worth. I only wish she could have been with me during the radiation treatment too. The room was empty except for the buzzing machine, which lasted 3.5 songs on the popular radio station. I remember thinking, “One song … two songs … three songs … almost done.”
On the way out to the car, I remember taking deep breaths and feeling my arms, hands, fingers, calves, feet, toes all fiercely tingling and over the next few hours my stomach formed into a hard knot. Apparently the nausea medicine was supposed to stop that from happening. It didn’t. If I could get something swallowed, it refused to stay in my stomach. I was able to drink water though and it stayed, but nothing else did.
And the smells. Oh the smells. Worse than being pregnant.
The next day I was surprised when my mom couldn’t remember the way to the radiation center. Six weeks later when I finished my last radiation treatment she still had to ask me where to turn. It was a simple ‘L’ shaped route, but she couldn’t remember.
As I look back I realize that because I was worrying so much about her, I didn’t pay too much attention to what I was going through …. which was the main reason I wanted her there anyway, to distract me from myself.
I love my mom. I wish we could have known that the memory issues were stroke related. We thought she was having minor memory issues related to age. The MRI showed no plaque in her brain, just small older strokes.
Then she had that big stroke. After that she disintegrated slowly. She had more small strokes and lost more and more weight. Eventually her body couldn’t digest food properly at all. Then she died. In some ways it was very sad, but the good news is that I was able to share Christ with her and after that she had peace.
You can tell when someone has peace because their eyes tell the whole story. I would ask her questions near the end and she could nod or shake her head. Other times she could get out a ‘no’ or a ‘yes’.
I probably asked odd questions. In one of our last conversations I asked, “If you could go back and quit smoking and never have had these strokes, would you?” And she answered quick and sharp, “No.” Then when she saw the look on my face she said, and I was shocked because it had been a while since I had a full sentence from her, “Don’t feel sorry for me!”
I think those are wonderful words. Would that more of us felt that way when awful things, unfair things, happen.
I am looking forward to seeing my mom in heaven.