Cancer doesn't care whom it hurts!

4:02 PM

  Some of you that have been with me for years, as well as some who have only been with me a short time, were aware of a few things I have been dealing with this past year.  Since I have always been fairly open with my readers ( I think many of you hang around because you either love knowing my life can suck too, or because I can make you all laugh at the fact my life can suck too- haha ) I think it's time to let you all in on some of what's been happening in Brie's world, that way we can put it in the past and get back to regularly scheduled programming. Yes, I am back to stay, I am not selling my blog, shutting it down or abandoning it like I have heard rumors of several times each. 

A small part of me that hurts everyday, has to do with the story below. Cancer doesn't care who gets hurt, Cancer doesn't pick and choose who it infiltrates. Cancer is like Hurricane Irma inside a person's body, that in most cases, relief efforts to clean up the devastation, never fully work, just as they never fully restore what something was before they blow through.

I have had close to 600 messages over the past 6 months asking me if things are okay, was I just taking a break or was I done for good. So many of you were concerned that my health had taken a turn for the worst. 

  As some of you are aware, about a year and a half ago, I began traveling back and forth to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota with my Mom, who had just been diagnosed with lung cancer. In May of 2016, she had surgery at the Mayo clinic to remove a partial lobe in her upper left lung. She had lesions on her right lung as well, but they did not think they were malignant and just wanted to watch them. She wasn't going to need Chemo or Radiation, they were pretty certain they had gotten it all. We made 7-8 trips back and forth to Minnesota to the Mayo during the time frame of April 2016 until June 2016.  The last trip in June, Alek actually went with Mom because I had to have a surgery I had already been putting off quiet some time. They gave Mom a clean bill of health and she wasn't scheduled to come back until January 2017. Mom went back to work and was enjoying life again, even going on her twice yearly work trip with Sam's Club. Mom loved her Sam's Club family. She had worked there for 11 years I believe, since the day they had opened  in Cookeville and she thought the world of all of them there at that store as well as all the amazing people she became friends with when they did their trips for Sam's club for a Special Set up team a few times per year. 

  In November of 2016, Mom started having pain in her right lung, they did some testing locally and sent the results to Mayo. An appointment was scheduled for Mom to come back to Mayo for more testing the day after Christmas. Less than 72 hours after we got there, Mom was in surgery, where they had to remove an entire upper lobe of her right lung. She had to be put on a ventilator because the mass was much larger in circumference, as well as depth and her lungs were only working at about 11 %.  Finally after 13 days in the hospital, she was allowed to leave and we stayed in Minnesota another week so they could monitor and make sure things were good. Again, they felt they had gotten it all and no chemo or radiation was needed. Mom's recovery this time was slow, and she was actually on Oxygen 24/7, and for once, she was using it, so I knew she needed it since she was actually using it this time around. 

  Early February of this year ( 2017), about 6 days after returning home from The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Mom got to the point she could barely breathe and went to the local E.R. in Cookeville. She was told it was just fluid buildup in her lungs from the surgery and they scheduled her 2 days later to have the fluid drained. It was a lot when they drained it and even found she had some fluid behind her heart. They acted like this was totally normal and not concerned at all. A week later she was admitted to the same hospital for fluid buildup and they drained fluid off for 3 days straight, then said it was all good and released her. The end of February, less than two weeks after she was released, she was admitted again, she had a huge knot where her chest tube had been and it was larger than a Cantaloupe. 

Now, if you knew my Mom, or even knew of her, you know she had this huge heart and loved people. She loved to make people smile and would help anyone she could. She helped take care of her Sister before she passed away of cancer, She continued to go weekly to see Uncle Cotton after her sister Marylee passed away, then helping to take care of him before he died. Uncle Cotton was more like a Brother to her instead of a Brother in Law, she was always taking her days off to go cook for him, play cards with him, etc. She helped care for Ma ( her Mother) before she was put in a Nursing Home, and she has brightened many of days for so many people. She was in essence, larger than life. Kids adored my Mom too, and she loved kids.  

  They took a small needle biopsy and drained more fluid. Said everything came back normal but that where her lung used to be on the right side, kept filing up with fluid because Doctors at the Mayo Clinic had not finished/closed the surgery properly . They kept Mom in the hospital until March 19th, 2017, draining fluid. They finally said she needed to go back to Mayo and let them fix what they messed up. Once it was determined that this hospital felt Mom could fly there on a regular airplane instead of the Medi flight, we had to go about getting portable Oxygen tanks, extra batteries, letters from doctors and find the right flight that would make only 1 stop and the stop would need to be long enough to accommodate recharging her O2 tank batteries if needed. Flight found, tanks picked up, and on March 23rd, off we went again. Alek and Meagan went with us as well because Alek was going to stay if I needed to come back home for any reason ( I had my own Health issues I was dealing with as well at the time) 

  We went to her first 3 appointments on March 24th, the 3rd one was to see the actual doctor. Right there in his office, he took a small needle biopsy of the fluid in the knot and told us to come back at 4 pm because he was putting a rush on it so we could try to get back home on the 25th or 26th ( My Grandson was turning 4 and Mom wanted to be here as well for her Great Grandson's 4th Birthday ) A little after 4 p.m. on March 24, 2017, we heard the news that no one ever wants to hear. On one hand, I was glad Alek was with us, as I needed him and I would not have to explain it all to him . Meagan being with us was pure heartache. Many of you know that Meagan is 21 and special needs, and she worshiped the ground her Grandma walked on and loved her so much. I only wish Dustin could have also been there, as it was a time when the 4 of us needed each other the most. Mom's  Cancer had came back with a vengeance and because the Hospital she had been going to in Cookeville had not bothered contacting Mayo Clinic when she first went in, nor had they done a few simple test, it had spread way to far in those 7 weeks that they didn't think anything could be done. 

  So, I decided right then and there that I had to move Mom to Knoxville. She had resisted all the other times I had tried to get her to move here, but when I ask her this time if she would move to Knoxville with us, she agreed and within 2 weeks, we had her fully moved in. 

  We actually saw an Oncologist as soon as we got home from Mayo, who thought Opdivo would be a great option for Mom. Much like a form of chemo, it was an immune booster and he felt it would extend her life by possibly up to a year, or as little as 30 days. Otherwise he told us, we had 4-6 months left with Mom. She was reluctant to try the Opdivo, I couldn't really blame her if it was going to make what time she had left, with her feeling sick and miserable, not able to enjoy any of that extra time it could give her. Eventually, she decided she was going to do it.

 April 20th, I woke up to get the kids ready for school and Mom ask me to take her to the hospital, saying she couldn't breathe. I had woke up late and was already rushing around and I also had a Doctor appointment of my own that morning. I took all Mom's vitals as well as constantly checked her Oxygen levels, Chris took the kids to school. We were ready to take Mom to the hospital as soon as Chris got back in 10-15 minutes. That's when I realized that no way could we even get her to the hospital ourselves as she could not walk even 6-8 feet she was so weak and out of breath. So I called an ambulance. Now, I won't go in to the deal with the Ambulance personnel, they at least got her there and that was more than we could have done. 

  Every single day that Mom was in the hospital, I was hearing a different story, different opinion, sometimes two or three different opinions per day. Then came the day they all agreed and told me that there was nothing more that could be done.  Mom was refusing any more test, she no longer wanted to try Opdivo, and upon those decisions, we were told it was time to let her go home and have Hospice come in. We worked around the clock getting Mom's room cleaned out ( she still had not fully unpacked) , getting her bedroom furniture out to make room for the Hospital bed, all the medical equipment, and making her bedroom feel more like home to her with hanging pictures, etc. 

  We were told she had probably 3-6 months left. Hospice was great and helped me through so many things that I could not have done without their instructions on the phone many times, or when they came. They were only planning to come 3 times per week until we got down to the last 5-10 days, then they would be here around the clock. Monday May 1st, Mom seemed really "off". She had a great weekend prior, lots of visitors, she laughed, cried and enjoyed seeing her sister and niece so much. Mom had ask me several times if my sister had ask about her, and even though she hadn't, I said yes. 

  On that Monday, I ask my Sister to call Mom, and she finally did. Mom was having an off day and her mouth was so dry and she could not really talk. When my sister called, Mom shook her head no saying she didn't want to talk, but I held the phone up to her ear anyway, because I felt like she wanted to talk and was maybe embarrassed about how she sounded and the shape she was in, since it had been years since she had spoke with my sister ( That is an entirely different story that you may have read here on the blog 7-8 years ago. ) My Uncle also came to see Mom that day as well and she actually laughed and cut up with him for about 5 minutes, then she went back to the state she was in that morning. When the CNA called our Hospice nurse to tell him what was going on with her, he came by, checked her out and said she was just having an off day, and I ask the dreaded question....did she have less time than we thought and were we like near the end-end. His response is one that I hear in my head almost daily still. He said to me, Bridget, your mom is dying, you know this, but we are not even close to the final 5-10 days yet, not even close but I will let you know when we are. I felt total relief, I wasn't ready to let my Mommy go just yet. She did get agitated several times throughout that Monday. I had to give her medicine per the hospice doctors, 3 times that night. I didn't leave my Mom;'s side all day or night that night, except long enough to cook dinner and shower. I was able to get Mom to eat a few bites and drink some water and even a little coffee. I stayed in her room with her that night, sleeping in her recliner that I pulled by her Bed and held her hand all night long and talked to her. 

  That Tuesday brought worry. Mom just didn't look right or act right. She was still smoking ( she had pretty much quit until they told her nothing more they could do ) and wanted to go outside and smoke that morning and have her morning coffee. We couldn't get her even out of the bedroom, she was far too weak, and she could not take a drink of coffee on her own so I was dipping the little mouth sponges in her coffee and giving it to her that way. Hospice told me on the phone that she would have days like that and not to worry. She had an adult diaper on, which she had hated putting on 3-4 days prior and was embarrassed, but it was dry after almost 24 hours, and she kept saying she had to use the bathroom, so it took all I had to get her on the potty seat because she was too weak to move any herself. Still nothing once I got her on there, and she sit there for an hour. It took all I could do to get her back on the bed, then Chris came in and a friend came over to help and the 3 of us got her back in bed, she actually cried silent tears, streaming down her face, when we gently moved her up toward the top of the bed where she preferred. 

  Around 1:30 that Tuesday May 2nd, Chris left to run some errands and Meagan and I were sitting in Mom's room with her. Mom had not really spoken at all that day, I was holding her hand standing beside her bed and she kept pulling her Oxygen tube out and I kept putting it back in. Finally it was like she gave up and said okay, forget it, you win and kept it in. I still to this day am not sure why I said what I said next, but I said Mom, we've had a bumpy road, you and I, but I love you and am really happy we have spent so much time together this past year even though I hated the circumstances. "I forgive you Mom ( long story but she had ask for my forgiveness a few times, sadly I never told her I had forgiven her until now even though I had) , and I hope you will forgive me for anything I have done as well . I love you and I'm not ready to let you go yet. As clear as day, she said, I'm not ready to go. I said Mom, you have fought hard, I know how tired you are, so when you are ready, it's okay to just let go. I don't want you to hold on and suffer because you think I want you to, I want you to be free to let go when that time comes, I love you. " Then, still holding her hand, I picked the photo album back up that Mom, Meagan and I were just starting to look at, and before I even turned the second page, Mom gripped my hand really tight, took her last breath and passed away. 

  Only 8 days after leaving the hospital that last time, less than 24 hours after being told we were not even close to the final 5-10 days, my Mom was gone. 

  There are still so many things I wish I would have said to my Mom. So many things she still wanted to do that we had planned to do before she got worse. 

  Never leave words unspoken as you never know how much time you have left to say them. It doesn't have to be an illness or disease that takes someone away, they can be gone in an instant and you will regret never saying the things you wanted to and thought about. Enjoy every second of every day you have with those you love.

  As I get back in the swing of things, you will see more of my stories and struggles this year peeking through in my own words. Death to Heartache. Heartbreak to reality, you cannot always be in control of your destiny, but yo can learn from every instance.

 The year that will easily go down in my history of being my worst year ever in life, will most likely be 2017. I hope another year does not get worse than this one anyway.

In Loving Memory of My Mother
Kathy Sue Westmoreland Jennings
May 23, 1955-May 2, 2017

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