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Grandma Chatterbox Update

December 14, 2016

Thanks to those of you who have sent good wishes to my mother, who I’m sorry to report isn’t doing well. Two weeks ago she was languishing in bed at her retirement home, too wobbly to stand and experiencing so much pain in her shoulder that Mrs. Chatterbox and I brushed aside her objections and rushed her to the ER. A CAT scan showed she has many tumors, a large one in her head with another in her lungs causing terrible pain. A biopsy has shown the tumors to be lung cancer—Mom gave up smoking forty years ago. Untreated, Mom has been given two to four months to live; with successful treatment as much as a year.


Although the tumor in her lungs has cracked a rib, Mom remains alert and isn’t suffering from headaches, which is a blessing. Doctors decided on radiation treatments and that began an interesting education in the plight of the elderly. Mom needed a rehabilitation facility to make her stronger, but it proved difficult to find one that would accept her because Medicare would make the facility pay for the radiation treatments, which cost over a hundred thousand dollars.


We did manage to find a qualified place in compliance with Medicare, and Mom’s radiation treatments are progressing. On Thursday we will have a conference with the oncologist to determine if Mom is eligible for chemotherapy. To be eligible, Mom needs to be strong enough to stay out of bed at least half the day. From what I can see, the physical therapy doesn’t seem to be working. If she does decide to proceed, the facility where she’s currently staying won’t let her stay because, according to Medicare, they’d be forced to pay for the chemo, which again would cost thousands of dollars.


Mom is a fighter, and it isn’t for me to tell her she shouldn’t have chemo, although her doctors are suggesting it wouldn’t be a good idea. Mom is ninety-one, the last remaining member of a once large and boisterous family. It’s hard to think of the discomfort she’d be forced to endure, especially since her cancer cannot be cured. Her doctors have cautioned us that chemotherapy has a low success rate, even with folks far younger than my mother, and I have been trying to describe the side effects of chemotherapy, nausea, hair loss, fatigue, so Mom would know what she’d be subjecting herself to, but she isn’t “tracking” mentally as well as she once did and it’s difficult to know if she comprehends the impact of what she’s considering.


Mom’s big fear in life was that she’d end up in a nursing home, but I think that’s the most likely outcome since she currently needs round the clock skilled nursing care. A nursing home will cost around ten thousand dollars a month. Fortunately, money is not a problem for my mother; she’s worked hard all her life and has been frugal with her money. I can only imagine the worry and frustration experienced by those caring for aging parents lacking financial resources.


We all know our time here on earth is limited, yet our end is usually seen as an abstraction, but my mother’s end has become all too real. This experience has brought home something I’ve rarely thought about—my own mortality.


Take care, and if you are blessed to still have your parents, tell them how much you love them, even though they already know.



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I'm sorry to hear that. My sister is going through chemotherapy right now and it is pretty nasty. She's only 36 so I'm sure it would be much worse for someone who's 91.
By: PT Dilloway on December 14, 2016
There are no manuals for this phase of our lives. Our thoughts are with your family and your mom. We had to make the hard decision on my mom because she became immobile and we couldn't physically lift her. Take care of yourselves.
By: Rick Watson on December 14, 2016
When faced with one's own mortality it can be an overwhelming experience. Making life decisions for a love one can be heart wrenching. Know that your online family is a supportive bunch.
By: Daniel LaFrance on December 14, 2016
Oh my, I hear the costs and feel so very bad for you. In Canada, we don't have to worry about the costs of chemo or radiation as our healthcare is great and covers it. My mom is in a long term care facility and they take the majority of her income but the remainder is covered by the government, she just has to share a room. My mom has dementia and losing control of her mental facilities was her biggest fear. My dad's was cancer which he died from. Funny how the fears seem to come true which is so sad. Your mom is quite the survivor to be 92 and has sass from what I recall if your previous posts. This most difficult time is the hardest on you and your wife and I feel for you because this is going to be an ending to something you have always been used to. I fear my mom will also be going to visit her loved one already passed.
By: Birgit on December 14, 2016
My heart goes out to you and your family. I lost both parents when I was a child/teen, so that's ancient history, but my sister died this year and it truly slapped my own mortality right in the face. I'm a pray-er, so I'll say one for y'all.
By: Kelly on December 14, 2016
I'm sure I don't have to tell you that the important thing from here on is that your mom is comfortable. Only you know what's best and needn't have anyone tell you what you ought to do. Meanwhile there'll be silent prayers from here.
By: Uncle Skip on December 14, 2016
If I am ever in your Mom's shoes I hope I will be allowed to be kept comfortable- travel while I can and choose when I die that I die with dignity and my family and friends with me. I am74 now and have lived a good healthy life. I do not want to put my family through any more stress or sadness than what happens as your loved one dies. I watched my Mom die by inches over 3 years and will not allow that to happen to me. My deepest sympathies to you, Mrs C, your son and of course your Mom. Most importantly be sure to take care of your selves.
By: Kathe W. on December 14, 2016
Stephen, really sorry to hear that. It's a rough place to be in and I dread it when it's my own parents failing. Do what you can and make her comfortable. Prayers for your whole family.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on December 14, 2016
So sorry to learn about your mother. Sympathy goes out to her and you and the rest of your family.
By: Catalyst on December 14, 2016
I'm so sorry to hear about your mother's situation It is so hard for those standing by to make major decisions about treatment. It is easy to feel one should prolong life no matter what, and it's hardly surprising if she isn't quite sure about what is going on. I think that sometimes it is better to have kindly palliative care and no fuss for her - are there hospices where she could go? One of the hard things is that no matter what you do for the best, you might go through a period of feeling guilt and distress that you didn't do something different but the truth is that there are no good options. I am sure that the disgusting squabbling about insurance etc. just makes everything worse. I feel for you and hope you can reach a decision that makes you feel easier, soon.
By: jenny woolf on December 14, 2016
So sorry about your mom. When our parents died, Bud & I realized that WE were now the heads of our family--a strange feeling Sorry to hear about your mom. When our parents died, Bud & I suddenly realized that WE were now the oldest in our family--a strange feeling!!
By: fishducky on December 14, 2016
Your mother is in my prayers, as are you and your wife and son. It's so hard to go through this.
By: messymimi on December 14, 2016
Stephen, I am so very sorry you are having to face such tough decisions. I hope they can keep your Mom comfortable in the time she has left. Sending prayers for her and your family.
By: Arkansas Patti on December 14, 2016
I'm sorry for what all of you are going through. As you may remember, I worked in a nursing home. I've given my children strict instructions not to do anything to prolong my life if I can't take care of myself and to never, ever send me to a nursing home. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on December 14, 2016
This is a dilemma of our time. the ability to extend life but not without destroying the quality of life, and for many people wiping out a life time of savings that I for one would want my children to benefit from all for several months of pain, and yet how do we "play God?" This is such a difficult time for all involved, my prayers are with you and your mom that she is comfortable until the end. I know in your posts you have often complained about your mom's stubbornness and perhaps backward thinking, but she sounds to me like a strong wonderful lady whose faults were molded by her era. I can tell you love her very much and I feel sorry for your pain..her generation is one to be cherished for all it's faults and sadly we may never see her like again.
By: cranky on December 14, 2016
I am grateful to you all for your kind words. We are strong, we three. Nevertheless that doesn't always make things easier. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.
By: Mrs Chatterbox on December 14, 2016
It is an emotional and challenging time for you. We are saddened to learn of your mother's pain and suffering. Please know that we are among the many others who send you our thoughts and prayers for mercy.
By: Tom Cochrun on December 14, 2016
I'm sorry to hear this. What a sad and stressful situation for you to be in. Whatever happens, I hope this stage in life is as painless as possible and peaceful for your mother.
By: Pixel Peeper on December 14, 2016
I'm sorry to hear that your Mom is not well. It's a tough time for everybody a s you know decisions have to be made but don't know what they might be. It looks like you've done some research so that will help you. My best to you at this challenging time.
By: red Kline on December 14, 2016
It's so hard to navigate these decisions, especially if your mom isn't clear enough in her mind to think them through. When my dad was too sick to think clearly, I tried to think back to whatever wishes he had expressed or implied when he was well. When he became critically ill, I looked to the doctor (who Dad and I both trusted) to help me decide on Dad's behalf. It's a fine line to walk. I wish you all the best.
By: jenny_o on December 14, 2016
So sorry to hear about your mother's health. We went through this kind of situation two years ago (it was Thanksgiving week that we found out about Mom's brain tumor). My thoughts are with you and Mrs. C and CJ as you face these difficult decisions, and with your mom as she has to make adjustments to residing in a new facility. I learned to accept each day for what it was, and to revel in the good days, when we laughed about old times. Take care.
By: Val on December 14, 2016
this is indeed very sad news Stephen. i'm so sorry. you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers
By: Fran on December 15, 2016
You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. They (parents) aren't with us long enough no matter how long we get to keep them around.
By: Mason Canyon on December 15, 2016
This post has brought back memories of my mother's cancer years ago and how we all cared for her at home until her death. We were lucky that she could die at home on the farm, but my husband's mother's final time was much like your mother's. Involving moving and talking to doctors.
By: Tabor on December 15, 2016
I'm so very sorry to hear that. Even though intellectually we know it comes for everyone, that doesn't lessen the heartache. May you and your family know peace!
By: Al Penwasser on December 15, 2016
My heart goes out to you and your family. Your mum is lucky to have you as a son. Beautiful post with your usual dash of much-needed humour. Thanks. Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on December 15, 2016
Oh, I'm so sorry to read this. My heart is with you, your mother, and your entire family.
By: Mitchell is Moving on December 15, 2016
Oh. My. I just lost my Grandmother, and so I have some minor idea of some of the items you mentioned. Helping out, I know Dad kept trying to explain to her about her pacemaker, and oxygen, but at 98, she was getting a bit confused about things. It was so odd to see my grandma, a strong woman of the depression, raised her younger siblings, became a nurse, and stayed in her own house until she was 90 or so, get so frail, and sort of childlike at the end. I send you and yours hugs and good thoughts, and I am so hoping that you have good family and friends to deal with all that happens... Cat
By: Cat on December 15, 2016
sorry to hear about your mom but at 91 she's had a good long life. I'd opt for no treatment were it me. both my parents have passed, my dad went quick with a stroke but my mother lingered with her brain slowly dying with TIAs.
By: Ellen Abbott on December 16, 2016
Oh no I'm so sorry. My thoughts are with you all at this time. :(
By: LL Cool Joe on December 16, 2016
Stephen and Mrs. C...I'm so sorry to hear about your mother. These are the worst scenrios when you're a child of an ill and elderly parent. I've gone through it with my father. Went through it with my husband. Fortunately, my husband was able to make his own decision and chose quality of life for a terminal diagnosis and chose to forego any treatment that would make him sick and weak with an outcome that would be the same anyway. If you're the healthcare P.O.A it's a tough place to be to have to make the decisions yourself. I'm sending prayers of strength and patience during this difficult journey.
By: Bee BB Bee on December 17, 2016
I am so sorry to hear this. My mother is going through the same thing- and she did chemo and palliative brain radiation. At first we had hopes that the two would prolong her life and she would have some quality time left, but even though her ct scans say the lung cancer has resolved, the chemo and radiation has left her with memory loss, body weakness, and confuion. My sister and I spend lots of time on google trying to figure out what is going on because the doctors are not very forthcoming with wht to expect. Knowing what I know now- I don't know why the doctors cant just figure out a care plan to keep patients comfortable instead of poisoning them with all these drugs.
By: Terri@Coloring Outside the Lines on December 17, 2016
I'm so sorry your mother (and you!) are going through this. I'll keep your family in my prayers.
By: The Bug on December 20, 2016

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