Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pancreatic Cancer - My Mom's Story



I am meeting so many people online these days that share my PASSION regarding Pancreatic Cancer, so I thought I would share my traumatically brief experience with you all.

June 18, 2010 - I was eating lunch, like any other workday, when my younger sister, Jenny, called me to tell me that she was taking Mom to the hospital to get an X-Ray on her leg.  She had just been to her primary care physician because she was having trouble walking on her right leg.  I sat stunned.... My mother RARELY went to the doctor - she had to be completely out of sorts, and leg pain was COMPLETELY out of the norm.  They took the X-Ray, and Mom went home to rest.  Her doctor gave her a Return to Work approval for Monday, June 21, 2010.  I went to spend the night with her.  Saturday morning, she still wasn't much better.  On a side note, I noticed that Mom was expelling gas (slow burping) quite a LOT.

I spent the day and night with her because she couldn't really do much for herself.  On Sunday, she STILL was not mobile. My sister and I decided to take her to the Emergency Room late that afternoon (June 20, 2010).  They did an ultrasound on her leg and found that she had a DVT in her right leg.  Because of this, they admitted her immediately.  Her White Blood Cell count was also in the 16,000s.  They started treatment with Lovenox and put her on intravenous antibiotics.  

By Friday, June 25th, her WBC had gone to the normal range.  They sent her home with Coumadin, medicine for the gas she was experiencing, Lortab, and a stool softener because she was taking the pain meds.  I stayed with her for the next eight days.  Still no relief.  Her right side and back were hurting.  This may be too much information, but she also had not had a bowel movement since BEFORE she originally went into the hospital.

My sister Jenny had been on vacation the whole week I stayed with Mom.  When she returned, I went home for a few days while Jenny stayed with her.  According to Mom's doctor's note, she should have been able to return to work on Wednesday, July 7th.  Jenny had to work on the evening of July 6th, so I went back to stay with Mom.

On that Wednesday, July 7, 2010, she was in incredible stomach pain (we thought it was because she had not had a bowel movement).  She had taken a laxative early in the morning, yet in the afternoon she still had no relief.  I called her PCP and asked if we could give her an enema for relief?  She said no, take her to the ER so they could do the cleansing.  I spoke with my sister Jenny again, and back to the Emergency Room we went.  Finally, they did a CT Scan with contrast.  The ER doc came in with a VERY grim look on his face.  Not only did Mom have a "tumor" on her Pancreas, but she had "spots" on her liver as well.  In addition, she also had clots in her lungs.  

I asked the ER doc very directly if by "tumor" did he mean cancer?  He said yes, though it would have to be confirmed.  She was admitted.  I made the calls to my two brothers and to our other sister in Florida - not fully understanding the devastating news.  I didn't have my computer with me so I could RESEARCH what "Pancreatic Cancer" meant... 

I spent the night with her.  By Thursday morning, she had a team of doctors.  Her oncologist, Dr. Fernando (what a Godsend) came in to discuss Pancreatic Cancer.  My Mom.... my HERO... proudly looked the doctor in the eye, and said that if she had to go, she was going the same way that Patrick Swayze did!  He scheduled a biopsy for her on Friday morning.  He did not discuss exactly "what" he was biopsying.  I assumed her Pancreas.  WRONG.

By Thursday evening, I had my computer with me in the hospital.  I began researching.  You all know that I was devastated by what I found.  I had to tell my brothers and sisters the horrific news.  Based on all of her symptoms, she was already in Stage IV.  She had back pain, very dark urine, gas, weight loss... you name it.  I don't know that there were any symptoms that she DIDN'T have. The doctors didn't have to tell me.

Her diagnosis was not confirmed until Tuesday, July 13, 2010, when the biopsy results came back.  They immediately sent her home under Hospice Care.  

Thursday morning, July 15, 2010, at 11:09 AM, my mother was pronounced dead.  Four of her five living children were by her side.

I have strong opinions about Hospice Care now that I did not have before - that is another topic of discussion.

Though my experience was traumatically brief, I am very thankful that I did not have to watch my Mom suffer, except for the last 20 minutes of her life.... 

And now.. the tears flow (how dramatic! LOL)... as I miss my Mom, my best friend.  It has only been 3-1/2 months.  

My mother chose to be cremated WITHOUT a funeral service.  She wanted her ashes split among her six children.  My sister, Molly, died in 1987, 13 days before her 15th Birthday.  She is buried in Pensacola, FL.  On Labor Day weekend, I went to Molly's grave and planted Mom all around Molly's grave.

As each of you get to know me, you will learn that I usually do not pull any punches.  I say it like it is.  I pray for YOU.  Whether you are a Survivor of PC, a caregiver of someone living with PC, or a caregiver of someone that you have lost to PC.  

MY MOTHER MATTERED.  I will RAISE MY VOICE for Pancreatic Cancer until I take my last breath.