Hello friends. It’s been a rough week for me, and my family.
Back in March, my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer of the soft pallet. She had surgery on April 1st to remove a tumor and her lymph nodes, and the plan was that she would begin chemo and radiation in earnest by the end of May. Well, while in the hospital she got pneumonia and ended up being in the hospital for 21 days. By the time she was getting ready to do all the pre-blood work and tests needed to prepare her for chemo and radiation, they discovered another tumor.
So, she went back in for surgery again in July, this time a more aggressive surgery removing not only the tumor, but part of her jaw bone as well. She recovered in the hospital, as well as two different skilled nursing facilities for about 7 weeks before coming home on Labor Day. She’d been able to start chemo and radiation while in the skilled nursing, so by last week she’d had 4 weeks of radiation, and 3 chemo treatments.
The week of the 15th my mom went in for her normal pre-chemo blood work etc, and it came back not great. It looked like she had a kidney infection, so they went ahead and did radiation, but no chemo. She also started taking antibiotics. The chemo and radiation have been creating a lot of mucus in her chest, and toward the end of the week she was getting really weak and having a hard time getting the mucus up. By Friday night she had spiked a fever, and was too weak to even sit up on her own, so my dad took her to the ER early Saturday morning. They decided to admit her, and she was on more antibiotics, fluids etc. Sometime during Sunday evening she took a turn, and was having a really difficult time breathing.
My dad got a phone call from the hospital around 11pm saying they were going to move her up to the ICU to keep a closer eye on her. Sometime around 3am he got another phone call from the ICU saying the doctors were going to have to intubate her, because she wasn’t breathing well. This is about the time my dad called me, and said to sit tight, but that I might want to think about coming up. About 20 minutes later, he got another call from the hospital, they had intubated her, and she had lost her pulse. They’d had to perform CPR, and were able to get her hear beating again. At that point though, the ventilator was breathing for her, she was on medication to control her heart rate (which was REALLY low), and they had run a central line in her neck to start doing continuous dialysis because her kidneys had failed. My dad called me again from the hospital saying I needed to come home – things were not good.
I flew up Monday morning, and on our drive from the airport to the hospital my dad let me know that doctors had informed him if my mom didn’t regain consciousness in the next day or so, we would have a decision to make. Thankfully, by the time we got to the hospital, she had woken up. She still looked awful – her face was super gaunt, and she was a yellow grey color. She was on the ventilator until sometime Tuesday, and by end of day Wednesday they’d taken the tube out. Thankfully her liver started recovering function, and they were able to take her off the blood pressure medication because it started leveling out on its own again.
She’s still doing intermittent dialysis because her kidneys haven’t regained function they way they’d like – they’re not sure if they will completely recover or not, but that’s something to worry about later. Right now, she’s ready to be released from ICU, they’re just waiting on a room to be available on the transitional ICU floor. We’re hoping that next steps after hospital will be to an Acute Rehab facility where she’ll be able to continue her physical therapy for 3 hours a day. She’s lost a lot of strength and really need that help to get back up and moving around.
I came home early Saturday morning, and have been doing my own recovery at home – sleeping, watching bad TV, snuggling with the cats and Pickles. I still can’t get over how stressful and exhausting the week was. Who knew sitting in a hospital room for 8 hours a day would be so tiring? I’m grateful that my mom is getting better, and am so happy I got the opportunity to spend time with her this week, even though it was really difficult seeing her so weak and ill.