The Twilight Years Are Here

The Twilight Years Are Here

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Squamous Cell Carcinoma is One of the Dirtiest Things I Know

Well, here we are. Dad’s mental state is deteriorating noticeably. He has this annoying new habit of laughing to himself when he disagrees with anything that is said to him. I never knew a laugh could sound so painful… so hateful. He is becoming more paranoid and delusional daily. He frequently has no idea where he is and asks why we “brought him here to visit”. He is transported back in time to Louisiana and believes he still lives there. It isn’t uncommon for him to ask me to “take him back to his bride”.

Physically he is doing amazingly well. Ask anybody that knows him and they will tell you he looks better than he has in years. If you were to ask his doctors, they would tell you that he is in remarkable shape for someone with his list of physical conditions, diseases and age. He is frequently referred to as a medical miracle. It’s as if his physical state is improving as his mental state declines.
Tomorrow, we will go in for yet another surgery. Dad has squamous cell carcinoma on his right ear, again. They will do Moh’s surgery and it will be gone… until the next time.

This past week we found out my mother has squamous cell carcinoma. It’s not on her, it is inside her. She has lung cancer. It wasn’t there in April when she had a CT scan because of pneumonia but it is there now in August. I wish to God there was a treatment like Moh’s that could fix her as easily. Hers is inoperable. We are so in need of a medical miracle here. What a difference it makes to have something like this inside your body rather than outside it! I hate that I am here and not there. I hate that I constantly end up feeling like I am letting down someone in my life, someone that I love. It is all part of the curse/blessing of being a caregiver.

For those who may not know it, my mother spent the last seven years of my grandmother’s life as her caregiver. She devoted herself to her mother. She gave up her home, her time, her everything to be there and care for her mother. We lost Grandmama 5 months ago. Needless to say, Mama has been killing herself trying to settle her estate, deal with all the little things that have to be done, all while dealing with her grief. As she has physically deteriorated, we all assumed it was just a part of the insane stress she has been under. We never guessed there was a time bomb ticking inside her.

Caregiver stress weakens the immune system. A weakened immune system allows things like cancer to grow. I can’t help wondering if there isn’t a direct correlation between the amount of stress and the rapidity of the growth of her disease. I am so frustrated and angry at something so far beyond our control. But I do know that those feelings, too, will eventually pass. Isn't it odd how much of everything in our lives depends on the passage of time?

My mother is one of my heroines. She is one of my best and dearest friends. She raised me and my little sister as a single mom in an era where we were the minority. Very few of my friends growing up lived in a one parent household. If they did, it was usually because a parent had died, not divorced. Mama worked for a pittance and struggled to provide for the three of us. She held her head high and did the best she could (with much help from her beloved parents). She taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to as long as I believe in MYSELF. Most importantly, she loved us.

Over the last five months, I have thought to myself countless times that Mama finally has an opportunity to LIVE. She can finally live her life for herself… she can do the things she has never been free to do… she can live a life where she doesn’t have to answer to another living soul. I’m a bit pissed off that a stupid disease is invading her and trying to knock her down. It is a strong reminder that life is too short. It’s a shame it takes reality biting us in the butt to remind us that life is ALWAYS too short!

I have often said that I come from a long line of Steel Magnolias. It is strong, female, southern stock that always seems to rise like a phoenix amidst the ashes of circumstance. Yes, I know I am somehow mixing metaphors but I also know that the people who read this will completely get my meaning. I also know that there is always a chance my mom will beat this thing simply because she is who she is and she is a Steel Magnolia.

If you know my mother, you know what a great person she is. If you don’t know her, I sincerely wish you did because your life would be enriched by the acquaintance. But whether you know her or not, I ask that you lift her up in prayer, kind thought and wishes. Every little bit helps. And we all need a little help sometimes.