Sunday, October 16, 2011

Unsettled, Fragmented, Distracted

That's how I've been feeling, since our latest trip to Idaho and Oregon. Wanting to post, but not quite knowing what to say. Or, I guess, how to put into words what I'm feeling. We've been on this path for some time. Health issues that come from having aged parents. Each illness, each episode, threatens to take them from us, each time they bounce back. Until the next time. It's always like waiting for the other shoe to drop.
In any family, when the diagnosis is cancer, it's a frightening feeling. You have no control over the outcome. You can do whatever is medically available, all the time praying that it will work. Knowing that it might not. That word changes everything. You must continue to live a normal life and take care of the every day things that need taking care of. But somewhere in a back corner of your brain, that shadow lurks, waiting to come to the forefront of all else.

As a family, we have walked this road with my Father several times in the past 20 years. Three different episodes with cancer. Add to that a heart attack, hip replacement, many other broken bones as well. Most of those as a result of falling. He is tough as nails and has made it to 96 years of age. I'm not sure I can even count or recall all the things he has been through. He wears a button on his vest that reads "At my age, I've survived damn near everything".

My Mother was always pretty healthy, up until the past few years. She's had gallbladder problems, and a few other things that knocked her down, but she always got back up. About 18 months ago, she was diagnosed with macular degeneration. She has undergone many eye injections since then and the Dr. says it is halting it's progression somewhat. However we have seen a serious decline in her ability to manage. Two of the things that were her hobbies, reading and crochet, she can no longer do. That has taken a toll on her mental outlook. Plus she can no longer keep a close eye on my Dad in an attempt to prevent him from doing foolish things that cause him to fall down. She has begun to suffer from anxiety attacks. I'm sure I would do the same if I could not see.

I have felt so fortunate to have had my parents live this long. It's difficult to live so far from family, because when something happens you cannot get there quickly. Hub and I both have done our best to be there a couple of times a year just for visits, when nothing is wrong. The trips have become more frequent as more and more things have happened, and now we usually go because something has happened.

We visited in March. My Dad was in the rehab center again, after cracking a bone in his leg(the same one they did a hip replacement on exactly a year before. We spent some days there, then went to Portland to visit Hubs family. Everyone was fine, we had a great time. My Mother-in-law has been living with Emphysema for several years, but doing quite well. The only thing that had changed in recent years, was her lung function had decreased to the point she was on oxygen 100% of the time. Still, she was doing well. Around June she told us she had been on antibiotics for an infection, and that she had complained to her Drs. of severe back pain. They attributed it to the hauling around of the oxygen tanks, and gave her pain meds. She was afraid of getting hooked on them, so she tried to get by on as few as possible. Finally the pain got so unbearable that the Dr. decided to do a MRI...that led to a PET scan, and a diagnosis of cancer. Bone cancer. It had apparently spread quickly, in her ribs and her hip. She had just had a chest ex-ray 6 months earlier and everything there was fine. The diagnosis came the end of August and the prognosis was possibly 6 months to live. We flew back out to Boise the first week in September, I stayed there to spend time with my parents. While there, my Dad did something foolish and fell again. None of us can convince him to let us help him with ANYTHING! Hub went to Portland to spend time with his Mom for a week. They spent some time talking about and making arrangements for us to visit again at Christmas time. Because of her weakened lung condition, they decided against radiation for the pain. At any rate we came home Sept. 17th.. October 9th we received word that she had taken a turn for the worse. Hubby left the next day. She had experienced 4 days of being completely incoherent, agitated and quite out of it. She then had 2 days of being rational and awake and alert while he was there. Then she had another couple of days that were pretty bad. Hubby flew home last night, arriving in Austin at 1 a.m. When we awoke this morning we got a call from his sister Jeri, that Mom had passed peacefully in her sleep at 4:30 this morning. As sad as we all are, we are also thankful that it was a relatively short time after the diagnosis, and she did not spend an extended time suffering.
Janet Merle Day Dunbar was 78 years old.

Needless to say, we are feeling a range of emotions, and this is sinking in a little bit at a time. Everything was prepared for in advance as far as arrangements go.

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