This blog follows how a romance novel set in the Borders of medieval Scotland is researched, written and hopefully *hopefully* published.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Few Explanations...

Some of you have probably noticed I've been gone a while. My family came for a visit (Mom and Dad, specifically). They left and my mother was admitted directly into the hospital. Her cancer had begun to choke off her air supply.

For those of you not "in the loop," my mother developed a rare form of cancer very suddenly in summer, 2005. It spread so rapidly that she was encouraged to seek the amputation of her leg. Losing her leg didn't cost her her fiery spirit, though. We still did the family beach trips, my son (a toddler then) learning to say "Charge" as he sat on her lap in her scooter. She stayed active, continued seeing doctors and getting checked on and in October 2006 she had an x-ray or scan of some sort of her lungs (her father died of stomach cancer at about her age). "Nothing to worry about," they said. Around February 2007 they suddenly looked around and went: "Whoops, so sorry about that--it seems we missed a couple lesions that showed up on that October scan--you have lung cancer and it's pretty advanced now."

Mom wasn't done fighting. She started treatment and went to look at another cancer center, this one in Philly. One or two meetings and doctors there felt they could help, but nobody could guarantee that her insurance would handle the new treatment facility. They'd need to front the cash first. Here again is the reason few good people stay as educators--as a teacher (and with my father as a retired teacher) it seemed clear to my parents there was no money to do the better treatments. They'd have to settle for what her insurance would cover. They didn't tell myself or my brother this was the case until much later. My family has a hang-up with pride.

She came and saw us in NY, had more and more trouble breathing (over a course of 4 days) so Dad drove her straight to the emergency room (in PA--okay, we have geographical hang-ups, too).

A day later I got the call that she was in the CCU and no one was sure how long she'd be there. I made the appropriate phone calls. I sounded strong, sure and in control on the phone (until my biggest and toughest male cousin started to cry--I cut that call short because I couldn't maintain the facade any longer). Then I packed up my son, my husband took his scant few personal days and we made the journey south.

I stayed about two weeks in the house I grew up in, swapping visit times between my brother, my father and my godmother. My father and I discussed cremation and non-resucitation(sp.). Grim and seemingly necessary discussions. My mother was forced into early retirement (she had gone back to the classroom for a while) and the paperwork stalled. She was moved from the CCU into the upgraded room and we watched some movies together in the moments between visitors and the end of visiting hours.

The doctor confessed that they didn't really know all the ins and outs of this form of cancer. They would do the best they could, but one lung was basically useless already and the other was showing lesions, too. They focused on opening the airway (trying too much radiation could be disastrous, they explained) and they seemed to succeed--sending her home on oxygen. Part of the "Southern Branch" of the family came north. A big deal in itself, only adding to the stress due to certain familial expectations.

"Is this the sending you home to die thing?" my brother and I wondered. We swore then we'd be 100% open about all we knew with each other and that if we ever faced a similar fight we'd do everything as aggressively as possible. I stayed a little longer--long enough for my mother to regain some of her strength and attitude. Then I headed north again..."home."

Things were crazy. I had dropped one set of obligations to help with Mom, but had to rush to prepare for an important upcoming event I had already paid for. I needed something to look forward to, after all. My days and nights were work, work, work. I called Mom often (I called her often before, but now even moreso). One day I couldn't catch her. My heart sank. I didn't dare think it, but I knew something was wrong.

I finally reached my father that evening (or was it the next morning? it all blurs now). "Don't rush down here. It's really nothing," he said. "She's in the hospital for treatment, but everyone has this sort of brain tumor. It's nothing to worry about."

I was reeling. I COULDN'T race down there because of my schedule. But I was P.O.ed at my father like few times before. I called my brother immediately. My father was angry about that later, too. "It's nothing to worry about," Dad insisted. It just so happened that the tumor was detected because it was causing her gag reflex to malfunction and she had a hell of a time taking her meds. "Nothing to worry about."

My mind kept flicking back to a conversation in a local pizzeria in early summer 2005 when I had said to my mother that I'd support her if she left my dad. There had always been problems in their relationship. Some we joked about--but we've always had a dark sense of humor and a strange love of sarcasm. But even when we joked about the issues they struggled as a couple to surmount, still my brother and I found ourselves often wishing they'd just get divorced. The "staying together for the kids" thing sucked most of the time. Of course, there was also the "staying together for the sake of appearances." That wasn't any better. But then, we weren't a family experienced with divorce.

Mom's cancer had brought them closer, it's true, but they still seem worlds apart at moments.

I saw her Wednesday night and Thursday morning. She was weak, pasty, exhausted. My once proud mother wasn't even using her walker and had conceded to using a potty chair. She was refusing the oxygen. I went to my event. I had to. I understand that I engage in escapism. It's not brave of me, but I accept it as an uneasy norm. I made some money and came back to see her again. She was weaker still, not able to open the Tylenol bottle herself, not able to hold my son on her lap (one of her favorite pasttimes).

I had to leave. Obligations up north required my presence. I called her last night, but she kept the call short. She's having difficulty even with that. And there's nothing I can do about it. I'm too much of a control freak for this sort of thing.

I apologize for not posting and not participating recently. I'll be trying to get back into "the swing of things" as soon as I can. I have an event in October I'll be working on getting ready for, but I need to get back into something that seems "normal" before I let this all take me too far down.

I hope you all are well.

Much love,
~Saoirse

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