Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Cancer: The Worst Monster

When you're a kid on the lookout for monsters, everything is okay as long as the lights are on and you keep watch. If you're vigilant, they won't appear. But the second you look away or turn off the lights, you are sure they will be there.

Right now, as an adult, the worst monster I can imagine is cancer. And I let down my guard.

No sooner had I updated that all was well on the one year anniversary of Mom's cancer diagnosis, than she took a turn for the worse. In one short week, she has been relegated to a wheelchair. She has more than lost her strength: she's lost her coordination. Taking baby steps and even stepping on-to, or off-of a curb is dangerous. She has lost her taste in food, is sleeping more and more each day, experiencing some confusion, and becomes nauseous or throws up without much warning, even with her anti-nausea medication. She is also starting to have more pain.

But some things have not changed: her positive, sweet demeanor, sense of humor, and nurturing generosity. For example, yesterday, on their 45th wedding anniversary, we held a yard sale with all of her household items. Mom insists on dividing it equally between herself, me and my brother.

If you think Mom has spent one second complaining, then you don't know Mamma DeWitt, as my husband lovingly calls her, very well. You see, this decrease in physical abilities has coincided with her Dream Foundation wish being granted, and I guess you can't enjoy being around the animals at the San Diego Safari Park if you're complaining, even if you have lost your mobility. Once again, her positive outlook on our trip even in light of everything she endures astounds me. How many people frequently get in a bad mood over smaller, more insignificant things?

I would like to, in fact planned on, this posting being about all of the good moments we shared on that trip. But will need to do that in a future posting. Things seem to be rapidly changing daily and I feel the need to update in real time rather than revisiting last week. Mom's MRI scan on Friday showed 4 new brain metastases and a 5th one previously treated increased in size.

Before the scan, I had hoped these new symptoms could be attributed to something else. Of course her cancer cannot be cured, but I had hoped the side-effects could subside. Maybe she had some swelling steroids could reduce. Maybe it was the effects of the chemo and the break would help. Her strength would come back, along with everything else and we could go back to how things were over this past year. Instead, I learned these new symptoms are the result of her brain cancer. And while the gamma knife has been an option all year, Dr. Carrillo said we are reaching critical mass. A time when they will not do gamma knife on her, because there are too many and it is in the folds. In the fluid of her spine. He said he would not know if it would be this time or the next.

I am absolutely terrified. When the idea was proposed that Mom and Dad would move in, I imagined us cooking together. Sorting through boxes of old photographs. Watching movies. Me pushing her around the block in the wheelchair at sunset. But what I imagined and hoped for is quickly slipping through my fingers. Just last Thursday, I was alarmed that she slept from 4pm until 8am. Today, she feel asleep in the chair shortly after my friend Kay brought us food, around 1pm.

Around 5pm when she woke up, I thought we would put on a movie like we did last night when we watched Don't Look in the Basement, a b horror film she watched when she was pregnant with me. But she was only awake for about a half an hour, as we transferred her from the living room to her new bedroom across from ours.

But what a half hour it was! We had all worked very hard while she was asleep - especially my Dad, brother and Nathan - moving all of her bedroom over here. She was so happy with the big reveal of her room, complete with the rose bush we were going to plant outside her window, but instead stacked on top of a bunch of paving stones so she could see it while sitting. As she lay next to me, she rubbed my arm and my legs and then quickly fell asleep. I rubbed her back, and stayed for awhile before coming out into the living room and bawling in front of my Dad and my husband.

In my last posting, I quite honestly wrote that I could not remember the last time I cried over this. Now, it is daily, at the drop of a hat in moments I can steal when she's not looking. And as I fall asleep.

My husband and I went on our three mile walk under the bright moon and he talked to me about fullness of life, and how all of our experiences - good and bad, add to that spectrum. He helped me reframe some things, including the fact that she is only 63. He said she has had a fuller life than some people who are 83 when they die, and he's right. More about that conversation in a future posting as well. While the walk and conversation made me feel better, better is a relative term. We still had to stop twice so he could hold me as I cried.

Right now, I don't know if we will be able to go on our trip to Catalina that my friends gave her for her birthday. It breaks my heart, but thank God for this past year, and the adventures we have had. A year in which somehow, I was able to not worry and anticipate all of this. Not being hyper-vigilant brought me a new normal and allowed me to make the very most of that time. I need to try, as best as I can, to keep that up. But this is an adjustment period, as was the time following her diagnosis.

I think I will be able to do it, because I know darn well she would be able to. She always put her family first, no matter what hardship she was enduring at the moment. And she would do it effortlessly. With a smile, and without complaining. Plus, what fun is life if you're always looking on the look-out for monsters? More good times lay ahead, even if they are different than what I would like.

4 comments:

  1. Dear Megan,
    I read your post today and remember so much going through all of this. Saying a prayer for you and your family today. I pray that you will have special moments to treasure, even in the midst of the pain.

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  2. So sorry to hear this!! Very heartbreaking, but so wonderful that she has kept her spirit! Its an amazing thing. She is lucky to have you and the rest of your family supporting her and you all are lucky to have such a wonderful mother. Prayers to you all!

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  3. Oh Megan, so sorry to hear your mom is not doing well right now. Prayers for you all...

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  4. We are sending you best thank you for sharing your mothers story...we also have an important story we are sharing and hope it inspires.



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