learning from losing

braceletCancer is a nasty enemy.

It does not discriminate and will attack all types of people.

Too many times the disease wins the battle.

My mom has terminal cancer. I wear this bracelet each day to remind me to pray for her.

I accompanied my mom to her chemo appointment the other day. Since I live in a different state, this is the first time I had the opportunity to meet her doctor and keep her company during her treatment. My sisters have been with my mom many times for these infusions; I am very grateful to them. I counted it a privilege to help this time.

The process went like this…

  • Arrive early to modern, sterile building. Check in at desk #1. Sit and wait.
  • Pay at desk #2. Sit and wait. Make small talk.
  • Chat a bit with kind, gentle, careful technicians and aides. Answer questions. Fill out paperwork. Check wristband.
  • Take elevator upstairs. Check in at desk #3. Answer questions. Fill out paperwork. Check wristband. it’s busy. Many bald, turbaned, walker-or-cane-assisted people come and go. Sit and wait. Mom called in to prepare lab work.
  • Take elevator down one floor. Sit and wait. Get mom water and coffee.
  • Move to examination room. Sit and wait.
  • Short check up with doctor. He speaks fast with a difficult-to-understand accent and medical vocabulary, but also communicates warmth and care. He has no easy answers for leg pain and weakness but he encourages goals, bucket-list dreams, and light exercise.
  • Visit desk #4 to schedule next chemo appointment and full-torso scan to check chemo effectiveness.
  • Take elevator back up. Sit and wait, as lab results are checked and drugs mixed.
  • Move to infusion chair. Answer questions for young nurse. Check wristband with drug bags. Connect port to tubing.
  • Anti-nausea med – 10 minutes. Rinse. First drug – 15 minutes. Rinse. Second drug – 1 1/2 hours.
  • Share pictures on my iPad. Visit with nearby fellow patient(s). Chat about life, grandkids, weather, wigs, cancer support group. Talk about life and death. Eat lunch. Share about feelings, fears, lifestyle changes.
  • Nurse disconnects tubes and connects pump for next two days.
  • Take elevator down. Exit hospital, grateful for another day and time together.

A seven hour process all in all, repeated every two weeks, until the drugs are no longer effective against the cancer or the side effects are too difficult for my mom. This treatment will not cure the cancer. It is terminal. I am losing my mom.

As I sort through the emotions, I learn to look for each small gift… Mom has faith and peace. She still has her hair and walks on her own, albeit slowly. She has good days when she can go out with friends. Mom receives great care from her family and the medical staff. She is loved.

Disease changes life and sometimes ends it, but disease doesn’t define life. There is more.

Have you or someone you loved fought a life-threatening disease? What have you learned from the experience?