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Badness Comes By the Kilo

It's rarely a good sign when I go too long between entries; it usually means that events have been transpiring in our lives, and often bad ones. This time has been no exception.

On Tuesday, Eric's mother went to the doctor for tests regarding the fact that she's been having trouble breathing lately. That's not unusual for her; after all, she's a nineteen-year lung cancer survivor with only one lung remaining, and she's been a continuing smoker up until this past year. She's really not in good health, and breathing problems have been chronic for her. She's on oxygen almost twenty-four hours a day as it is.

Well, the tests came back with alarming news. Since her last "all-clear" x-rays of about a year ago, she's suddenly developed a golf-ball-sized mass in her lung, and all the lymph nodes around it are swollen. My brother-in-law, a surgeon, saw the x-rays and the CT scan results and was immediately convinced that it was cancer, and that it was very, very bad. It was bad enough in his mind, in fact, to actually warrant calling Eric and telling him.

(If you detect a note of bitterness here, it's due to the fact that the last time Rita was in bad shape, a command decision was made on the homefront to not inform Eric of the severity of her illness so as not to "worry" him. Naturally, Eric was more than a little upset when he found out.)

Anyway, she saw her doctor after that, who tried to encourage her by telling her that it was likely to be small-cell cancer since it grew so quickly, and that they could probably treat it with chemo. He didn't tell her that neither he nor anybody else was very optimistic about the success of the treatment. He wanted to biopsy it, but that would have been difficult; since the removal of one lung, the other organs had shifted, making it tricky to do anything without strong risk of damaging the lung. Instead, he decided to biopsy a lymph node on the other side of her chest. On Friday, she went for the biopsy.

It came back as large-cell carcinoma. It was even worse than we thought. They'll still try chemo, but the prognosis isn't good without surgery, and she couldn't stand up to surgery.

Eric and Bryan (his brother) are wrecks. Eric's dad isn't doing well, either. Rita says she's feeling fine, except that she's not really sleeping and that she falls apart whenever she thinks of "the babies." Her doctor prescribed Valium to help with that. We'll naturally be going to their home for Thanksgiving this year; Bryan thinks we have maybe months left with her with us.

I don't know how to help Eric. I don't know how to help Sam; right now, he's at "Grandma sick; Papou sad," but I'm not sure that he even understands which Grandma and Papou we're discussing. I'm going to the library to find some books for him, but I'm afraid to even have them here around Eric, who asked me to please hide our copy of I'll Love You Forever. I don't want to freak Sam out, but I want him to understand that things are very serious right now and a little bit of why. Or maybe I shouldn't do even that? Is this something with which I should worry him? He can't see her right now, after all; it's not something in his immediate world.

We're trying to figure out how to spend Eric's vacation time wisely now. He has two full weeks remaining until the end of March, though he could feasibly take some FMLA time. He was considering going down on the weekends, though that would likely kill his car. I'm not sure yet what we'll decide. It's complicated by the house-selling, too (we've had one showing and one that was supposed to happen today but was cancelled at the last minute). We're all up in the air, especially considering that we don't yet know what her treatment will actually be like or what the official prognosis is.

Things aren't happy around here, not one little bit.

The situation got even worse. Tuesday evening, I began to feel pain in my jaw. I assumed that it was stress-related; perhaps I was gritting my teeth in my sleep. After all, I had plenty to worry about that would cause that to happen.

It didn't go away. Instead, the pain grew worse and worse. On Thursday morning, I woke up with exquisite agony in the right side of my mouth. Eric began to suspect wisdom teeth, and he ordered me to a dentist. I went through the phone book, looking for one who billed itself as "dental-phobe friendly" and who could take a new emergency patient.

Sam went to the drop-in daycare center (God bless that invention), and I went to my appointment. My phobia kicked in with full-force from almost the moment I walked through the door; by the time they gave me an x-ray, I was already in tears. The dentist examined the films; "Wisdom teeth," he quickly diagnosed. He could do the surgery now, if only I could get somebody to the office to be here for me during the procedure.

I called Eric at work. Through a misunderstanding (I was hardly coherent, I imagine), he though that they were denying me treatment until after I was able to cough up the money for the procedure (our insurance company was being less than forthcoming about what they would and would not cover). He immediately got on the phone with the insurance company and began to raise hell with them, alternating occasionally with a good reaming for the dental office as well. In the meantime, I tried desperately to come up with a plan to get either him or Alysia to the office; she had her son, and she couldn't get hold of her husband, either.

Soon, it became a moot point; the dentist had to leave early for Ramadan activities, and we'd run out of time with which to do the procedure that day. They scheduled me for surgery Tuesday morning instead, sending me on my way with a prescription for pain pills and for a tranquilizer to take the day of the surgery. Apparently, my tears had made an impression. They decided to do the surgery under IV sedation, too, to minimize my anxiety.

I am terrified out of my wits over this. People are giving me calming stories, telling me that I won't feel a thing during the actual procedure. I'm chugging Rescue Remedy, which helps some. Even so, I am continually being overcome with fits of shaking fear over the idea of people going into my mouth with needles and knives. And nobody has anything good to say about the aftermath period.

Alysia later asked me, "What? Were you feeling bored? Didn't you have enough to do?" The evil humor in the situation doesn't escape me. Of all the possible times for these teeth to become impacted (they've been showing up on x-rays since I was about fifteen; "Sooner or later, they'll need to come out," dentists said), now was the absolute worst time to do it. I'm selling a house, my mother-in-law is sick, holidays are approaching. Can stress bring these things more quickly? Does badness beget badness?

All I know is that if I didn't have enough to keep me awake at nights, I certainly do now. And, of course, this is making me tense and short-tempered, which is a bad combination in a house with an independent two-year-old and a grieving husband. I can't be the patient wife and mother I want and need to be, and that alone is enough to make me cry.

Sometimes, I just want to be done. I'm quite satisfied with what life's handing me, and I want to hold up my hands and say, "Enough, thanks." It just never ends, and I'm getting pretty fed up.

This has been the worst year ever. Let's recap, shall we?

We started off with Sam's first E.R. visit, followed by a long winter shared with a little boy who hated snow. In the summer, things looked up as we moved into our beautiful, wonderful (and, as it turned out, temporary) first house and I started a new job (aren't "moving" and "new job" way up there on the list of major stress causes?). Then Mom had her major health scares. In August, we found out about the Wisconsin job, though we didn't make the final decision until October. Now we're selling the house we love, Rita's terminally ill (we're not kidding ourselves here), and I'm having oral surgery. This has been The Year of The Suck, really.

Surely, 2004 has to be better than this.

previous one year ago:
For the first time, I think he's finally beginning to comprehend that his crying can affect us and potentially alter his environment; whereas before he would cry out of pure misery or anger, now he can use crying as a tool.
two years ago:
"Funk" is better than "crushing depression," anyway, so I'll take what I can get for the time being.
three years ago:
I sat there on the sofa, using what few coherent brain cells I had left to paw through medical books, trying to find out the symptoms of meningitis, wondering how the doctors would tell my mother that her baby was dying.
four years ago:
I defend my thesis tomorrow.
In the ears:
Sam's train play

On the Bookshelf:

Gratuitous Sam

Boxing with Gradnma's friend

making a train with Grandma

Hugging Grandma


©1999-2003 C. Richmond.