Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Entry #1: Cancer - Facing Death with a Loved One

Facing Death with A Loved One
by Katie Sansone

Mother always had a goiter on her neck (a round
ball that got bigger every few years) and seeing
as to how I had cancer on my head back in July of
1970...and one day I was sitting in her livingroom
and I was describing how it felt in my head..under
the skin and into the bone, it felt like I had bugs
crawling in my head and it wouldn't go away. The
reason we were discussing this is because my
step-father was in a nursing home being treated
because colon-cancer had returned back on
him...so we were talking about what it must feel
like... and as I described it, I noticed that very
carefully, as not to bring attention to it, Mother
slowly put her hand up to her throat. Months
before any of this happened, she had been having
feelings like she was choking and not breathing
well but the doctor couldn't find any problem...he
said it was probably due from her heart attack,
two years prior. The leaders of her neck were also
very big, and hard...like the soft hollow part in
between your shoulder and neck was filled up and
not hollow any more.
***********************************
I guess that is what prompted her to go to the
doctor and get a biopsy of the goiter...she was
"such a chicken" (like me)...and put it off so very
long...TOO LONG. It wasn't long into May of 1989,
that she got the tests back and they were
"positive". It was cancer...the poor little thing was
so scared...you see, she had nursed Daddy and
watched him die of cancer of the jaw and mouth
back in 1972 (and 1973 when he died). And her
"baby brother" had just died of lung cancer in
March...yes, she was terrified...as any of us would
be. When they operated, they said it was the size
of a football, and that it was wrapped around her
windpipe...thus the reason for her feeling of
"choking"..another mass which they did not bother
with was down between the chest and stomach
area...they figured it would do no good, even
though they gave her chemo til she would get sick
from it. They never told her about that "mass"
either. They just told her she would be
better..trying to get the "mind set" in good frame,
you know...what a lie! She was sent home and
finally began strangling on water...back to the
hospital she went...this time, they did a full
tracheotomy (ostomy) on her...and then it took
away the two things she loved to do most...
(besides eat, like we all do) she could no longer
talk or sing...which was such a joy for her.
***********************************
This was the last of May or first of June, I believe, I
really can't remember...it all seems like such a
nightmare. All I know is that she was in intensive
care and then onto the skilled care facility of the
hospital for what seemed like forever. June, July
(and it was this month was when my step-father
died), and on into August and it wasn't til
September that I got to bring her home, by this
time my other brothers and sisters had gone back
to their homes of New Mexico, California and
Arizona. I don't believe Bobbie came in from
Oklahoma (no money). There was so many things
that happened when I brought her home to her
house. John & I moved in her house and Missy
stayed at our home (up the hill from my brother),
and off and on she would come and stay with
us...but she had to stay there and be with the dogs
and house sit. She was such a big help for 15 / 16
year old...she and I celebrated our birthdays
together (Aug. 15th and 19th) at our house...I had
not gotten to bring Mother home yet, like I said,
til September...anyway, I really appreciated
all of Missy's help and shall never forget it.
***********************************
John would have done more in the beginning if she
would have let him, but she didn't want anyone but
me to help her and give her meds and her insulin
shots and take her blood and feed her in through
the tube on the kangaroo pump and clean and
suction out her neck (having to squirt saline
solution into the trach and when she would cough
out, I would suck with the suction hose, otherwise,
it would take her breath away) and clean
the trach itself. The first 10 days she was home,
I counted on one hand the hours of sleep I had...
I was like a "walking zombie".
***********************************
She became a "little imp" at times...I believe that
the fight was getting to her and she would take out
the n/g tube (this one wasn't the normal n/g tube,
this one had a fine wire inside and had to be put
in by doctors, which meant that each time she took
it out, I had to return her to the hospital) and one
time she must have gotten up when I was sleeping
or something and got scissors and "cut it" ever so
neatly...and sat up in her bed just giving me the
most angelic look of innocence when I spotted it!
Boy was she sneaky at times!
***********************************
But there were times that we just sat and cried
with each other..and then times I would read the
Bible to her and when she would "doze" off, I
would quit and she would jerk her head up and
mouth the words (you see she couldn't talk), why
did you quit for? And I would begin again...oh yes
there were many tears and much love shared in
those final months...as if every day were "our
last". One time John and I were eating grapes (I had
them in a small bowl) and it was between us on a
table...she looked over and asked "what are you
playing?"...she thought we were playing a game...
"silly-pooh-bear"...she was a funny one! I took the
skin off of the grape and chewed it up some (like
you would for a baby) and gave it to her...she got
it in her mouth and made a face and spit it out and
the "sucker went flying across the room" and hit
square on the television screen! John and I laughed
about that...it was so funny. I guess the taste
wasn't as good as she thought it would be, so she
spit it out and just got rid of it!
***********************************
Oh yes and the time I was watching the movie on
t.v "Jesus of Nazareth"...and when it showed a
close up of John Powell (who portrayed JESUS),
Mother happened to wake up from her nap and
she looked right into his face and you could see
the happiness on her face as she silently cried
"JESUS"! Then she noticed me on her left and
looked puzzled at me and asked, "What are you
doing here?" I asked "What?" Then she shook her
head and said nothing...poor little thing thought
she had died and went to heaven, til she spotted
me and then wondered why I was there too! I
recall the time that I helped her out of bed and
walked her slowly to the front door and we stood
there looking out into the front yard (and John had
trimmed) her Mimosa tree a few days before and it
was so pretty and she looked at it and cried...she
had planted it from a seed that she had gotten at
my sister, Jean's house in Arizona (I believe, back
in 1976)...and here it was such a pretty tree now...
then she wanted me to walk her to the back
porch to see her beautiful flowers (she had such a
"green thumb" that she could plant a stick (and it
would be a tree) in no time! Her geraniums were
all potted in lovely pots and were all in full bloom,
pinks, reds, and whites! Again she cried...as I held
onto her as we walked through the kitchen, she
turned and looked at me, I still see her brown
eyes searching mine for hope, as she asked: "I'm
not going to get better, am I"?...as I stood looking
at her, it was so heart-breaking for me to have to
tell her "no"...she wanted to know if the doctors
were lying to her, and I said yes...for one thing
GOD had already been preparing me for her
death...yet I still did not want to let her go...
do any of us?
***********************************
I even had to go out shopping for her "burial
dress" and a whole outfit, shoes and hose and a
scarf (for around her neck...I got the lady from
Hospice to watch her while I went out) and when I
brought it home and later I got it out and showed
them to her...she loved blue and that is what I got,
a lovely blue dress with navy blue pumps to
match...her eyes were like a child's..
"who's...yours"?, she asked...and I said
"no..yours"...she smiled and gestured with her
hand to her breast, "Mine"? I nodded...she looked
deep into my eyes and then nodded in agreement,
mouthing the words..."okay."
***********************************
As time drew closer to the closing of her days,
she and I drew so much closer...satan tried to get
in there between us but GOD was there to calm the
storms. At last she would allow John to help take
her blood and her vitals... but she had went from
going to the bathroom, to a porta-potty chair, and
now she was in diapers. How degrading it must
be for a grown human being reduced to such a
standard of depending totally upon your own
child to bathe you and change your diapers and
turn you in bed and all of the things that one normally
does for their own child...and now to have this
child caring for you...I can only try to imagine the
feelings she must have experienced...but if it was
to do over again, I would do the same thing over
because I love her so dearly...only I would try to
do more and be more kind and gentle and loving
and understanding...because if anyone of you has
dealt with the long illness and death of a loved
one, you will know that at times your flesh gets
so very tired and you say something and then
have to apologize for it and I did my share of
it to my precious Mother...
***********************************
I remember one day I had her sitting up in a chair
and I got on my knees in the floor and laid my
head upon her breast and she held me and I cried
like such a baby telling her how very much I loved
her and that I just didn't know what to do and I
wanted it all to go away and I think I just
"blubbered" all over her and here she was the one
that was sick and yet it was she who held me in
her arms and gently stroked my hair and ever so
gently rocked me on her bosom as one would a
baby, and kissed my head and held my face in her
hands and kissed my tears and as I looked into
her gentle eyes, there were tears also, and she
mouthed "I know, I know." When I think of these
days, my heart breaks all over again, and I feel
her and see her and smell her and oh how I miss
her and love so very, very much...only GOD and
she knows now how much I love her and always
will...forever and ever...my sweet, Mother, mine.

Submitted by
Katie Sansone

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Katie,
How blessed your mother was to have a caretaker like you who cherished her. May God comfort you and fill in the gap.
Love & Prayers,
Yvonne Ortega
Hope for the Journey through Cancer