The Last Stages of Pancreatic Cancer

June 7th, 2023 – Post #87

I have finally opened my computer for the first time in I don’t know how many days. I came across this post from a month and a day ago that I didn’t finish. It is still rather disjointed; but so was my life then, so I’m leaving it as is. I remember writing it, and I remember specifically why I didn’t finish it.

Reading these words makes me remember again why when people ask me how I’m doing, the first word that comes to mind, above all else is “Relieved” – both for her sake and mine. Sometimes I feel awkward saying that, especially in the midst of others feeling sad; but I knew neither of us could go on like we were much longer…

May 6th, 2023 – Post #

It feels rather surreal to be sitting here on a bed, looking out the window, while lime green leaves dance in the fading sunlight. I think this has been the first humid day of Spring. My mom would want me to put that sentence in. She loves details about the weather.

My mom…

I knew before that pancreatic cancer could and probably would include suffering. That concept has become our reality – especially in the last couple of days.

My mom is supposed to be turned every two hours. Being moved and even lying still, she seems to be in the throes of motion sickness throughout the day and into the night. Vomiting has become a common occurrence. She takes in very little fluids and almost no food; far less goes in than what is coming out of her. I don’t mean to be graphic; but I want people to understand something of what her current circumstances are – and ours.

I suppose I have been writing this post in my head for a while now. Last night, in the gray-and-cream-colored shadows on the ceilings, as I lay there debating once again over what was the best line of care for my mom, I thought about how little sleep we have gotten, especially in the last few months.

From my mattress on the floor, I listen for her breathing. Sometimes I can’t hear it and wonder if she is gone. Sometimes I hear it – finally rhythmic and restful after knowing she has struggled to fall asleep – and go back and forth with myself about what is best. Do I turn her to ward off pressure sores, as instructed, knowing that interrupts her sleep?

Usually, that problem is solved, because she’d already stirring, ready to get unstuck from her last position. Moving is still a problem, though, because it can bring on another dramatic episode of dizziness, then vomiting. After that, there’s the clean up to consider, then repositioning to get her comfortable, etc…

I lay there in the dark, telling myself again what so many people keep saying, “You need sleep. Go to sleep.”

Suddenly, there is a clatter beside me. Adrenaline surges through my whole system. I look over and realize the cup I’ve kept beside her has fallen onto the hardwood floor beside me.

My heart is pounding. “Settle down,” I say, “It was just a cup.”

Perhaps twenty minutes later, I have finally begun to drift off, when a loud thud cracks next to me. The bed controller has made a crash landing. I am fully awake now and might as well get up and go to the bathroom…

Instead of sleeping, I smirk, considering the rhetorical question she asked the other night, “How did I get in this position?”

“By pressing those buttons,” I tell her, pointing to the corded remote used to move the bed up and down.

That bed seems like it was salvaged from a 1950’s institution. Tan, and metal, and in need of a couple of cans of W-D40 – and maybe some landing and take-off instructions. The motor groans and spins, as it goes up and down, grinding to a halt at the top and bottom. I know we are very blessed to have such equipment, compared to other countries; but it reminds me of the difference in the simple sound-quality of a rake compared to a leaf-blower. In the middle of the night, it seems even more obnoxious.

…Anyway, I ran upstairs to the restroom, trying to remember the last time either of us had a decent night’s sleep. I’d say it was around the beginning of December – and here it is May.

When she had that episode at the end of last year (which we think was a stroke), her confusion became so intense that she really couldn’t be left alone. Then came the coughing. We both had it for a while; but hers turned into a long-term bronchitis that racked her body for months.

As I made my way to the top of the stairs, I was just thinking with relief about that cough finally being over with. Suddenly, I heard my mom cough down below. Racing down the steps, knowing this new sounding cough to be what I’d heard just before she began vomiting the day before, I was kicking myself for leaving her on her back. Rounding the corner, I asked (I have no remembrance of what I asked…)

I don’t set an alarm to wake up every two hours. Sometimes I can’t fall asleep in the interim. Sometimes she can’t. So often there is stirring from her bed.

She can’t get comfortable.

She feels confined.

She’s convinced she can get up and make her way to the bathroom.

She forgets she’ll fall.

I get up and find her sleeping with a leg dangling toward the floor and feel horrible, wondering how long it has been hanging there. She can get it out of the bed; but doesn’t have the strength to lift it back in and falls asleep that way.

I try to block the sides of her hospital bed – by moving it up to the couch or pushing a chair alongside it – giving her limbs a better landing spot. She wakes up and wonders aloud at why the furniture is continually being moved.

Back to June 7th, 2023

I know that’s a little all over the place; but I didn’t write anymore, and I remember why…

I heard the sound of her starting to cough again, and then the whole calamity started anew. This is a sliver of why I can’t help but feel relieved that she is finally at peace.

As for me, my body is slowly remembering what it means to stay asleep for a reasonable amount of time. I know I need rest – there are all sorts of physical red flags reminding me that I’ve been overtaxed; but I think it’s going to take some time to retrain my system.

Even if I had nothing to do, I think I’d struggle to be still; but right now, in the aftermath of such a storm, it’s hard to rest when I look around and see so many scattered pieces of projects, relationships, and responsibilities around me. I’m not sure which to focus on first.

For that reason, today I took a Sharpie and wrote a two item To Do List, so I won’t feel stretched in so many different directions (ironically, I find myself doing something else right now other than what I wrote down).

I have been making some progress on my Tiny House, so maybe I’ll post some of that at a later date – but not until I finish that little list on the fridge…

Thanks so much for all of your love and support. Sincerely, Jody

Jody

I'm not sure what to say here: I once got second place in a dog-look-alike-contest? I know how to fold a fitted sheet? I'm pretty much a poster child for social backwardness - at least as far as social media is concerned; but I have some stories I think I'm supposed to share and am attempting to do that here, in this space.

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