There I was laying in bed feeling like one hell of a cold was ravaging my whole body. Laying in bed, sniffling, snorting, coughing, aching and burning up. My phone rang, party rock anthem played and I heard a chime for a voicemail. I was feeling so bad I couldn't even reach the phone. I fell back to sleep. A little while later the phone rang again. Even in my delirious state I knew the phone ringing twice before 9am on a Sunday was bizarre. I looked and my father had called twice and sent a text message. Yes, my 68 year old Dad has learned to text! I read the text, "Your mother is very sick, please call her immediately." I jumped up and listened to the voice mails.
They are divorced, mom and dad, and mom lives by herself. For years she has smoked cigarettes and drank excessive quanties of alcohol. Other people would flat out say she is an alcoholic. Dad called her this morning and asked how she was doing and she said "I am going to lay down in this bed and die." He asked if she needed to go to the emergency room, and she said "I think so." She would NEVER say she wanted to go to the doctor unless something was VERY wrong. Dad was in Baton Rouge, 3 hours away, so he called me. I am still one hour away, but I can make it in 40 minutes flat. ;-)
I roll my nasty self out of bed and go straight to the hot shower to open up my passages a little, and breathe. I call dad back while getting dressed. We talk, I tell him I think I am going to have to go to the E.R. too. I get off the phone with him and call her. "Mom, are you OK?" I ask. "Jimmy, I am going to lay in this bed and die" she tells me. "No, no you are not, I am on my way to your house" I tell her. She tries to tell me not to come, but she knows she is not going to make it if I don't.
I talk to Kelly, my wonderful wife. I kiss my adorable kids Gabe, 12 and Max 2, goodbye. I know in my heart I will not be back for a while. I give Gabe the "you are now the oldest man in the house and you better help your mother out because she can't do it all by herself" speech. I bet every man on this planet has heard that speech at least once in their lives. I packed up a few clothes and necessities in my duffel bag and hit the road. I was so worried about what I would find all the way there. I normally went to see her every other Sunday. I would do anything she needed around the house and take her grocery shopping, then to Dollar General and usually to the package store. I was going to miss this Sunday because I was so sick, but I had to go anyway.
I got to the house and sat outside in the driveway for several minutes trying to get up my courage. The front door was locked, but I had a key. I went into the living room and immediately started choking. My mom has always raised birds, all the way from parakeets to green wing macaws. Birds constantly shed dust or dander. My mom has always been good about having about 10 air filters in the house and she cleaned the filters almost daily. It had obviously been a while. There was a layer of white powder on everything in the house. I had to go pee, so I went straight to the bathroom on what was once "my" side of the house. I walked through several spider webs. When I looked in the toilet I saw mosquito larvae filling the toilet bowl. I knew she was bad off then.
I went to her room and she was sitting on the edge of the bed with her purse in her hands. She was dressed and ready to go. I asked her if she could walk and she said she didn't know. I went back out and moved the SUV to the edge of the front door. I went back in and only by sheer stubbornness did she walk to the SUV, with my help. We set out for the closest emergency room. We chose North shore in Slidell, Louisiana because she had been seen there several times before. Little did we know the horrors we would find.
We went to the emergency room. During the initial check-in the nurse said she had an irregular heartbeat and brought her straight to a room in the back. She had several tests and was admitted to the hospital that afternoon. The next day they did a multitude of tests, EKG, chest x-ray, cat scan, all kinds of blood work. Tuesday came and the main hospitalist doctor came in. He said, "I did not want to have to tell you this, I have been trying for hours to find an easier way of saying it, but there isn't one, we are 90% sure you have Lung Cancer Mrs. Day." He said they were scheduling a bronchoscopy for the following morning. They would do a biopsy and send it off for results.
So there it was, the thing that no one wants to hear, Lung Cancer. Yet she smoked for 30 something years. She used to tell me she hoped I would come down one day and find her dead on the floor of her house. I guess she just never realized it was not that easy. This will apparently drag on for months, if not years. She has a urinary tract infection, phenomia, very low sodium count, dehydrated, malnourished, arterial fibrillation of her heart, and lung cancer. It has not been pretty so far, and they tell me the worst is yet to come.
So, there you have it.... The day my earth stood still. The day quite a few peoples lives changed because my mother wanted to kill herself. She refused to get any sort of help. She refused to enjoy any type of life with her grandchildren. She refused to to stop drinking or smoking. I have now taken a FM LA leave from my job to become a full time caregiver. She needs someone around 24 hours a day. My family has to suffer now, for her irrational behavior. They say she has to eat and drink all the nutrients and vitamins she can, because the radiation therapy will more than likely kill her. She has a tumor in her windpipe, and multiples inside her lungs.
Even after years of preparing, I was still floored by the news. I have seen this coming for almost 10 years. Yet, I still cried for an hour and an half straight on my drive back to Petal, Ms. I am starting to feel selfish, and at the same time ashamed of myself. I realize I have given up almost all of my life to care for her. It has put a very real hurt on my family. I have been fighting to keep my wife and oldest son happy. We are at times, drifting apart. I moved my mother into my house, which was already too small. We had to take away the youngest ones room, while we wait on an addition to the house. The stress is showing, even on the 2 year old who has cried himself to sleep for the last 3 nights.
There it is, the day my earth stood still, Sunday January 15th, 2012. Something people never seen to think about is, how much does your way of life affect your loved ones? I would imagine it is a lot more than you know, more than you will ever know, more than they will ever tell you. It is amazing how my mom always wanted to die, right up until they said she was dying. That is when she told the doctor "I want to live and spend more time with my grandchildren." Tonight she has called me into her room 4 times. She needed to pee she said. She can't even stand up without some help. I will help. She is my mom and I love her so much. I will be there for her, til the end, no matter how bad it is.