Our story starts on Tuesday, November 5, 2013. Daddy awoke Mom mid-morning and asked if she was ok. She had been sleeping for almost 40 of the last 48 hours. Mom was speaking a bit slurred and her face was droopy. We all know that is a sign of a stroke. Daddy called the doctor and he was told to get her to the er at Lake Pointe.
Mom had been in and out of hospitals over the years, I am surprised that they didn't know her by name. She had scoliosis, diverticulitis, gout, shingles and a number of other things over the past few years. She was a fighter, and a survivor of breast cancer too. In the more recent, she had a mole on her back and little pea sized blood spots on her back and they had moved to her face. Mom's doctor even told her that she had a 5% chance of developing leukemia due to what all her body had been through. Her weight and lack of physical activity were getting the better of her too.
Back to the story at hand...
It took a while to get the catheter and iv all set up. They did some tests and ruled out a stroke right away. The brain and lungs both looked fine. So... what was this? The longer she was there, the more she seemed to come out of whatever this was, but she was having some severe pains in her belly. They said that they were going to keep her overnight and do some more tests. Daddy was sent home and my sister (several others) and I stayed there until he got back with some stuff to do while he was there. By this time, daddy was used to grabbing a briefcase and spending nights at the hospital. The rest of us went home when he got back and planned to meet up the next morning.
I got a call on Wednesday morning that mom was on her way to Medical City in Dallas. They were better able to take care of her there and wanted to do a bone marrow test. So, I grabbed some stuff and off I went. The ambulance ride really wore her out. The spots were going away a bit, maybe this was an infection. They were treating her as such and though her belly was swollen, she seemed a bit better. Daddy stayed with her when they did the bone marrow test. They numbed the area, but had to keep her awake. Not knowing what was wrong yet, they didn't want to sedate her. Her blood counts were all over the board and the put in a PICC line so that they could take blood more directly and keep up with the numbers. I went home that night in hopes that they would be able to give us results of the test on Friday. They suspected leukemia. IF this went they way they were thinking, mom would stay in the hospital on floor eleven and undergo several weeks of treatment and then maybe off to some Cancer Center to see what else they could do.
I am leaving out lots of details... my sister and son stayed at the hospital almost the entire time. We took turns holding mom's hands and just talking to her, trying to calm and soother her. My daughter had only been back from a two year teaching job in South Korea for a few months. Family was in and out like crazy. The nurses were awesome! We all loved Mary and Jen the most, but they would all do anything we wanted or needed.
I had migraines on and off for three days and the injections and pills were getting to me. We were on the floor where the stem cell and marrow transplant patients were. You washed your hands every time you were buzzed onto the floor.
Thursday. I was up and headed back to the hospital first thing, really wanting some answers. There was the doctor... ok, here it was, some answers... Some thirty minutes later, the doctor and several other official people came through the door. This couldn't be good. The doctor went over to mom, woke her up, asked her if she knew where she was and told her that she had acute leukemia. Mom was told that there were three options. One, not really an option at all, cause it was several hard fast doses of treatment. But, she wasn't strong enough to do that. Second, a milder dose. Would last three weeks, they would know in the first week if it was working or not, and once started...the doctor didn't want to stop treatment til it was over. The pain would be a lot worse than what she was going through now, and he couldn't say if she would even make it through. The third option, to just die.
We all just stood there in shock. Not what we expected. All the sudden, I was firing out the questions. What was the treatment, how long would it last, how sick would she get, could they make her comfortable when the treatments were not in progress,...
Mother just looked up and daddy and asked what she should do, was she going to die, what should she do,... Daddy had tears streaming down his face and told her that he didn't know, and that they would need to talk. She didn't want more pain, she was barely hanging in there right then. She asked if they could just put her to sleep and not wake up. She looked past everyone and straight at me... I am the logical tough one when things need to be done, I fall apart later. She told me that I knew what she meant. I told her yes, she wanted to go see her mom and the others that had died in the past five years. She nodded. They said that they could make her comfortable, but we were not just taking her out. Mom looked up at daddy and asked him if he could come with her. At this point, he cried and said that he wished he could, his heart was breaking. I told mom that I needed her to leave him with us, that I couldn't lose them both at once. She said ok, but that I better take care of him. I promised that he would be taken care of. All this took place in maybe fifteen minutes? I should have written before now, but it was just too painful. It still is, but I need to get this written.
Mom took a nap and we all got on our phones. Daddy had me to call mom's sister and last one of the family. They would leave in the morning (Friday) and start the 20 hour drive. Cousins dropped by, people called, and even more prayed. All the grandkids were local and came to the hospital. The nurses were shocked at the number of young adults in the halls and asked them to wait in the lobby as there wasn't enough room in her room. The legacy is amazing! I went home late that night and into the arms of one of the most amazing men in the world, my dad is the other! We talked, cried and just "were".
Up at out early the next morning, my husband stayed with me, didn't go to work for the next week. Friday... mom was moved around five in the morning to a suite down the hall and around the corner. The nurse said that this would allow enough room for everyone that was there to actually stay in the room. What a blessing. Mom was in and out, mainly out. Sometime that evening, I got a call from my aunt. They were at the Texas and Louisiana boarder...should they keep coming or could they spend the night? I told them to grab a snack and keep driving. Now, I know that they don't speed, and that trip was a 20 hour trip done in fifteen. Another blessing or even a miracle.
Mom's meds were reduced so that she would wake up. We knew that she would be in a lot of pain and the nurses would crank the meds back up as soon as we wanted, making her comfortable again. She got to mumble to her sister. Daddy and she told each other that they loved each other. Then, daddy told mother that she could go now. We all cried and she had a hard time going back under. My daughter and sister held her hand and tried to soothe her. I got up beside her and told her that she needed to sleep, this was it, the next time that she woke up it would be over and she would know no more pain. Mother drifted off. I think this was some time before midnight.
My dad used to do volunteer work with the hospice group in the Rockwall area, so he knew what signs to look for as the body shut down. Mom, as usual, had her own plans. Her nails never turned black, the urine bag needed changing right up to the end, and there was no great struggle. The nurses were changing shifts and trying to get daddy to go to another room to get some sleep. He had only slept a couple hours that night and not many more in the past three days. As they were walking around the bed, he said that there was no need as she was gone. Her body was on it's last breath, we woke everyone up, gathered around and sent her of with a prayer of praise. I cry even now as I sit and write this. My mom was 75 years old and married to the love of her life for 54 years. They had gone to many places and done many things and now she was gone. Daddy, as expected, just kept talking to her, telling her how beautiful she was, how he missed her and he was sorry that he couldn't save her.
The next few days were a viewing, more family coming in, and a funeral. We have seen family that have been away for way too long and spent hours playing catch up. Stories were told about mother and the person that she was. Picture were looked at and then we started to be able to tell jokes and more stories. We are healing.
My mom was a collector of everything, she grew up in that time where you just saved and used it all. She never really got used to tossing out... anything. She did her shopping through mail order books, we had to cancel over forty of those. There has been a lot to do and there is still more to do. We are getting by, each in our own way. We have each other. My dad still has days where he is lost, and that is ok. My mother and daddy were a team, friends, soul mates, lovers, ...
I don't know it this will help anyone or not, shoot... not sure that anyone got down this far. I wrote it for me. I needed to share. My daughter has put together a page in honor of my mom, and we will add stuff from time to time. My son is doing a ton of family tree research now. Like I said, we are all dealing in our own way. I have been told that the holidays this year will be hard. I decked out the house for Christmas! I still know that it will be hard and next year might be just as hard cause it all happened so close to the holidays.
My mom is in no pain and will be taller the next time we see her... her scoliosis is gone!!!
Oh... please take a look at the page my daughter has made... this is such a cool thing to do for a family ... There are videos, pictures, poems that my dad wrote over the years, a great recipe for Sausage Cheese Balls, and more... http://joschremp.blogspot.com/
I will be back in a few weeks. IF I don't get back before Christmas... Have a blessed Christmas and be sure to tell those around you what they mean to you!!! - Pam