Every time I communicate with Mrs. Montes through email, she thanks me for allowing her to express her feelings about this health scare through my blog. I feel like I should be thanking her because her posts are giving the audience an opportunity to see exactly what goes on when cancer affects not just the patient but also their family. It’s not as sugar coated as the media tends to make it. This is real life and should be treated as such. I admire Mrs. Montes for everything she does as a mother, daughter, wife, sister, volunteer, and business woman.
If you haven’t had a chance to read part I of her story, you can find it here. You will find what happens next below. Please enjoy and leave comments of encouragement for this strong mother and daughter.
It’s Wednesday night, July 5th, and I’m with my mom preparing for tomorrow. She is calm and we’re making jokes. I remind her of what she needs to wear and have with her for tomorrow and she says those 2 words to me, “Esta bien”. Which, between mother and daughter, really means “I know, you’ve already reminded me so let me get it done!” So that’s my cue to leave her alone and let her get her things together. I just say to her, “okay mom” and leave her room. Now, I know my mom. One of two things will be waiting for me for when I go back to her room to see if she’s finished: She’ll either be sitting in her rocker watching her “novella” or she’ll have pulled out so many clothes because she couldn’t decide what to wear. The novella won.
So now we’re putting aside what she’s going to wear tomorrow. My mom would not even consider the thought of wearing shoes without nylons or knee highs. Living in New York, I could understand that. In New York, you have the change of seasons and you dress accordingly. But she’s been living in Florida now 14 years and I still couldn’t convince her to leave the nylons alone! I was finally able to convince her to wear white ankle socks with her sneakers. I won that battle but my goal was to stop the nylons and knee highs from getting worn. About a year ago, I got her a pair of the Sketchers Go Walk. I told her these were made to be worn “without” socks. I could tell by the look on her face that she was not too keen on that concept. I told her to just give it a try. Needless to say, today that is her favorite shoe and getting her to put on socks or knee highs is now the challenge!
We continued getting her clothes together and then I tell her, You have to take a blanket with you because you might get cold”. Before May, when we started with all her tests, she would have asked me, “Why?”. But now, we just go to her closet and see about a blanket. Mom picked a purple one that is really soft and cuddly. She tells me, “I want to take this one with me because it’s the one that Richie and Natasha gave me.” Richie is my son and Natasha is my daughter-in-law. They gave her that blanket a few Christmas’ ago. It makes her feel like they are protecting her. I told her okay and we are now ready to head out.
We arrive and don’t wait long for them to call her in. She is weighed again and although she did lose another 2 lbs., we are encouraged because lately every time she was getting weighed we would see that she lost anywhere between 6 to 8 lbs. from the last visit. Seeing a difference of only 2 lbs. was a good sign. We get her settled in and the nurse goes over everything that is going to happen today. I look at my mom and ask her if she’s ready, she smiles and says yes. She’s ready to fight. I just smiled and got her comfortable in her recliner. The nurse starts the meds and lets her know that she will probably get a little sleepy and it’s okay if she takes a nap. A little later, I see her nodding out so I sit back in my chair and do some work on my laptop. After a while, she is up and the nurse comes by and asks if she would like some lunch. At first, my mom says she is not hungry. I look at the nurse and tell her that is my biggest battle with her, she never wants to eat anything. The nurse tells her she will bring her a sandwich and some juice because she has to eat. My mom says okay. I get an argument and the nurse gets an “okay”. Mom does eat half the sandwich but then the nurse comes by to ask her if she would like a Popsicle and her eyes light up and with the biggest smile she says, “Yes!” Mom looks just like a kid at the ice cream shop. I didn’t have to try and talk her into eating that!!
The first round of chemo went well. She noticed that when some people were leaving, they would ring a bell. We asked the nurse about it and she explained that the patients that were having their last round of chemo, rang a bell to show that they had finished their treatment. It was a little sad but also a nice thing to hear the bell ring. It was sad because it just brought you to reality as to how many people were battling this dreaded disease we call cancer. It was nice because it also meant there was hope that these patients won’t be back because they have conquered it. My mom said she was looking forward to being able to ring that bell.
On Friday, my sister took her to get her “hydration fusion” treatment which is to hydrate her white cells. This is a much shorter day and a quicker process. I believe my sister has a better understanding of what is going on with my mom and her treatments. Going to the place where my mom is getting her chemo and seeing the nurses that take care of her, I believe gives a person a better sense of what is happening and how it’s being taken care of.
The weekend went by quietly. She seemed to not have any more pain than what she was normally having. Getting her to eat was a whole other matter. People are set in their ways. When you’re 89 years old and used to just eating 3 meals a day, trying to convince her that she has to eat 5 small meals/portions a day is a challenge. But she’s trying and that’s all I can ask for. She’s also not used to taking pills every day. Getting her to take the medicines that she has to take is also a challenge. Explaining to her that it’s only for a certain amount of days and then getting that, “Esta bien” response, just about makes my day. I took out a calendar and had her cross off the days so she can see that she will soon have to stop taking her pills until her next round of chemo. That seems to work.
It is the day before her doctor’s appointment and it wasn’t a very good day for her. I had to work and my husband was with her. My mom knows that since I’m not there, she will probably try and get away with a few things. Yep, her two favorite subjects: eating and taking her meds. She didn’t eat what she was supposed to eat and only took 1 pill. My husband kept checking in on her and asking her if she was feeling okay or if she had any pain. He knew where her pain pills were just in case she needed them. Another one of my mom’s favorite phrases is, “Estoy bien” (I’m okay). My husband doesn’t know what some of my mother’s phrases actually mean but I know hearing, “Estoy bien” a few times means, “I’m having some pain”. My mom also didn’t put on her hearing aids so yep, the neighbors also knew my mom was watching TV and what she was watching. By the time I got home, she finally let out that she was in pain. She doesn’t give me the “Estoy bien” story because she knows I can see through that and I’m not going to buy it. I give her the pain pill and she calms down. I also asked her about her eating and she tells me the truth that she didn’t keep up with it today. So I go make her some food while the medicine starts taking its effect. My husband, on the other hand, is feeling bad because she was in pain and she didn’t tell him. I told my husband that she will stop doing that when the pain starts getting stronger and she won’t be able to hide it anymore. She ate her dinner, drank her water, and put on her headphones so she could watch her “novella”. Bed time is right after. The end of a Monday.
Today is Tuesday and it’s her follow-up appointment with her oncologist. I hope he tells me that we’re on the right track and all is going well. I will keep you posted.