Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Halfway Through......

My mother-in-law is halfway through her radiation treatments. I was about to type the words "we have settled into a routine..." when I realized that every time we settle into a routine, it gets changed and we have to establish a new one. Looks like I would guard myself against the temptation to "settle" in to anything.

Hubby takes his mother to radiation on Mondays and Wednesdays, and on those days I feel incredibly guilty that I'm not doing it. I'm not bragging or looking for accolades about my devotion; it just is what it is. Some of my friends have expressed admiration or disbelief or puzzlement or some combination of all of those that I have taken on so much responsibility for the care of my mother-in-law, a person I didn't even know 16 years ago.

I don't know what they expect. I certainly don't know how NOT to do it. I'm able, she isn't, and that's that.

It is very depressing (for lack of a better word) to watch someone go downhill. Again, I was about to type the words "so fast" when I realized it HASN'T been fast. It's been a slow, agonizing deterioration of health and capability. When I see pictures of her standing in our back yard with our two used-to-be dogs, it's hard even to remember those days. There was a time when she drove up in our driveway every Sunday afternoon, like clockwork, and visited for a couple of hours. Never mind that I may have been working on my dissertation or watching football, and she didn't mind if we kept the television on while she was here. Now it has been over a year since she has driven a car, and she cannot even manage to get off the sofa into her wheelchair into the car without a great deal of assistance.

The amount of assistance needed increases every day.

I think when she began her radiation treatment that some portion of her mind convinced another portion of her mind that this would "fix" everything. She would go through the rather uncomfortable ordeal (now there's an understatement) of radiation, but then she would bounce back and feel good again. She even said one day that she believed she could drive ... if she could only get to the car. And there is nothing feeble about her mind. Mentally she is very sharp.

It breaks my heart.

I compare her to my grandmother, who had Alzheimer's and lived in a nursing home for the last 10 years of her life. I don't know what's worse, having the body slowly deteriorate or having the mind go first. 

Today the doctor decided she needed fluids, for which I was grateful, since she is neither eating nor drinking sufficiently to retain enough strength to carry her through this period of radiation treatment. We went upstairs for her i.v., and we had to sit in the chemotherapy room. It's a large, open room with recliner-type chairs lining three walls, chairs for family members in the middle of the room, and a television that someone requested be changed to a channel covering election results. Patients read magazines, took naps, ate lunch, and tapped on their laptops, all while poisons dripped into their veins to kill another poison that came from within.

I wanted to scream, "She's not getting chemotherapy! It's only saline!"

Then I just wanted to scream.

But either one would have been insensitive.


joyce said...

So touched by your post that I had to let you know. It's hard to know what to say except that my heart goes out to all of you. Your mother in law is so fortunate to have you in her life and Obviously you feel the same way about her.
Thinking of you and all that you're going through.....

DJan said...

They gave my grandmother what they called "palliative chemotherapy" and told us not to expect much, but she believed, and she went into remission for three years. I am very moved by your dedication and thank you again and again for the honesty in your posts.

Julie said...

Yeah, the doctors don't tell you how debilitating the chemo will be, if they did more of their patients would resist the treatments. Judging from my family's experience, the end of the chemo is going to be the worst. If she's strong enough to survive it, she'll start feeling better afterwards. I'm glad you're close and able to care for her. I know that it's awful to be in that atmosphere, but just chant, "It's finite...it's finite... It helped me to bring that to the forefront of my mind.