2021-03-13 The Variable Speed of Time

Life. Funny the way it is. Short. Long. Boring. Overwhelming. Joyful and full of pain. The time we have is a gift and yet we often waste it in so many ways. 

Time is a major undercurrent in many of my poems and essays. It’s a theme that shows up subtly whether that’s what is intended or not.

What’s the point? I suppose it is that in the last few days my thinking about time has been less of a byproduct and more of a major theme. The cause? My mom has been diagnosed with cancer. 

It’s all happened so fast, then again, when does this sort of thing ever not happen fast? 

For her it started several weeks ago when she started to worry about GI problems. This led to seeing her primary care doctor who prescribed laxatives and a stool softener. My mom, in her typical way, was convinced it was cancer and solidified her thoughts by googling and reading all about symptoms of colon cancer. 

A few days after beginning the prescribed treatment to get her bowels moving she began having pain. She attributed her increased discomfort to the “meds” and stopped taking them. She also got so bad that she went to the ER. 

That’s just about when time began speeding up and the details all run together. In the last week and a half my mom has been in the ER four times with the last one ending in her being admitted to the hospital. 

One visit to the ER they gave her morphine for the pain and she had a bad reaction to that. Bad meaning that it did not help her pain and made her nauseous and dizzy. So much so that she couldn’t eat or drink anything (including taking any meds by mouth). That episode ended with another trip to the ER so she could avoid dehydration by getting fluids, Pepcid, and anti-nausea via IV.

So now on top of her severe constipation and abdominal pain, she had nausea and couldn’t eat. That was the one time I drove her to the ER. The others were at night and she had other folks take her. On several of those visits she had an X-ray of her bowel and each time there was conflicting evidence of just how badly she was “backed up.” 

On one of those visits they did a CT of her abdomen. The results of that were also questionable. Which is to say that’s when the ER doc came into the room and told her she had cancer. This, to me, was a very delinquent thing to say but I wasn’t there to hear how it was relayed, and only have the story as told by my mom. 

In any case.. they set her up an appointment with an oncologist. And because of the pandemic, only one person could go with her. That was my sister so I had to listen in on speakerphone. The outcome of that was only that they needed to do more diagnostic tests to determine a diagnosis and nothing could be known for certain. 

When my mom has sat in my living room two weeks before crying she had colon cancer, I (internally) rolled my eyes and reassured her she didn’t have cancer. My reaction to the news from the CT scan was one of more concern but still guarded. In my head it makes no sense to speculate about “what if” when an actual diagnosis is pending. I was still defending my position that it wasn’t cancer. 

Then she was admitted, thank the universe, as my sister and I are not equipped to take care of her at her home or manage more repeated visits to the ER. Being admitted also meant she could get the biopsy and chest CT she needed for a more accurate diagnosis sooner rather than later. 

As of yesterday those have both been done and we’re currently waiting on the pathology from the biopsy to identify just what kind of cancer we’re talking about. But.. no matter the result, it doesn’t necessarily explain her pain or bowel issues. The other revelation since her hospitalization is that she has a partial bowel obstruction. 

This may or may not be related to the “masses” in her abdomen, but could be. I just don’t understand why after 5 x-rays of her lower GI, they would not have detected this. Maybe because it’s just partial. I don’t know. In any case, it’s now all complicated enough that they recommended transferring her to an Omaha hospital as the hospital she was in wasn’t equipped to handle her case. 

Late yesterday she was transferred and is now under the watchful eye of a surgical oncologist. He came to see her last night. But I’m not privy to what was discussed and will get the info second hand today when I go to visit. 

I suppose I can’t hide behind my denial of the situation any longer. I can’t even continue to say “we won’t know for sure until the results of the biopsy cone back.” 

The only thing we don’t know at this point is what kind of cancer it is. What the primary source is. All diagnostics, including the blood test for cancer markers point to ovarian cancer, which they say has a better prognosis than colon or lung. 

I guess we also don’t know what’s going to happen with her bowel obstruction. More diagnostics? Surgery?

The hospitals have a “one visitor a day” policy because of the pandemic and my sister is on dog-sitting duty so I’m the designated visitor. It also means I’m in charge of communication with the “family.” <<Insert serious groan here>>

All that pretty much brings me to today. 

For posterity, and to punctuate how quickly life can change (and how fast time flies sometimes)… was 

  • Feb 23 – Mom comes to my house to complain about her health concern. 
  • Feb 26 – She goes to her PCP. 
  • Mar 3 – ER visit #1 
  • Mar 7 – ER visit #2 where they gave her morphine. 
  • Mar 9 – ER visit #3 for possible dehydration. 
  • Mar 10 – Oncology consult in the morning + ER visit #4 In the evening + being admitted to the hospital. 
  • Mar 11 – Inpatient, Chest CT and results of the blood cancer marker test. 
  • Mar 12 – Inpatient, IR / biopsy + diagnosis of bowel obstruction + transfer to Nebraska Medicine. 

That’s it. That’s enough. 

Until next time, 

~Miss SugarCookie

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