Thank you all so very much for being as generous, loving, and supportive as you always are. It means more to me than I can say. I am so lucky to be able to count you as friends, especially considering I never feel I've been as good of a friend to you as you are to me. I am always hoping I'll be able to make the time, get my mind to focus properly, and be disciplined enough to keep up with everyone. Each and every one of you, who have ever been kind enough to read an entry of mine and comment, deserve this and yet it always seems to be beyond me to be able to return the favor. I try and I will continue to try, so please don't give up on me. It's hard because I'm filled to the brim with Catholic Girl guilt and I think you deserve so much more. Nevertheless, I am super grateful, and so happy to have this terrific outlet for what might otherwise be, bottled up and neglected, feelings.
I've passed on your kind thoughts and prayers to my dear Mom who was touched and is certainly appreciative. I'll tell my friend Mary when next we speak. When she feels well enough, and has the time, she'll read my journal and see your kind wishes for her wellness. Right now she's in New Orleans with her smart husband; they're enjoying their newly repaired home, partaking in and writing about Jazz Fest. You can read Steve's fine AOL blog entries here. I promise you, if you love music, or New Orleans, it'll be worth the click and read.
I saw this at Beau's school today when I went to pick him up. This wonderful school, New Roads, never ceases to amaze me with their compassion and right mindedness. Every single time I pick him up I thank God for Beau's being there.
This latest experience in my Mom's ongoing health battle has been realllly challenging, mainly because it's been such a dramatic roller coaster. When last I wrote Mom was about to have her PET scan and I was sort of on hold hoping she might allow me to go with her.
I missed out on the enormous immigrant workers' protest marches which, if you've seen the news, were a very big deal here in LA. I gave Esther a paid day off so she could go. I took Beau out of school in support and we were planning on going but Mom kept changing her mind about whether she wanted my company at her test. We watched everything on the TV and said, "Si Se Puede!" a lot to anyone we ran into that day, and we were definitely there in spirit. (Oh wow! Whitey is having sex with Mitzie, that was kind of surprising, and loud. Funny cats. I love them so. No worries about population growth, Whitey's neutered.)
Obviously there is so much I could write about the subject of these protests, but I think if you look at any of the photographs that were plastered all over the papers, you can get a feeling for what it was like. I have many friends who hail from foreign shores and who work here illegally. I have experienced their suffering first hand. It's truly heartbreaking. My son is half Mexican, and had his great-grandparents not been able to come here from Mexico, he wouldn't exist today. It offends me, no, it repulses me, how people who are only maybe three generations from the border, can be so terribly racist themselves, in fact they are often the worst offenders, and are usually the ones who most want to see the gates shut behind them, locking everyone else out. I don't have any easy answers.
I am mindful of the financial burdens our government is having to bear, (Because we won't allow these people to live here legally, which would allow them to participate more fully in our economy,) how overwhelmed our school systems and hospitals are, but these are complex problems that do not have easy solutions, no matter how much people may wish it so, and splitting up families and ruining lives by rounding people up and dumping them across the border, like so much trash, isn't going to fix this. This is so very obviously inhumane, and all this will accomplish is to break the backs and hearts of good people, who we depend on more than most of us are willing to acknowledge or admit.
It's wrong. It's just so plain flat out wrong. I can feel it deep in my heart, where the truth resides and rings out loud and clear in the purest tones, and I always trust this feeling. I think we are looking at a civil right's movement that we will all one day look back on in shame if we don't step up now and act on behalf of the millions of suffering people who are simply trying to feed their families and give their children hope for a better future. I don't want to argue about this. I can respectfully agree to disagree with any of you who don't feel the same way I do, I didn't even mean to get into this, so please if we disagree, can we please leave it at that and not debate the issue? I don't have the energy right now, I'm really beat.
This is scan of a bad copy of an old shot of Mom, Granny, and me at my Grandmother's vacation house in Palm Springs.
Getting back to my Mother, she had agreed to think about letting me accompany her, but decided against it. It's fine, really, whatever feels right to her, but only up to a point, because she really does need my help; she has severe hearing loss, and trouble understanding, and remembering. So, Monday Mom had her PET scan. She called me immediately afterwards and told me that they had not only found a mass in her lung but on her ovaries, (or ovary), as well.
This new confirmation by the technician, plus Mother's primary physician's having been so definite and dire about her lung cancer's having returned, and despite my friend Mary's warning to wait and see, had me feeling pretty defeated. I hoped we'd be able to beat this, but I'm also aware of my Mother's advanced age, the fact that ovarian and lung cancers can be extremely lethal, (primary ovarian cancer in older patients is pretty dire), and then there was Mom's fatalistic attitude. Unbeknownst to me, until just yesterday, she had begun to plan for her funeral, making lists of people for me to call and invite. So, I've been in this sort of leaden, worried, overwhelmed, life-on-hold state, and I haven't wanted to write, or haven't been able to write, until we could get more information from the doctor who sure took his time letting us know what the state of Mom's health was. We're still on hold.
Meanwhile, not being able to compartmentalize all of this like Mom can, (which is really good for her but not so great for me), I had to have something to hold onto, some scrap of information that would give me an idea of what was going on so I called Mom's doctor to see what I could glean. Mom had her PET scan, she heard this awful news, she left and that was that. No call from her doctor to let her know when she could expect the results. Nothing. Life on hold until Dr. I-Take-Bribes, (I'm serious about this, several of my Mother's more wealthy friends pay him an annual, fifteen-thousand-dollar, under the table fee for extra special attention, I don't even know if this is legal), could get around to reviewing her test results. So I called and my call was intercepted by an angry woman without an ounce of compassion -- clearly someone who should not be dealing with patients or their emotionally wobbly worrying relatives.
Ms. Friendly didn't say one kind thing. No, "Oh, you're Jeannette's daughter, you must be so worried. We don't have the results yet. We'll let her know the second they come in." No, "Gosh I'm sorry. Your Mother's such a trooper. We're all rooting for her. Waiting can be so hard. Hang in there." Nope, nothing even remotely like this. In fact she was outright rude, hostile, and ice cold. She actually insulted my Mother by saying, "I know who your Mother is. I book her appointments. She's stubborn and difficult, but that doesn't mean that she's incompetent. If she doesn't take care of her own health we can't be expected to do it for her," and "Test results don't come any faster just because they're cancer," and "If you want to speak with the doctor about your Mother you'll have to schedule an appointment like everyone else. We can arrange a phone consult, but we'll send the bill to you personally, and he charges seventy-five dollars for every fifteen minutes." WTF?
Finally, on Wednesday, the nurse deigned to call and told Mom to come in on Thursday, and "to be sure to bring," me. I felt like I was going to a hanging, but of course I didn't let my Mother know this, and I was so relieved to have something to cling on to, some future date when we would have some kind of answer.
Here's where it gets weird, or possibly miraculous; Thursday morning, after several nights of staying awake counting cats, I picked up Mom at her house, set Rosa free, and took Mom to Dr. Not-So-Nice, (Formerly known as DR. I-Take-Bribes,) for the good news. Mom does not have lung cancer. MY MOM DOES NOT HAVE LUNG CANCER! What??? Okay, so before I go off on how angry I am that my Mother's doctor could have frightened her to death, by telling her that he believes in telling patients the truth and that he was sure her lung cancer had come back, but was WRONG, I have to say thank you. Thank you! Thank you God! Thank you Holy Mother Mary! Thank you Jesus! Thank you Holy Spirit! Thank you angels and saints! Thank you Buddha! Thank you Universe! Thank you anyone who prayed, did Reiki, lit candles, sent positive thoughts, or even glanced our way with a hopeful thought. Just, thank you! It worked before so why wouldn't it work again? I don't know, I don't want to tempt fate by questioning it, but we seem to have skimmed the fragile edge of a frozen pond, again.
Is this how this is? Is this how this process goes? In my inexperience with the endless tests and waits that accompany the diagnosis of cancer, did I jump to a panicked conclusion before I should have? Did I worry at least fifty loyal friends here needlessly? Her doctor said she had lung cancer. It was a foregone conclusion, the PET scan was just to confirm the diagnosis and get the details. Mom was planning her funeral.
So there we were in one of his small exam rooms with me trying to calm my Mother down in between stealing glances at the stack of reports left on the counter. Tick, tick, tick, twenty, then thirty minutes passed by, while we waited for the doctor to come tell us my Mom's fate. "You do not have lung cancer. What you had was just an anomaly, a shadow caused by your remaining lobes having moved into the space left by the cancer that was removed." And then this, "But you do have some kind of mass on your ovary. It's fairly large and doesn't look like a cyst. The chances of it being primary ovarian cancer are slim. We'll draw some blood and send you over to Dr. So And So for a vaginal ultrasound, maybe a CAT scan, (or five), and then we'll see where we go from there, alrighty?" Again, no compassion, no apology for the mistake, just a kind of detached interest that didn't quite approach concern. The message being that Doctors are Gods, fallible Gods who never admit fallibility, and that's just the way it goes, (Unless you can afford that little, fifteen-thousand-dollar, hand-holding fee -- otherwise the meter's running and don't expect any empathy), be grateful you can afford to see one at all.
So off we went to the radiologist, and the next eight hours of the day went a little like this; help Mom walk with her walker to and from doctor's offices, dress and undress her, load and unload her walker from my car, hope for the best, keep hoping, do what I can to take her mind off of things that hurt, make her laugh, keep her mind occupied during painful invasive procedures, stand next to radiology technicians, make small talk while looking at the inside of my Mother's body, hold my breath when she holds her breath, learn that there is just one more test that is needed based on the results of the last test, just one more test that my poor hurting mother will need to undergo, dress and undress her, rinse and repeat. And then, after she had been poked and prodded and her arms were covered with bruises from dyes injected, and blood removed, we were told that yes, there was definitely a pretty solid mass, we were all done for the day, we can go now, but no one knows when we can expect to hear anything.
So, in a way, we're back where we started, but not really, because despite my cynical rendering of this story, there is this; I believe in something greater than me or anyone I love here on this earth. I believe in a creator who loves us. I believe that everything that happens, no matter how terrible or cruel it may seem at the time, is happening because it is meant to. I believe in the power of prayer and group mind. I believe that we are here to grow and learn and help each other up when we fall. If my friend Mary is suffering she is going to reach out and do something to ease someone else's suffering and that person will pass this on and on like a love chain. What I learn from you I will teach someone else. An old friend of mine who recently got back in touch with me, (and thank God for the amazing timing of this because she really lifted my spirits at the very moment when I most needed it), calls this a love train. I honestly don't know where we're going. I don't know how this thing works, but I believe we're all in this together...on the love train.
Thank you again everyone for your compassion. Please let me know if I can return the favor. I'll keep you posted.
Big loving hugs as always,
This is one of my Mom's publicity photos. In my mind she still sometimes looks like this.
Oh and PS: I recently read a study about a new test that British doctors are using that may be adopted here for the diagnosis of Alzheimer's. It's pretty simple; the patient is given sixty seconds to list as many animals as she or he can. It sounds easy, but for someone with Alzheimer's this can be hard. They tend to recall the names of the first animals they learned to identify as a child; cat, dog, horse, etc. Alzheimer's patients average about fifteen answers per minute, whereas people with healthy minds average thirty. Even with my help and prodding my Mom only got twelve : (
PPS: I won the trust of a dog who is so frightened and defensive that she's attacked at least four people, and along with the news that Mom does not have lung cancer, and the unexpected reply to a letter I sent to an old friend, this was one of the highlights of my week. She's my God-sister Marcia's German Shepherd, Shasta, who knocked down a priest, bit him in the neck, and has taken big bites out of people's thighs. The priest promised not to sue if Marcia would agree to kill her dog. Marcia refused, and poor freaked out Shasta has been wearing a muzzle and attending some kind of behavioral modification classes twice a week now. I'd never met her but I'd sure heard all of these stories. "You're not gonna believe this but Marcia's dog did it again." "No!" "Yes! She bit my cousin in the ass, took a big piece out of him." Marcia's housekeeper walks her when Marcia is away. Marcia's housekeeper is my Mother's housekeeper's friend. When I went to Mom's the other day I heard this loud barking. My Mom said, "Oh dear God, it's that bad dog! Get inside quick!" Mom rushed inside and I walked around to the side of the house where Rosa's friend was waiting with Shasta. I was scared but I knew I could do some good for this poor dog somehow. So I slowly introduced myself, won her over, and made friends. After about a half of an hour, this "big scary dog" was nudging my hands for more petting and licking my face. And now I have a new friend. Heaven on earth.
Another rose shot from my garden, taken today.