Saturday, November 11, 2017

Update on Mom

Dad, Mom, and I went to Baptist Hospital in Winston on Friday to visit the cancer specialists there for a "pre-biopsy" consultation. The doctors and nurses there are wonderful -- a couple doctors came in and looked at Mom's records and scans, then spent a lot of time talking with us and answering our questions. They laid out the options for the various sorts of biopsies and the possible treatments, but it was soon clear that, given the very large size of the mass in her right lung, the large amount of fluid there, the fact that it has spread at least to her spine, and her already seriously deteriorating condition from the FTD she's been suffering from, any of the types of biopsy they might do would be more stress and pain than any potential knowledge gained would justify. As both doctors explained, surgery is out for her, due to her weakened condition, and chemotherapy or radiation (aside, possibly, from palliative radiation) would only make her sicker, with no gain in enjoyable life.

They did suggest a PET scan, which should not be stressful or very invasive (just a sugar dye injection), and will show the extent of the spread of the cancer, helping to facilitate palliative treatments (especially valuable since she can't speak or clearly indicate where she hurts). The nurse there -- a very kind woman -- made an appointment for her PET scan at Baptist (our local hospital doesn't have the machine) on the 20th of this month, and then for an appointment with one of their oncologists, who, fortunately, spends two days a week at the cancer center at our local hospital. So Mom shouldn't have to make the trip to Winston again, after the PET scan. It sounds as if there are services and doctors locally so that we should be able to keep her as comfortable as possible at home.

It was a very hard day. The whole "cancer" thing is so unexpected. But the doctors and nurses couldn't have been kinder, showing no impatience at all at our (my) repeated questions. And my poor, sweet mom is so very brave. Her comprehension skills are still just fine, but she is unable to ask questions or express her fears. I know life is not "fair," but... well, it Should be more fair. At any rate, we are determined to keep her as comfy as possible, surrounded with love, tempted with tasty foods, and generally cherished. She's spent a lifetime selflessly nurturing other people, so the least we can do is remember to keep a couple Hershey bars in our purse to be able to hand her when the occasion demands.

(Here we are waiting to see a doctor, yesterday. My dad always has a book ready to read aloud to Mom. He's pretty amazing.)

(Ed and Mom. They've been enjoying "The Paradise.")

(Mom and Dad over for mid-day dinner today. Lemon chicken. I am a culinary goddess. But Katie beat the pants off us all in round after round of Bananagrams. Good thing she's otherwise a charming girl.)

(And Kali. Looking resentfully at Finny, who jealously guards his "favorite child" station next to me, and also his toy hoard. He has now ripped Piggy's squeaky ball heart out -- looks like he'll be getting a new squeaky pig for Christmas!)

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

October Was Good

October is my favorite month pretty much every year, but this year, in hindsight, it has a special charm. As well as my birthday (yay!) and pretty leaves, my parents came down from Maine early in the month and, aside from an "opening" visit to the emergency room on arrival, my mom seemed... not much worse. Still game for a little walk around the park or a good dinner or both!

Then yesterday she had a seizure in the morning, so we brought her into the ER. We figured another UTI, which is what it was last time. They ran her through the various scanners and the ER doctor came in and told us she did not have a UTI. That test looked good. I've had vets convey the bad news about sick hamsters with more sensitivity than this guy when he went on to say that they did see a a malignant node in her lung, and that the "malignancy" had spread to her spine, between her vertebrae. So we'd need to decide what treatment options we wanted to pursue. And make arrangements with her primary care physician (who's in Maine, and doesn't know anything about cancer treatments in NC). And he left. And we sat there, shattered.

Then the admitting doctor from the hospital showed up. Pleasant fellow. Explained that there were no signs of a UTI, but that her brain deterioration (Progressive Nonfluent Aphasia, a form of frontotemporal dementia) probably was triggering the seizures, and that he recommended she start on an anti seizure medication (Keppra?). Cheerful smile. Problem solved? My dad and I had been listening to him, still stunned from the last doctor's visit, waiting for him to get to the bit about how this treatment would relate to the cancer. As he appeared to be heading off we finally asked, "But... what about the cancer?" And he stared at us in appalled surprise. Cancer? First he'd heard of it -- he'd have to go consult the with ER doctor. So, my dad, who is smart, said he wasn't going to get his hopes up, but I thought maybe, just maybe, that first doctor had the wrong room. Or papers got mixed up. The cancer was so out of the blue. But no. The admitting doctor still recommended anti seizure medication, but we needed to get cracking with Mom's PCP on referrals for a biopsy, etc. And he admitted her for an overnight stay.

This morning, though, I went to the hospital after dropping Katie off at school and Mom was looking pretty much as usual. Not uncomfortable, reasonably alert, and the nurse said she'd eaten her breakfast with a good appetite. And my dad got there before the doctor reached us on his rounds. The same guy who admitted her yesterday afternoon (the second doctor). And he was wonderful. Said he'd thought about Mom's situation last night and about how difficult it would be for her Maine doctor to know where to refer her, so he'd decided to take care of that himself. He's getting her in with the expert cancer people in Winston, who also have a couple oncologists who visit our local hospital. And they gave us a list of primary care doctors around here who are taking patients, which is a help. So, things aren't better but we have a handle on how to proceed, which is pretty huge. And, as we've have the opportunity to notice before, the people at our local hospital are So nice. And Mom is being released this afternoon and Dad thinks they'll come over for dinner, and he feels comfortable enough about her present condition to go do a bit of volunteering with the orchids at Reynolda Gardens in Winston tomorrow. So, I still feel wistful for the less dramatic state of things in October, but human kindness is a blessing.

And here are a couple pictures of Mom and Finny, from last Thursday or Friday...

 And Mom and Kali...

And some from Halloween (Katie had friends over for Halloween & had a good time. Travis went to his English class, which meets from 6:30 to 9:30 at night. He might have had a good time, but he didn't say.)

(Katie painted us, just for fun.)

This was for a school dance. Isn't she cute? I think she's a... cool zombie?

Oh, and my Birthday. I tried to post pictures back in the beginning of October, but Blogger wasn't in the mood and eventually I forgot.

They got me this extremely flattering Minion suit. It is soft and warm, but I'm not sure they take me entirely seriously when I'm wearing it. Or, actually, when I'm not. But the Minion suit does not convey authority. But... warm!

And a few more pet pictures. Because a warm puppy or kitten doesn't make everything better, but it makes the rotten things a little less bad. Which is something.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

My Girl

My sweet Katie just headed off to the Homecoming dance! She gets her social courage from Ed, as I never went to a dance in high school, but she loves this sort of thing. Doesn't she look pretty? She's going with a friend, as apparently lots of the kids do, which is nice. She might be taller than I am (possibly even without those heels, though I'm not admitting that to Her), but she's still my baby!

(She was very good and resisted picking up either of the cats once she had her dress on. First time in I don't know how long that someone has left this house without a dash of cat & hair, but she did it!)

Friday, September 29, 2017

No News is Good News!

Things have been ticking along here with nothing thrilling to relate, but Kali has now had her "girl kitten" surgery and is recovering well, Katie is getting ready to go to the Homecoming football game with her friends (still a bit gobsmacked that my daughter is such a social butterfly!), and Travis is working on a new piece of music. Ed continues to be just as he should be. Livy is queenly, as always, and Finny is... well, my darling toothy boy. We're looking forward, though, to welcoming my parents back to North Carolina for the fall/winter in a little less than two weeks!

Here are a few pictures, pretty much illustrating how very unexciting we are. These days the world seems more than exciting enough and we are doing our bit to anchor our little corner of the planet with peaceful cats and piles of good books.

(Kali really has lovely eyes, but none of these pictures shows them properly. Next month!)

(And here they are playing with their new "treat ball," one of my many efforts to distract Kali from jumping on the counters. The sticky mouse trap stuck to her backside here is evidence of another of those efforts, which is clearly less than optimally successful.)

Ed, at the Pumpkinfest.

And Kali and Livy, the day after Kali's surgery. She's doing very well.

Finny was so glad to have his kitten back!

And this is an "up to the moment" picture of Finn, who says it is time to Get Off the Computer and take him for a walk!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Farewell, Summer

And good riddance.
It wasn't awful, but I don't think any of us will have many fond memories of this summer. A few lovely bits, and a whole lot of unwellness. Katie's allergies and asthma, my internal woes, etc. Finny has been well, anyway, and Livy, after an anxious trip to the vet and a round of antibiotics, recovered from her respiratory thing. And the fall looks to be promising -- new classes for the kids, books to read.

Now for a look at the good things we'll want to remember!
Early on there was my trip to Maine to see my parents (thoroughly documented in an earlier post!), as well as a trip to a comics convention -- "Supercon"-- for Ed and the kids while I was away (badly marred for Katie by Harry's death the same day, but Travis enjoyed it!).

And our darling Finny turned two years old! His birthday was actually while I was in Maine, but he sweetly waited on his gifts until I got back home.

Here he is with his Favorite present!

Okay, Kali wasn't actually a present for Finn. But we are all delighted to have her in the family!

Even Livy has taken to her, though it took her longer than Finn.

Kali came from a rescue group in Winston. She was orphaned and bottlefed, and is sweet and affectionate. Also very clever. We have had to install child safety locks on the kitchen cabinets to keep her out of the garbage, and now are careful to keep the pantry shut. But aside from her truly voracious appetite she really is a joy.

As I think I mentioned before, Travis is doing his freshman year of college at the community college. So far he seems to be enjoying his classes, especially physics. But here I have a picture of his book for his British Literature class, which delighted me because it's the same text I had my freshman year, back in 1983.

  The Norton Anthology is now in its 9th edition, and even fatter than in its 4th edition form!

Here Finny is looking a bit disconcerted at having accidentally sat on Kali.

Fortunately Kali is quite forgiving.

And the eclipse!!!!! My wonderful old college roommate, Darcy, sent us eclipse glasses, so we were really able to enjoy the opportunity.

Kali is sure that cats like lemonade. In fact, Kali is sure that cats should get to eat Everything. She is Not a picky eater.

(I'm still perfecting my "selfie" technique. Resting the telephone on the floor helps.)

And yesterday we finally DID a family activity. All of us. Other summers we've managed something a bit more, but this summer, what with health and expenses and so forth it didn't seem likely, but then clever Ed found discounted tickets to Carowinds so we had our Grand Day Out.

Starting with breakfast for those of us with hardy digestions! Travis had a McGriddle, which, as he showed me, has syrup injected inside the bun! Weird, but fascinating.

(Notice the dinosaur in the background!)

Travis found an enormous corn dog. Two dogs inside one corn wrapping. The mind boggles!

Travis and Katie are roller coaster aficionados. Ed and I excel at waiting cheerfully and enjoying the fact that we are not riding roller coasters.

THIS is what I love about a family day out. Watching my often quarrelsome lambies get along nicely.

 And a day out with my sweet Ed, of course, is always nice.

So. In retrospect the summer had some very nice bits. And tomorrow Katie starts her sophomore year at the high school, and she's excited about her classes, and I'm excited for her. Both the kids are taking Spanish this year, which seems like a good idea, and both are taking literature classes that have interesting (to me!) reading lists. We've gotten the needed school supplies, so I think we're all set for what I hope will be a great new school year.