PART II – THE LITTLE SIDE EFFECTS OF “TREATMENT”
October. Dad calls me in a panic. “Please come over right away! Mom is acting really weird. Not making sence. She’s moaning. In great pain.” Even between the morphine and oxycodone, prescribed by her doctors, it is not doing the trick. And certainly, it does not do much good for my mother’s otherwise brilliant mind.
I run over, fortunately, only living less than 2 miles away. Mom is curled in a ball, rocking back and forth, and whimpering. We don’t know how many painkillers she has taken. She insists on taking them herself, as she refuses to be treated like a child. Yet, another ailment is that she is legally blind, having macular degeneration. I feel her head. She is burning up. I take her temperature. 104.5! I call my dear friend, who is a doctor. “Get her to the hospital right away!”
We take her to the emergency room. She fucking waits over an hour, slumped over in a wheel chair, in a freezing room. We ask for a blanket. They don’t have any. I am beside myself. They finally take her. After sticking her again, because that particular nurse does not know how to use a port, and then X-rays, 2 hours later we are informed that mom has pneumonia.
I leave the room and start crying hysterically. Is this “the” pneumonia? The one just mentioned a week ago? Is this the round she won’t be able to fight?
Mom is checked into the hospital, intervenesly fed antibiotics. She is released in 5 days. She is home.
Mom gets her marijuana card, and we go pick out some products. The card and appointment costs a few hundred. The weed costs a few hundred. And not just weed, but drops of THC, and chocolate to help her sleep, laced with herb. NONE of these expenses are covered by insurance, naturally. However, the astronomical bills from the “real” healers; doctors, is 80% covered. That 20% far exceeds the cost of a little weed.
Time to investigate more integrative medicine. There is a two month wait for a friggin’ appointment with the Arizona Center for Inegrative Medecine home of the famous alternative medicine doctor, Dr. Andrew Weil, who no longer sees patients. We make the appointment, but I fear it will be too late.
Mom gets pneumonia again. We race her back to the hospital. More waiting in ER. She is checked in again. Five days later, she is home.
We find, through a friend, a Doctor in New Mexico, who has been treating cancer patients for years, successfully focusing on building up the immune system, intervenesly, rather than killing it. And my friend, who was on his death bed, from liver damage, and Hep C, has been living healthily, since his periodic visits.
Dad is skeptical, but after listening to a radio interview, and researching Dr. Berkson, who has claimed to cure some folks with cancer, and other deadly diseases, he is convinced and impressed. And the bottom-line is, big biz does not want to find a cure.
Mom is now eating like a baby bird. But her hair is back. Dad drives Mom 5 hours to Las Cruces, New Mexico. She lies down in the back of the car for the ride. They rent a place for the week of treatment. And although Dr. Berkson is an MD, only the initial consultation is covered by insurance. The treatments are not. There’s another three grand out of pocket. But who cares. It’s mom! If it saves her, who cares??!!
They do some tests, and finds that mom still has pneumonia! And there had not been additional antibiotics prescribed before they released her from the hospital! Berkson administers the meds.
After 5 days of pumping only good stuff into mom’s body, she has a come back. She feels a bit stronger. Her color and energy has improved a little. We must do this again asap!
We find there is a branch in Scottsdale, closer to home, that administers the same potion in a clinic. We make an appointment and reserve another hotel for the week.
Mom is having trouble breathing, though. This time Dad and I rush her in to the hospital. I come flying into the ER. “My mom can’t breathe! Please hurry!” I’m tearing up as I announce in a panic to the ER desk.
A cocky fucking strapping strong man in his twenties, slowly strolls around the desk, gets a wheelchair, and WALKS behind my running pace to the car. I couldn’t believe it!! I turn around and looked at him in disgust and confusion. What part of Mom can’t breath did you not understand, you piece of shit?
This time she doesn’t have to wait. They take her right back and give her oxygen. More tests, more sticking. Mom waiting. Mom has pneumonia and is anemic again. She is checked in. As they try to use the port for intervenes meds, they discover that it no longer works. It’s broken.
Back in the hospital for another week. She complains of chest pains. But the tests they did, did not show any scarring on the heart. Released again. Mom is too weak to make the drive for another installment of the good stuff. Her back is killing her. Too weak for back surgery. She uses the marijuana products, but the pain is too great. The painkillers are needed. But in moderation. Once again, she independently takes them. We don’t have a say.
November. Mom has another few appointments. The cancer seems to be “in remission”.
Meanwhile, mom has been planning a family cruise to celebrate her 80th birthday. Originally, we were going in February, when her actual birthday happens, but she moved it up a while ago, to December. I think she knew she might not last. We are thinking this may be our last family reunion with the matriarch, the rock, the diamond on our tight chain.
Saturday, November 8th. Mom cooked a big dinner, as her brother flew in to visit…(to say goodbye). Actually, Dad did most of the cooking, while mom instructs him. She knows that eventually she will not be around to prepare the meals. He is a very good student. She eats fairly well that night. The next morning, we were all going to take a shuttle up Sabino Canyon, a National Park, just ten minutes from the house. She was going to join us!
Sunday, November 9th. Mom is too tired, but insists that we all go. We have left mom at home for a couple of hours here and there, where she just sleeps, or watches a movie and relaxes in bed. Less than 30 minutes after we left, we were in the canyon, and my phone rings.
“Where are you?”, my mom weakly asks, she sounds a bit zonked. Perhaps the painkillers.
“We are on the shuttle in the middle of the canyon, Mom. Are you okay?!”
“I just called 911. They are coming.”
And then, click. She hangs up. I tell my dad, sitting next to me on this friggin’ shuttle, where you are stuck. Of course I could have jumped off and ran two miles back to the parking lot. But it would have taken the same time to go up, and return. We are trapped!
At the top, the phone rings again. It’s her!
“I’m in the ambulance.”
Mom. Did you fall? She answers – no.
Are you having trouble breathing? – no.
What is it?!
“Chest pains. Heading to Northwest Hospital.” click.
We are not sure what is going on. Dad heads down to the parking lot, and goes to the hospital. I, believe it or not, hiked. I figured this was another pneumonia, 3 hour wait for results, check-in the hospital again, situation.
1 hour later, my Dad calls me. Mom. had. a. heart attack.
I start crying, run to the car. Run to the hospital. She is in ICU.
We are told she needs to get a stent put in, stat. We tell them about the non-operative port.
They put a stent in Humpty Dumpty.
We watch for the next week as my mother is stuck, and hooked up to iv’s again. (In between feeling guilt for leaving her all alone when she had a friggin’ massive heart attack!) She is struggling to breath. You can see her port just sitting in her chest, like scrap metal. Why didn’t they remove it?!
We don’t think she is going to make it, when all of a sudden, she comees back.
She says she wants to hold on long enough to go on the family cruise, and see me open for the Beach Boys on January 3rd, and then she will be ready to “go”.
Believe it or not, the Cardiologist thinks she will make it. Get her on the cruise. He looks at me, and I can read from his expression that he is saying, it will be her last chance to smell the ocean air.
The ICU nurse tells me she will pull through this round, but doubts she has very long. My brother flies in. Mom now has fluid in her lungs. They drain a huge amount from both, by sticking needles in her sides. She is breathing better.
Mom walks 85 feet! Her vitals are strong. They move her out of ICU and upstairs to the regular hospital wing.
They serve juice with high fructose corn syrup, and cuisine that a school cafeteria wouldn’t even put out. Mom’s appetite is now the size of a flea on a bird. Every day, we try to bring her anything she will eat! I made homemade soup, brought her favorite things. Rushed with my delicious oatmeal, so it would remain hot, as opposed to their mortar. She would eat 2 bites and be full. In the past 2 months, mom has eaten less than one person eats at Thanksgiving.
Speaking of which, my sister Dianne; and her 5-year-old daughter, (the reason why my mom’s heart is still beating) are surprising her for Thanksgiving. Will mom be able to sit at the table?! And if she can’t even come to the table, how can she go on a cruise?!
November 18. More tests. A slight amount of fluid is back in her lungs. They need to check to see if there is cancer in the fluid. The tests come back negative. Good news. But the cardiologist tells me that does not necessarily mean there is no cancer in the lungs now. In fact, other numbers indicate there might be. I pin down another doctor to admit she has less than 6 months. But she would not admit less than 2, as I pressed.
I layed with Mom in the bed, at her feet, curled up into her knees. I tried to bury myself in a pillow so she could not hear my uncontrollable sobbing. Finally, I lifted my head and bawled into my mother’s bosom.
“Mommy. I can’t hide it any longer. I love you so much. You are the best mother anyone could ask for. You were so good to us. I am sad, and scared. I’m sorry. I just can’t hide it. I love you.”
She held me in her arms. She said she was going to be just fine. She said she had a wonderful life, with wonderful children and grandchildren. A full rich life of travel and most of all, a loving, wonderful husband. She told me how much she loved me. It was a reassuring moment. And I do not regret for a moment crying in front of her. It will always be her role to be a mother. And she was great at it, even in her weakest state. And she enjoyed being mine at that moment, to console her little girl.
She was content with parting. She knew. I longed for her pain to be over. I knew.
My sister Deborah flies back. I pick her up at midnight, completely exhausted, almost fell asleep behind the wheel. I have her drive back. We go straight to hospital for a sweet goodnight to Mom.