This Thanksgiving marks the third anniversary of extreme ups and downs. I have so much to be thankful for.
11/11/08: Return from a wonderful 9-day hiking and camping trip in Big Bend National Park.
11/18/08: Break my right ankle and 5th metatarsal by slipping on stairs.
11/18/08 – 2/14/09: Discover that my boyfriend will stand by me through thick and thin–without whining.
2/14/09: David proposes with traditional, gorgeous ring and bended knee. I say, “Yes!” Wear heels (red) for first time in four months.
3/09 – 6/09: Struggle to walk correctly again. Fight sciatica, back ache, hip ache, insomnia.
5/09: Go to chiropractor. Get X-ray and MRI. Left kidney shows suspicious spot. Someone mentions the C word. I don’t believe it.
7/1/09: David asks me to marry him now, rather than waiting until November, as planned.
7/17/08: Get married in living room with Mom, one sister, one friend, step son, nephew, and dog present. Minister from across the street officiates.
7/17/09 – 7/19/09: Honeymoon for two days in New Orleans. Stay at Ritz and get upgraded!
7/20/09: Go see the surgeon.
8/5/09: Have surgery to remove Stage 1- Stage 2 malignancy from left kidney. Sisters and husband are at my side throughout. Don’t tell Mom it is cancer.
8/09 – 12/09: Recuperation, foggy brain, begin to accept that it really is cancer. David helps Mom and me to and from doctors.
12/09 – 3/10: Accept that caregiving has taken huge toll on my health. Accept that I will continue to be the primary caregiver for Mom. Continue to fight foggy brain.
2/22/10: At doctor appointment Mom’s doctor suggests we apply for hospice so that Mom can be made more comfortable and get better services. Mom asks her doctor, “How long does it take to die?” Dr. Christina looks startled and says, “Do you want to die?” Mom says, “No, but I want to know where I stand.” Doctor tells her she is in late stage Parkinson’s. She does not have a lot of time, but she still has some time. David drives Mom and me home. We sit in the back seat holding hands–not crying, not talking.
2/24/10: Spend the evening with Mom. We talk about the doctor visit. Mom talks about her life and how few regrets she has. She tells me she thinks she has had a really good life. We hold hands.
I am leaving town the next day to fly to Georgia for David’s brother and sister-in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary. Mom and I say goodby and tell each other how much we love each other. As I stand in the doorway to leave, I look to her and just say, “You know…” and she says, “Yes, I know…”. I feel more loved and closer to her than at any time in my entire life. It is the last time we speak.
2/26/10: Get call in Georgia that Mom is having convulsions. I call sisters who rush to Mom’s side. We are told that Mom is probably dying. Doctor calls hospice which takes up residency. I remain in Georgia for the anniversary.
2/29/10: Return to Dallas. Mom is in a coma. Sisters, Pam and Allegra, both have spent some wonderful hours with her while she was still conscious for two days. Tim, my brother, flies to Dallas. Mom knows we are there. Her breathing changes every time a new sibling shows up. We make root beer floats and all sit on Mom’s bed, just being together. We all sleep on the floor in her room. She knows we are there and keeps breathing. She is in her own room, in her own bed, without tubes and hospital noises.
3/4/10: Mom waits until we all go home, then she lets go. Hospice calls to tell me Mom has died. When I get there at 6:30 a.m. she has been dead for about an hour. I sit quietly with her for several hours until the funeral director shows up. It is a sweet, peaceful time. I talk to her and hold her hand. I am so grateful for these hours with her while her spirit is still in the room.
3/10/10: I return to the chiropractor because I am in agony with back and hip pain. New X-rays reveal that I have advanced osteoarthritis in both hips. I need a hip replacement now. I lie on the chiropractor table and sob.
3/10 – 2/11: Health takes a nose dive. Take pain medication, research alternatives to hip surgery. Stop taking pain medication when it is worse than pain. Pass first anniversary of cancer surgery with clean CT scan.
3/28/11: Get total right hip replacement. Stalwart husband stands by once again. Brain is foggy once again.
4/1/11: Hip gets better and better and better. Brain foggy.
7/11/11: Launch new business, ElderAuthority.com. Know I have finally figured out the right business.
8/11: Pass second anniversary of cancer surgery with clean CT scan. Hip better and better. Wahoo!
9/11: Return to yoga classes.
I give thanks for the last three years. If I had not broken my ankle I would not have found the cancer in time to do something about it. I thank my chiropractor for finding the cancer and the osteoarthritis. I thank my surgeons who did such a fabulous job on me.
I thank the universe for sending me such a wonderful man to be my husband. I am grateful my mother lived to love him and be at our wedding.
I thank God for giving me five wonderful years to make my peace with my parents, to be there to offer my strength as they became weaker, and to be able to share in their passing. I am grateful for my years as caregiver. We left nothing unsaid that needed to be said. I can face my own mortality with greater courage because of my time with them.
I give thanks that there is life after caregiving.
My health is wonderful. My brain is no longer foggy. I can do all the yoga exercises I used to do. I can walk for miles. I sleep like a baby every night. I have no more pain. I am doing the best creative work of my life. I have a mission. I am happy. I love, and I am loved.
I GIVE THANKS. I GIVE THANKS.
Copyright TheNewElder 2012