Vizzini: “INCONCEIVABLE!”
Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

There are things in life that just don’t register, things that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t wrap your brain around them. They are. . . inconceivable. Ten years ago today, I woke up, packed up my bags and my children and drove to Winston-Salem to visit my mother for a couple of days before heading up to Delaware to spend some time with some old friends, the Wygants. In many ways, I have not been home since. By the time we got to my mom’s house, our house was on fire. There were a lot of folks in the house at the time, and everyone got out okay. God was good to all of us. (Here is my blog post about the fire not long after it happened.)

So much has changed in the past ten years that I barely recognize myself or my life. My kids are all grown, my mom is gone, and we are now living back in Texas. All of our pets that survived that fire are gone now, except for Bonnie, who was just a puppy when it happened. (And I will be forever grateful to Gaylon’s niece, Amber, for thinking to grab her out of the house when it was burning!)

In so many ways, I’d love to hit the ‘reset’ button and go back and change things. But I firmly believe that God has a purpose for everything He allows, and so I trust that His purpose was in that fire, as well. And as much as I couldn’t imagine how much our lives would change after that fateful fire in 2005, I can’t imagine, now, what things would have been like if the house had not burned down. Time truly does heal all things.

I started this post thinking perhaps I would find something meaningful or poetic to say about the fire, but nothing comes to mind. So I guess I will just share a few photos from that time. I will say this: we’ve often considered sending pictures of the old house and then the new one that Gaylon built to replace it to some place like HGTV for one of their ‘remodeling’ shows! ūüėČ

If you click on the first image, it will go into “Slideshow” mode, and then you can just click through the images.

I’m in San Antonio for my first workshop/exam with the Association of Texas Midwives Midwifery Training Program. (My goodness, that’s a mouthful!). I’m nervous about a great many things this morning, not the least of which is getting home tomorrow afternoon! First, I’m nervous about meeting my fellow students and whether or not they’ll like me. I generally assume I will not be well-liked, but thankfully, most people seem to tolerate me pretty well. ūüôā And, of course, I’m worried about doing well in the workshop and on the exam. My brain ain’t what it used to be, and I’m just praying I’ll be able to extract the information I need,¬†when I need it! Some days, that just doesn’t happen in a timely manner!!

I’m frustrated because the coffee in the hotel I’m staying in SUCKS. So, I’m going to have to leave a bit earlier than I’d planned and try to find some good coffee that I can drink before the workshop starts. Which I didn’t want to do, but coffee is non-negotiable!! They also do not have a Paleo-friendly breakfast. I mean, they do have scrambled eggs and some very dry looking sausage, but I don’t much care for sausage, and the eggs looked a bit powdery. Considering the fact that I’m already on the nervous side this morning, I opted on the side of not risking it.

But those things are actually not at the top of my list of concerns. There is rain in the forecast. Here in Texas, that is usually a cause for rejoicing, especially the past few years, because we’ve been in a state of extreme drought. However,¬†we had so much rain over the past month that I’m honestly afraid if anyone pours their iced tea out the window, the whole state will flood! And they are predicting more rain tomorrow. I-35 was flooded after the storm on Monday, so there’s no reason to believe it won’t flood again and make it very challenging for me to get home. Never mind all the folks who are in danger of losing their homes and/or businesses, or those who already have. And they still haven’t found everyone. . .

I was in Hobby Lobby yesterday, lost in my thoughts, trying to figure out which colors of modeling clay I needed to purchase to create a model of a human cell for my Midwifery school, when a woman approached me and said “Excuse me.” ¬†Naturally, I thought I was in her way, so I moved over and mumbled something about being sorry. She looked at me with great big eyes and said “Oh no, you’re not in my way. I want to ask you a question.” I had a feeling she wasn’t interested in modeling clay. Our conversation went like this:

Me: Okay. . . .

Woman: We are going to go to the Phillipines for a mission trip, and I was wondering if you’d like to support us by buying this Sonic gift card for $5? (Magically procures a gift card and holds it up for me to see).

Me: Who is “we”?

Woman: Oh, our church. We’re going to go over there to witness to them. (Smiles sweetly).

Me: What church is that?

Woman: The Church of Jesus of (something I didn’t recognize and can’t remember. . . I just know it was not LDS)

Me: Hmmm. Okay. Well, how do you feel about Catholics?

Woman: (Stunned) Ummmm, . . . well. . . .most of them over there are Catholic. (Smiles, thinking she’s given me the right answer).

Me: And you’re going to try to convert them?

Woman: Well, we’re going to share with them the truth of Jesus Christ!

Me: (Realizing this was not going to come out the way I intended it) Them I’m sorry. I can’t support you.

Woman: Oh! (This is when her eyes got really big and she realized that I wasn’t interested in saving Catholics, but that I am Catholic)

Me: I went to fundamentalist churches for 12 years that sound like they were a lot like your church. But then the Holy Spirit led our family to go back to the Catholic Church, because it does have the way to Jesus.

At this point, I turned to walk away with my cart, but then I stopped and added:

Me: It just feels like to me that you’re trying to convert people who are already Christian, who already know the truth of Jesus Christ, and I don’t think that’s what God wants. It seems like dividing Christians.

Woman: (Seizing upon this wonderful opportunity to save my soul) “Then do you believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the light?”

Me: (Turning to face her directly) Of course! I believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only Son of God, that He died on the cross for my sins, rose again on the third day, and is seated in Heaven with God the Father. (meaningful pause. . .) ALL Catholics believe that!

Woman: (Obviously not prepared for this response from a Catholic) Oh! Ummm. . . .well, good!

I don’t eat at Sonic, anyway, but that wasn’t really the point. The point is that Catholics ARE Christians, albeit most of us don’t have a clue about what it¬†really means to be Catholic or Christian. I find it incredibly offensive, and yes, sad, that other so-called Christian groups are wasting time and money trying to “save” Catholics. It would be so nice if they would actually learn what we really believe before passing judgment and deciding we’re hell-bound. Satan must be so happy that Christians are so busy attacking¬†their own!

Mom’s been gone for a month and a half now. The world is still spinning, although it seems as if it’s spinning through a fog, at least a lot of the time. Our family is still trying to find “normal”, and I imagine it will be a while before we get there. Actually, I don’t really believe we ever really will. Our world has changed forever, and we have all been forever changed, both by her life and her death. We are all different now, and there’s no going back. I firmly believe that’s as it should be.

I’ve been thinking about how I can share what this all feels like, and I am reminded of my friend, Kevin, who became a father last year. He has¬†occasionally posted the lessons he’s learned from parenthood on his Facebook page, and I think he’s discovered a brilliant way to share, in a concise manner, what he’s feeling and learning on his journey. So, I’m stealing his idea, and am going to follow suite here. In no particular order:

Lessons I’ve Learned From Grief

  1. I have an amazing capacity¬†to cry. A lot. At any given moment, and at the drop of a hat. I’m not afraid of, or ashamed to cry. I just had no idea it was possible to cry this much!
  2. Apparently, no matter how much, or how long you cry, your eyes will not start bleeding or fall out. And yes, I really have thought those might be options on more than one occasion.
  3. One can actually get sick of crying.
  4. No matter how much you cry, people will tell you should cry more. And they seem to assume that you’re not crying enough. I am a private person when it comes to showing grief. I don’t mind writing a little about it here on my blog, but I am not likely to start crying in front of people who are not very closely related to me by blood.
  5. If your mother has just died, nobody will judge you for anything you say, or think, or do. You’re expected to be crazy, and it’s completely acceptable. I don’t think this is license for inappropriate behavior, but it is an observation I’ve made.
  6. Dillard’s is a very difficult place for me to shop now. It was Mom’s favorite store, and I have many happy memories of shopping there with her. This will take time. I love Dillard’s, too, but I think I need to wait a while before I go back¬†there. (See #4)
  7. Everyone has a different idea of where I should be in this process, but they all basically fall into two camps. The first camp wants me to try to get on with my life, because they believe this activity will help me heal. The second camp believes I should curl up in bed or on the couch, and just feel what I’m feeling, and not worry about anything else. I’ve found that my reality falls pretty much between those two places. I simply cannot just lay around; there are things that actually have to be done. Like paying the bills, going to the grocery store, going to Mass. And, I would lose my mind if I just laid around. On the other hand, some days I can’t seem to wrap my mind around any sort of concrete plan, and while I usually manage to shower and dress (my family appreciates this) I accomplish nothing else. But I’m making progress, and Gaylon is displaying unprecedented patience and understanding! He keeps telling me I’m doing better, and that it’ll take time. And he holds me.¬†I have an amazing husband.
  8. People don’t know what to say to me, especially if they’ve never experienced the death of someone close to them. That’s okay. I’ve lost many loved ones, starting with my Dad’s mom, when¬†I was three years old. I’m used to death, and I’m actually grateful for that. It is, after all, the natural conclusion to life. There is nothing anyone can really say that will “fix” me. And I don’t want them to. I just appreciate folks letting me know they care, that they are thinking of me or praying for me.
  9. The coffee does not automatically make itself. The blinds do not magically open each morning and close each evening, and the plants do not water themselves. Litter boxes just keep filling up, and if we don’t gather the trash on Tuesday evenings and take it to the curb, it just keeps filling up, as well. The refrigerator does not mysteriously restock itself with creamer and eggs. Abby discovered, quite to her surprise, that the lint tray in the dryer actually has to be emptied. Every time we use the dryer. The dishwasher doesn’t empty itself every morning, either. The ‘outgoing’ mail on the piano just sits there, and doesn’t automatically deliver itself to the mailbox. And nobody cares anymore what’s for dinner. We never asked Mom to do all those things. She just did them. And more. Quietly. Invisibly. Daily.
  10. And because nobody in the world could say it better than C.S. Lewis, I’m just going to quote him: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me”, and, “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” (From “A Grief Observed”)
  11. I have found that I don’t really care for the modern concept¬†of “Celebrating” someone’s life. At least not so soon. I actually did celebrate my mother’s life while she was still alive. Right now, I’m grieving her loss, and I don’t feel like celebrating at all. I still find funny things funny, and still laugh at good jokes and funny movies. But I do not feel at all celebratory about my mother’s death, which I am unable to separate from her life at this point. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate those who are already able to ‘celebrate’ her life, and I certainly am not offended by people who embrace the concept. I’ve just realized that I don’t yet share that sentiment.
  12. Death involves a ridiculous amount of paperwork. In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
  13. Elizabeth K√ľbler-Ross’s “Five Stages of Grief” were inspired by her work with terminally ill patients. They do not necessarily apply to¬†their family and friends. So, I am relieved of the burden of trying to figure out which stage I’m in, and if I’m experiencing it properly. It doesn’t matter, really. I simply am where I am, and labeling it is unnecessary.
  14. And finally, this¬†is probably the most amazing and wonderful thing I’ve learned since Mom died. The Creator of the Universe cares deeply and personally about ME. There have been quite a few times when¬†I’ve been really depressed, or felt like I couldn’t keep going, when I would receive texts, Facebook messages, or phone calls from friends, all over the country, telling me that the Lord had put me on their heart, at that very moment, and they were praying for me. For me!! Right when I desperately needed it! One particularly difficult night, I got two texts at the exact same moment, from two different friends! I’ve always pretty much believed that God loved me, but He has been so very close to me throughout all of this, and has made sure that I know it. I have found this scripture to be so true:¬†“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” ~Psalm 34:18~

So these are some of the lessons I’ve learned so far. I know there are many more lessons to learn, and that I will never fully ‘get over’ my Mother’s death. It’s a process, a journey. I really do understand and accept that. I just don’t have to enjoy¬†it.

April Westbrook 1942-2015

April Westbrook
1942-2015

My precious mother passed from this world to the next at 2:30 in the morning, on¬†January 2, 2015. I realize that I had promised¬†to post funeral information, but¬†somehow, that got lost in my haze. I’m sorry. Her Visitation and Rosary were held at Beck Funeral Home on January 5, from 5:00 to 7:00. Fr. Noah Carter, our dear family friend from Salisbury, North Carolina, led the service. Allen Hebert, our close¬†friend and fellow Catholic Homeschool Dad, led the rosary for us.

Fr. Noah officiated at Mom’s funeral mass the next morning, at St. William parish, at 10:00. My sweet friend, Tiffany Gallozzi, also from North Carolina, sang the Ave Maria, Mom’s favorite song, before the service began. Mom was laid to rest at Our Lady of the Rosary Cemetery in Georgetown, Texas. At the end of the graveside ceremony, my precious daughter-in-law gave my mother one last gift, and sang the most beautiful song. I just cried.

Mom’s¬†grave is in the Marian Garden section of the cemetery, along the Rosary Walk, between the Glorious Mysteries of the Assumption and the Coronation. The Resurrection Cross towers gloriously overhead. Kendall and Abby chose the spot. I know Mom would have approved. ¬†Her obituary is online, and can be viewed here.

I have sat down to try and write this post several times, and never seem to get very far. Once, I actually did finish the post, but it was mysteriously deleted, and so, I must begin again. I can only assume the missing post was not meant to be. People keep asking me if I’m okay, how I’m doing. Honestly, that changes from moment to moment, from day to day. Mostly, I’m numb. Occasionally, I can’t stop crying. I’ve been doing the next thing, and trying to wrap my mind around the fact that my mother is gone.

But I know I’m not grieving alone. My mother had so many friends, and so many people loved her! Sometimes it feels like the whole world is mourning with me. I cannot begin to convey¬†how humbled I am at all of the love and support we’ve received from our friends and family!¬†I have gotten countless phone calls, emails, Facebook and text messages, letters and cards. A few folks have dropped by the house, and many of our homeschool friends have brought meals. I have never felt so loved in all my life, and am honestly stunned at how many people care. And not just about my mom. They care about me. I didn’t expect that, and I truly do not have the words to express how very much it means to me.

As sudden and shocking as it all has been for all of us, even (especially?) for Mom, I know that she was not afraid of death. She told us that many times. She even said she was excited about getting to Heaven. And she told us that she felt peace. Her childlike faith in her Lord is such an inspiration to me. There was no doubt in her mind that Jesus was waiting for her. Her faith has inspired me and given me an even greater desire than ever to grow in holiness, to seek the face of God, so that when my own time comes, I will get to see my mother again. All of us feel that way. Alex has even started attending church again.

I know that it will take time to heal, and that I will never fully get over this. I mean, when Mom was admitted into the hospital on December 16th, we didn’t even know she had cancer! Sixteen days later, it was over. We barely had time to say goodbye. But we did get to say it. I know that this is a precious gift that so many people do not get. Our family was very blessed to have what brief time we did get. But we are all still in shock, and it’s not real to us yet. Its surreal. Time will help ease some of the pain, but I do know that it will never be completely gone. I don’t expect it to be.

This is not my first experience with death, or even with sudden death. My grandfather died of a stroke when I was eleven years old. He was my hero, and that was really, really awful. My grandmother died of cancer when I was twenty. But we’d been expecting it for a long, long time. She had bone cancer, and she had been slowly fading from us for so long. I missed her like crazy, and still, almost 30 years later, I sometimes¬†want to pick up the phone and call her. My dad passed away ten years ago. Also from cancer. Gaylon’s dad died earlier that same year. Again, cancer. I’ve lost aunts and uncles, and more than a few¬†friends. Losing my dear friend, Bonnie Musselwhite to cancer when she was only 43 years old was devastating! But this is different. This time I lost my lifelong best friend. The one and only person who was always there for me, no matter what.¬†I really do see her face everywhere I turn. And I suppose that’s as it should be.

Sometimes I don’t want to talk about it at all. Just the idea of talking is exhausting. Sometimes, though, all I want to do is talk about her, to rehash every minute in the hospital, to cling to my last memories of her life. And I never know which it’s going to be, at any given moment. I’m grateful to the friends who keep texting me, calling me. I need that so much! I am not likely to pick up my phone and call anyone. I’m pretty sure I really wouldn’t even know what to say when they answered. So again, I am so grateful to everyone who has reached out to me, and keeps reaching out. I’m not ready to commit to any big plans. But¬†lunch or coffee, or just a brief phone conversation is perfect. If I’m not ready to talk, I won’t answer the phone. But I will call back.

So, thank you from the very bottom of my heart to all of you who have been here for us in any way, shape, or form. Thank you to those of you who are still reaching out. Words cannot express our gratitude. <3

 

My mom’s cancer is far more widespread than even the oncologist realized at first. When we first got to the hospital, they were telling us we had 12 – 18 months, maybe more with her. Then the biopsy results started rolling in, and we learned that she had cancer in her lungs. Stage IV. And in her adrenals. And lymphs. And esophagus. And her left hip. It seems to be a plague that has invaded her body.

But, she still wanted to try chemo and radiation. So, first they had to drain the fluid off of her lungs, so she could lay down for the procedure to put in the chemo port and then also a feeding tube, because she hasn’t been able to eat or drink anything for WEEKS. So around 11:30 on Tuesday the 23rd, she went into the procedure smiling, and we both were thinking okay, things are going to get better after this! I was told that this procedure would take about 2 hours, so I went to grab some lunch. About an hour and and fifteen minutes later, I got a phone call from a nurse, telling me the surgeon wanted to see me. I threw my lunch in the trash and made it to the Medical Tower in record time. My Uncle Steve and his wife Gretchen were able to get there right after I did, and just before the surgeon came to meet with us in the Consultation Room.

Dr. H. looked really worried as he sat down to tell us that they had had to “abort the procedure”, because to do it, they would have to lay Mom flat on her back, and as soon as they started reclining her, her oxygen level would drop to 30% in 40 seconds. He said for reference, most of us could hold our breath for a couple of minutes, and still have 100% oxygen. My heart sank. He said that the only way they’d be able to get the port and the feeding tube in would be to put her on a ventilator, but he was very afraid that she’d be on it for the rest of her life. ūüôĀ He asked us what the oncologist had told us, and I said “Twelve to eighteen months.” He said that he was concerned about the next 24 to 48 hours. I think I quit breathing at that point. I knew she would not want to be on a ventilator.

After talking to the surgeon, we went back to her room to wait. It took a really long time, and my Uncle and I began to really worry. I called all my kids and asked them to come immediately, and they did. (Alex ran out the door of the automotive shop so fast that he forgot to leave a customer’s car keys behind, and we had to send someone to return them!) When they finally brought Mom back to her room, her whole family was waiting for her. She looked so weak and disoriented! I mean, she hadn’t looked fantastic when she left for surgery, but she’d been in great spirits, smiling and alert. This was so different and disheartening. We called Hospice, and started trying to reconcile ourselves to the fact that Mom is not going home.

But we tried make¬†the best of it. After all, it’s Christmas, right?¬†My lovely and amazing daughter-in-law sang Christmas Carols to Mom. The hospital staff came in to listen to her angelic voice. Mom was delighted, even through her weakness.

I stayed with her all night, as did her friend Janet, and Gaylon. It was a super rough night. She choked and gagged for much of it. She was so weak, and having so much trouble breathing! I cried. A lot. We all cried a lot. When morning came, the oncologist came to see us, I guess for the last time. She said that the cancer is just so widespread and invasive, that there is nothing anyone could do. She said it might have been a blessing that we didn’t find it sooner, because we might have been able to try to ‘fight’ it and it would have prolonged her suffering. She recommended we watch “Christmas Vacation” and try to get some rest. (I knew I liked her. . .) Mom had a much more peaceful day, and seemed to rally a bit.

I went home for a shower. Alex texted to say that he thought we should all get together and watch the Muppet Christmas Carol in the hospital room with Nana. So we all gathered in the hospital room to watch a movie. That never came to pass, because we just got distracted, but our sweet friends, Michael and Margaret brought Holy Communion to Mom. She lit right up!  I spent the night with her, alone, and she slept most of the night, fairly peacefully. It was good.

Later that¬†night, Abby spent the night with Kendall and Lishi. Alex went over there most of the night, as well. My children, without any direction from us, got together and nurtured each other. They loved each other and clung to one another in this difficult time. Yes, a true Christmas Miracle. My silver lining in this dark and terrifying cloud. Abby set up all the Christmas stockings before she went to Kendall’s. He helped a bit. They kept some small piece of Christmas alive for all of us.

Christmas Day, I got to be alone with my mother, for what is very likely the last fully alone-time, lucid conversation I will ever have with her here on this earth. She told me she felt like she was just laying around, waiting on God. I agreed. She said she’s peaceful, and ready to go, just not ready to leave all of us. I gave her permission to leave. We talked about funeral arrangements and where she wants to be buried. We talked about how there will NOT be a viewing or an open casket. And she wants flowers. Lots and lots of flowers. Caveat: No Easter Lilies. . . Mom has always hated them. They remind her of death! No donations to the Cancer Society or anything like that. If someone is just determined to donate some money in her name, then she wants them to give money to the Capital Campaign at our church, St. William Catholic Church, in Round Rock, Texas. So. Flowers or donate to our church. No Easter Lilies. Pretty simple. We discussed how our angel, Lishi, would never make it through the Ave Maria, so we asked our friend, Tiffany, if she could come and do it. She said she’d be honored to do it.

And then I told Mom that she needed to talk to all of the kids and give them her final blessing. She thought maybe she could divid that out over two days. I told her I thought she needed to do it all yesterday. I had a feeling. She agreed, and she did it. All the kids came, and they each got private, one-on-one time with Nana. She blessed them all. It was sacred and precious.

Today she’s been very non-responsive. She can barely wake up, and can no longer talk, or even write on her notepad. I’m glad she blessed everyone yesterday, and I know she is too. Tonight, Gaylon, Kendall, Alicia, Emily and I gathered around her bed and prayed the rosary. My sister, who is not a Christian, joined us with respectful and understanding silence. Lishi sang the Magnificat in Latin, and a couple of other lovely songs before they went home. (Alex came to visit earlier in the day, so he missed the rosary).

I don’t know how many more moments I have left with my precious mother. This has all been so horrifyingly rapid, and I’m barely able to keep up with it all. I know when it’s over, I’m going to go home and sleep. For a week. And then maybe I’ll have the energy to cry. I really did think I’d have her for at least ten to fifteen more years. She thought so, too. It’s inconceivable that she’s almost gone. Yes, I believe in miracles, but it just really seems like God wants her to go home to Heaven, not to our little house in Round Rock. I don’t know why, and I’m sure it doesn’t matter. I will miss her until the day I draw my last breath, and every day I will be surrounded by the myriad things and memories that weave their way through and permeate my life, making me who I am. And yes, my world will be so empty. It already is. I understand that this crushing grief will eventually pass, but nothing will ever replace the space my mother has filled in my life, in my being. I am grateful that she¬†showed me how to be a Christian, how to love Jesus. Her faith, her steadfastness and child-like trust in Our Lord is the glue in our family, and it will be forever. We are all who we are, because of her, because of her tireless and selfless love to all of us.

I do not know when I’ll have the chance to blog again about all of this, but I will make it a point to post funeral information, when the time comes. I cannot express how much we all appreciate all of your love, prayers, texts, phone calls. We are feeling those prayers, and that is what is sustaining all of us. Thank you. <3

 

Glamour MomMy sweet, beautiful, amazing mother has been diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer. She never smoked a day in her life. She has always been¬†one of the healthiest, most vibrant women I’ve ever known. Even at age 72, she could run circles around the rest of us. Until about a month ago.

Just after Thanksgiving, she started telling us that she was having trouble swallowing. Water. And she’d developed this cough, that just wouldn’t go away. And her voice was sort of coming and going. We convinced her that she needed to go see her doctor. The doctor gave her some antibiotics and cough syrup, and sent her home. We told her that just didn’t make sense! Why didn’t the doctor check her throat? It seemed to all of us, that, if one cannot swallow, then the doctor ought to check out the throat. So Mom called the doctor back and she scheduled her for a chest x-ray. Well, that seemed ridiculous, too. But, the chest x-ray came back clear. In fact, she texted me on December 5th to let me know she didn’t have cancer!

But her cough was getting worse, and she was having more and more difficulty swallowing. She frequently had to leave the dinner table and run to the bathroom and gag. If she could manage to get food down, it stayed down. But mostly, it just didn’t go down. We called the doctor again. The doctor finally seemed to grasp that we needed someone to look at Mom’s throat, and referred¬†her for an appointment with an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. He checked her out and discovered that her left vocal cord was paralyzed! He asked if he could do some more testing. Yes, please!!

The following Tuesday, December 9th, she went for a Barium Swallow test. The doctor called her Wednesday to let her know that they had found a ‘growth’ in her throat, about 2″ to 3″ big. He wanted to biopsy it, but wanted to run more tests, first. So a CT Scan was scheduled for the 16th. The kind with contrast dye. I went with her, and they discovered that she still had Barium in her colon from the previous week’s test, because she hadn’t been able to take in enough food or liquid to pass it all through her system!! (And I’m just going to throw this in there, because it blew my mind: while I was waiting in the little waiting room for her to be done with the CT Scan, they had the movie, “The Bucket List” playing on the TV!!! Yeah. I couldn’t make that up.)

So we came home, hoping we’d have some more info the next day when the results came back. But she was just looking so bad. Mom and Me Fireplace
She was wasting away, and the only sustenance she’d had was some chicken broth I’d made for her. I knew she was dehydrated and I was starting to get really scared. I think she was, too, but she wouldn’t tell me. I tried to take her to the E.R., but she wanted to wait until morning. I spent an hour and a half the next morning trying to get the doctor to call me back. He finally did, and said they’d already gotten the results from the scan back, and that she had a large mass in her chest, and some other dark spots. Probably lymphs. I felt sick inside, but I was on a mission to get her fluids. I told him she was dehydrated and lethargic. I asked him if there was some sort of infusion center where she could go. He said he agreed that she should get fluids, and told me to go to the ER. He didn’t have to tell me twice. I had her packed up and out the door in 30 minutes. The hospital is only five minutes from our house, so within the hour, she was getting fluids.

The hospital ran lots of other tests and labs and such. They admitted her. And from that point everything sort of becomes a blur. First, we discovered that Mom also has pneumonia. Then, the oncologist came in to tell us the next morning that they wanted to do a biopsy on the mass they found in her chest, and that, based on the overall clinical picture, she was fairly sure it was Stage IV Lung Cancer. And she also told us that Mom had fluid in her lungs, and around her heart. And she had ‘spots’ on both of her adrenals, and on her left hip. (So that’s why her hip had been bothering her. . .)

I called the church, and Fr. Uche came and anointed her. That made her happy.

They kept trying to feed her, and we kept having to explain that she couldn’t eat or drink anything. Not that she didn’t want to but that she couldn’t! And we had to explain that she’d never been sick before, that this was all very new and terrifying to all of us. The staff slowly started to get to know us, and to understand. Our first day nurse was pretty awful, and I had to speak with the Floor Manager and ask that she not be assigned to Mom anymore. She had put Mom down for a Liver biopsy, instead of a Lung biopsy! And she got her meds all mixed up on the chart. And she lost a note that a family member left for mom! And, and, and. . .! So we don’t have her anymore.

We finally got biopsy results on Saturday, I think. It was exactly what we had feared, lung cancer. The doctor told us that with this ‘overall clinical picture’, the prognosis was 12 to 18 months. But! With patients who have good health (up until this, of course) and a positive outlook and a good support system, they can exceed that. She looked mom directly in the eyes and said “Feel free to exceed my expectations!”

Mom kept getting weaker and weaker, and they kept doing more tests. She had her first radiation treatment on Sunday. Sunday night, they started giving her “food” through her IV. (They call it “TPN”). They were going to put in a port for chemo today, and a feeding tube, but fluid had built up in her lungs again, so they had to drain one lung, and are going to drain the other one tomorrow. Then they’ll go back to their plan for the port and tube.

IMG_4668But my mother is still a fighter! She has told me that she’s going to feel better! She is determined. She is beautiful! And she intends to exceed those expectations!

So that’s the first part of this story. The second part is the love. I cannot count how many people have said to me “I will never forget the time when your mom (fill in the blank with something wonderful here).” I’ve gotten phone calls, texts, Facebook messages and emails from all over the country. And I still haven’t had time to contact everyone! Her hospital room looks like a jungle, with all of the gorgeous flowers people have brought or sent.

But that is not all. People are not just calling, texting, emailing and messaging. They’re buying plane tickets!!! First, our dear friend, Kyle came. From Boston. He got here yesterday, and has been staying in the hospital overnight with mom so I can get some sleep (and write this overdue blog post!) He’s been fantastic! My sister is coming on Christmas Day, and will leave on New Year’s Day. (She is also fighting cancer, and I’m so humbled that she is coming anyway, to be here for me and my Mom!! If that sounds strange, it’s because she is my half-sister, and we have different moms. But she loves my mom, too!) My dear friend, Emily, (Kyle’s wife) is IMG_4892coming the day after Christmas, just for the day. One of Kendall’s best¬†friends, and a dear¬†friend of our whole family’s, Fr. Noah, texted me to see if he could use his days off after Christmas to come from Salisbury, North Carolina! While he is here, from January 1st to the 6th, our pastor at our parish is putting him to work offering masses and hearing confessions! We just don’t have words to express how much we appreciate him taking this vacation¬†to come be with us during this time.¬†Mom’s dear friend, Shirrell, called immediately and is planning to come from South Carolina in January. Then, my precious friend, Lisa G., who is an Oncology nurse, is coming from North Carolina for about a week!! Leslie and Michelle are planning to fly in from Albuquerque after Christmas, too.

Those are the friends from around the country. Our family is coming, too. My Uncle Steve and Aunt Gretchen have been either at the hospital or in constant contact with us from the beginning. I heard that my brother may come, too. All of my cousins have either come, or are coming. Pattye, James, Spencer, Branden. . . Mom’s cousins have either come or are planning to come. Sylvia, Scotty, Sherry. . . (I’ve not even had a chance to contact the family in Chicago yet.)

Mom FishingAnd finally, but in no wise least, our friends right here in Austin and Round Rock have absolutely blown my mind with their love, their concern, their faithfulness. ¬†The folks from the Salon have come. Britney has texted me almost every day, and Sharon and Michelle keep close contact. (They came to the hospital to style Mom’s hair on Saturday night!) Fr. Jonathan came tonight to hear her confession. Christine kidnapped me for coffee. Margaret came by the hospital and brought roses. And then she set up a care calendar for our family, so that our homeschool group can help out by bringing meals! Joanna and her family are in Rome, and have promised to be in prayer for mom while they’re there! Becky, Denae, Racheal, Liz, and so many more have called, checked on us, brought flowers, offered prayers, sufferings and assistance. Mom and I have never felt so loved!

And my husband and children. They are beyond incredible. Even while they are reeling in shock and trying to deal with their own grief, they have all gathered around to support me and Nana. I have discovered that my daughter-in-law is one of the best advocates in the world. I’m so glad she has my back!

I could go on forever, I think, but instead I am going to bed. I’m exhausted on a level I’ve never felt before, and my brain is absolute MUSH. I’m hoping that I didn’t forget anyone in this post. If I did. . . please forgive me. I’m still trying to contact everyone, so many of Mom’s friends don’t do Facebook or even email. I’m way behind on returning phone calls, and when I do manage to return a call, I’m starting to draw a blank and not know what to say! So please. . . call me, text me, message me. ASK QUESTIONS! I’ll get back to you as soon as I can, and answer your questions.

This is what the Body of Christ is for. To surround us with love and grace, when our world seems to be falling apart around us. ToIMG_0003 hold us up and stand in the gap.¬†I really don’t have words to express my gratitude.

I’ll try to set up some sort of website so people can stay informed. I’m sorry (and so is Mom) that she can’t actually talk. We are praying that she’ll be home soon, and will feel better soon. We covet all of your prayers, as well.

She is in St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center, in Room 319. If you want to come by, please contact me first, to make sure she’ll be in the room. <3

The elections are coming, the elections are coming! (Redcoats, elections, it’s starting to seem the same to me. . .) Yes, I’m a values voter, and yes, I’m very concerned about things like abortion. And religious freedom. The following ad sums it up pretty well for me:

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