Another Bombshell

Losing Mom was very hard for me and for the entire family. She passed just one month shy of her 92nd birthday and we felt like she would always be around. She was like the Energizer Bunny; she just kept on going! Losing her was compounded by the loss of my brother, Danny just nine days earlier. Losing them both so close together hit us very hard.

I had an appointment with my Orthopedic Oncologist, Dr. Patterson, the day after Mom’s funeral to get the results of my quarterly PET scan. I hadn’t gotten any phone calls so I just assumed that everything was OK.

As we waited in the examining room, Larry and I were becoming restless waiting for Dr. Patterson; he seemed to be taking longer than usual to come in to see me. He is usually very punctual and greets us with a kind smile and caring demeanor. When he walked in, we could see the look of consternation on his face before he dropped the latest bombshell; I had another tumor in my left lung.

How could this be happening now; just one day after Mom’s funeral? Hadn’t we been through enough? Losing Danny and then Mom nine days later only to get hit with my own death sentence was more than anyone in our family could comprehend. I was physically and mentally exhausted and was looking forward to resting and taking better care of myself. As the events of the past six months unfolded, I was a bit concerned about the toll that the insurmountable amount of stress was taking on me. However, I did not expect to have another tumor develop so soon.

Surgery was scheduled with a thoracic surgeon on June 19th. This tumor was larger than the one that I had removed from the same lung six months earlier. They would have to remove the lower lobe of my left lung as opposed to the smaller slice that had been previously removed. The doctor said that I should still have good lung capacity which was a bit of a relief. I had mentioned that I had been getting mild chest pains but he said not to worry; it could just be from the stress that I was under.

I had about a week to take care of Mom’s affairs. Thankfully, my boys cleaned out her apartment so I only had to go back a couple of times. I was relieved about that because it was so hard to go there now and not see her. Just looking at the kitchen table where we sat for so many hours, keeping each other company, laughing and crying with so much love in our hearts made me very sad. I was very grateful that Mom wasn’t here for the news of another tumor. It would have truly devastated her and I don’t know how I would have been able to take care of her.

I woke up around 4:30 am on the morning of my surgery because we had to be at the hospital by 5:30. As I sat on my bed to pray and meditate, I felt a sharp pain in my chest and then coughed up blood twice. When we got to the hospital, they performed some tests and looked at my PET scan again. They told me that they saw something that could be a tumor in my heart. It absolutely devastated me; I was inconsolable. I was scheduled for a cardiac MRI the next day, an echocardiogram followed by a Doppler on my legs to check for blood clots and thankfully, nothing showed up.

I was cleared for surgery two days later on Friday June 21st, the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. It truly was the longest day of the year for me. The anesthesia and pain meds (that were prescribed orally instead of intravenously) caused me to have dry heaves; it was horrific. It was painful and difficult to breath making the dry heaves feel much worse. Later that night at 3:30 am, my IV was leaking and had to be reinserted. It took two nurses an hour to reinsert it; my forearm was purple for three weeks after that. I don’t ever want to go through that again; not ever. I stayed in the hospital until Sunday; what was supposed to be an overnight stay turned into four nights.

I truly appreciated being home and being able to see the flowers and trees while listening to the birds sing. When I woke up the next day, Monday morning, I sat outside with a cup of coffee and just took in the sounds, the sights and the smells. Later that day for lunch, I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I don’t know why but I decided to sit outside to eat my lunch and as I did that it brought me back to a special place in time when I was little that I had forgotten about. When it was nice out, Mommy would let me and Sue sit outside and eat our lunch at the wooden picnic table in our backyard. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich tasted just as good as it did when I was as a child. It was a forgotten simple pleasure that took me back to a special, simpler time and place in my life.

I didn’t do much else that day, I barely had enough strength to get up out of bed for my meals. I remember crying in bed over the loss of my Mom and brother. I had wanted to pick up the phone to call them and then the realization of them being gone set in. It seems that no matter how old you are, you still want your Mom especially when you’re sick. It was as if I didn’t have time to grieve over them because I was thrown back into the fire with my latest diagnosis.

I felt like I was sitting on the outside looking in; feeling like I had one foot here and one foot over there (in the grave). I thought about how Life is not just about the special moments or vacations or holidays, it’s the actual doing, the actual running of errands, listening to music, going to the store, making dinner, that’s living …that’s what you do when you are alive. I couldn’t wait to get back to doing those everyday things; I just wanted to be alive.

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