Caring for my mother – part one

I am currently caring for my mother here at home. She has throat cancer which has metastasized to the lungs. When she first arrived here in early August (2008), she was feeling great and said she would not even know she had anything wrong. Our first two rounds of chemo were not so bad. She handled them well with no nausea and only some minor side effects. The third round of chemo (since the first two did not work) was much more difficult. She has been sick off and on, lost all her hair, and missed two treatments because of low blood counts. Last week was especially rough. She required a blood transfusion of two units which went well but she began running a fever the next day. The ER says she has pneumonia on the right side.

As if that is not enough, the tumor in her throat continues to grow and as it does, it is becoming more and more difficult for her to eat. She has sort of a shelf or a flap in her throat that catches food (and even liquids) and if she is unable to get it down, it triggers her gag reflex. You know what comes after that, right? She even has trouble swallowing her own saliva these days and has to drink water constantly to keep from choking.

My mom has been basically confined to her room since about January. She can get out to go to the doctor but requires a wheelchair for that. I am pretty much in the dark about what her future holds because her doctor does not talk about it and with my mother in the room, I prefer not to ask if she does not want to know. My mother still has full hopes she will be cured. Often when she is feeling sick, she will say through her tears, “I wish someone would tell me when I will get through this rough patch.” Her weight has dropped dramatically. I’ll bet she only weighs about 90 pounds. And the longer she is confined to her bed, the less muscle control she has making it more and more difficult for her to get up and even make it to the bathroom. The one thing that has not changed is her smile. No matter how badly she feels, she always smiles when someone comes in the room to see her.