Saturday, March 7, 2015

A Little Story About Gratitude

Purge first. Ponder later will be the theme of this post.

First off, this post should be all about gratitude. I spent three full days wrapped up in all things family and we are all so relieved and grateful Mom's surgery is behind her.

My spritely 86 year old mom (she will be 87 in four weeks) bounced back from major surgery like a super hero. She has been home a few days now and presently, both of my sisters are with her.

I talked with Mom last night and she sounds as grateful to have company in her home, as she is to have a little assistance as needed until she is feeling a little more independent.

She has surprised and amazed us, each and every step along this journey.

Her motto all along the way has been "Whatever will be, will be".

From the moment she heard the word "cancer" tossed into her arena she outwardly displayed the essence of deciding not to worry about it until she knew what she had to worry about.

How in the world could this be? Mom has been a worrier ever since I have a memory. How could she not be worried?

She quietly mentioned that she would go for surgery if it was an option open to her. And that is exactly what she did.

My sisters and I arrived the eve of Mom's surgery. In retrospect, I can see how worried Mom was that night. I didn't fully comprehend it at the time. She was simply quiet. She didn't have a lot of words or energy to spend on socializing. I don't know for sure, but if I were to guess, I would say she was gathering her strength to get through the next day.

And that is exactly what she did.

Spoiler alert. Grey's Anatomy does not set a good example as to what happens to the family waiting in the wings when a loved one is wheeled off to surgery.

We waited in the waiting room of Mom's permanent home for the duration of her hospital stay. When we asked how we would know when she arrived, we were told "You'll see her come in. They have to wheel her past both waiting areas here."

What!?! I was incredulous. You mean we were supposed to go and peek at those who wheeled by, in case it was our mother?

The first few cases were easy. Wrong hair color. Wrong this or that. Then came this person with only their arm showing, holding their head in a "my head feels funny" kind of way. It didn't look like what I thought Mom's arm looked like, but it was certainly her gesture.

Thankfully, since we had made our presence known, the nurses advised us that it would take about ten minutes to settle Mom in and they came to call us when she was ready.

Mom was very groggy at this point. There was a nurse in the room arranging IV's or something. "Who could tell us about Mom's surgery?" The nurse was not allowed to tell us anything due to rules about confidentiality. She said we would have to talk with the doctor. "He makes his rounds in the morning around 7:00 a.m..."

What?!? Where is the doctor that comes out to the waiting area in his scrubs and advises the family what transpired? What do you mean we have to wait until morning?!!?

"Oh, and the doctor usually comes by to see their patients after all of their surgeries for the day are complete. That will be around 4:00. You can wait to talk to them then if you wish..."

Okay. That makes more sense now. But still! They wheeled Mom off at about 9:00 a.m. and the doctor didn't make his way to Mom's room until close to 5:00. Yes, I know it was a much longer and harder day for the doctor, than it was for us. But it felt like a very, very long wait.

We stopped in to see Mom one more time before we expected the doctor's arrival and she was already 100% better than she was in her groggy state. But the best was yet to come.

By the time we made our way back to Mom's room before the doctor's anticipated arrival time, Mom was in fine form.

She was saying (what seemed to me) all of the things she wanted to say the night prior but didn't have the words for. "You forgot to take those egg cartons home, the last time you were here...".

Once again, not exactly what you would expect to hear on an episode of Grey's Anatomy but what it told us was that Mom was back and firing on all cylinders. And she was grateful and happy we were all with her. And that she was here with us.

It was then, and only then, that I realized just how worried Mom had been about not waking up after her surgery. She didn't say it in words but she screamed it from the rooftop in every other way.

She had us laughing and she entertained us. She was one part medicated, one part relieved and a whole lot grateful.

One nurse came in and found the source of the laughter that must have been ringing down the halls. "So this is where the party is!" she said in a way that didn't make us feel like we were in trouble.

Mom's doctor came in shortly thereafter and the party continued. If only Mom and her doctor could have heard what the other was saying, they would have cracked each other up. Between the doctor's quiet voice, Mom's struggle with hearing and Mom's raspy voice which doesn't project well, we interpreted (most of) the conversation for them. More laughter ensued.

The doctor came bearing news wrapped up in hope and optimism.

They found what appears to be cancer. It seems to be contained within the mass they removed. Visually, it looks like the better kind of cancer to have. He filled us with the hope that the cancer would not return until beyond Mom's life expectancy. Then he gave her the evil eye and said, "But with you, we just may have to relook at that! You will probably live well beyond 100!"

We will find out more when the pathology results come back in two to three weeks. By that time, Mom should be healing well and we anticipate that she will feel better than she has felt in a very long time.

The mass was huge. Larger than a football. We didn't ask what it weighed but I have the feeling it was like carrying around a full term baby, for who knows how many years, at the age of 86 (and 11 months).

The hospital staff were amazing. Mom is a pretty easy patient and quite determined not to be a typical patient in any way. When she went for her first post surgery stroll with one of the nurses, she said "You can walk beside me, but I am not going to hold onto you!"

Mom got her hair colored the week before surgery, even though it was the last thing in the world she felt like doing. She was going to go into this looking her best (even when she was feeling her worst). Sometimes I think these little things boost your spirits in a way that defies logic. Mom was certainly not going to head off into the unknown looking or acting sickly! Sometimes we live up to the way we think and if a trip to the hair salon does it? Go for it!!

It has been a worrisome time.

Even though the doctors at the cancer clinic said and did every single thing absolutely "right" and in a way to alleviate the fear of the unknown road ahead of us, I know I have been carrying around the weight of Mom's worries on my shoulders. I knew I shouldn't worry because worry is a waste of energy. But it was a burden I was glad to carry if I felt like I could do it for Mom.

I know she carried this load very much on her own. She acted "the mom" in every sense of the word, all along the way. She didn't want her children to worry over her. She consoled me more than I consoled her. Because when I tried to say what I thought were the right words, that worried her even more. She was a parent every step of the way.

Even now, she is strong and mighty. In her post surgery haze she asked the doctor, "Will I be thinner now?" And when she was reassured she would be and also that her back pain would have been directly related to this huge mass she had been carrying her instant retort was, "So will I be taller too??"

Yup. That's my mom. Strong and feisty. And something tells me she may be a patient the hospital staff remembers as she set out to defy anyone's expectations.

"Going in one more round when you don't think you can - that's what makes all the difference in your life." ~ Rocky Balboa

[Insert the "Rocky Theme" here. That is my mom.]

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