Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Cancer Chronicles, Part 3

I took this photo on Tuesday night as we had a cookout at the hotel:
*photo of Dad and MJ:
Dad and MJ

Today was a long day. We spent it at the hospital. MJ had a lot of tests and blood work and consultations with doctors.

The good news is that there is no cancer in the brain. Surgery is still an option and after talking through the pros and cons of it all, MJ has decided to go for it. She wants a chance, no matter how small, of being around longer to see her granddaughters grow up just a little bit longer, hopefully long enough to have memories of her. She's aware that the chance of surviving even a year are very slim. With surgery, she at least has the chance. Without it, there is no chance.

I know she's agonizing over the choice. And although she's told the doctor to keep her on Monday's schedule, she can always back out of it. I don't think she'll change her mind, but it is nice to know that she has the option.

As if the cancer wasn't enough to worry about, she and Dad are homeless at the moment. They own a home in Iowa, but MJ wanted to be in Buffalo near her kids and grandkids. After the cancer diagnosis, I encouraged them to come out here right away. Dad had been resistant to the idea, for whatever reason, but she needs to be here with her family and the wonderful friends she has out here. So they got into the car and drove out here.

But they were living with friends or her brother until I got here on Sunday. This week they have been living with me in a 2 bedroom suite hotel room. It's been comfortable for them, I think. But it's not 'home'. They need a place to stay where they can relax and call it their own.

MJ has two sons. One lives in a one bedroom apartment. The other son and daughter-in-law own the house that used to be MJ's. They have made it clear that they don't want Dad and MJ living with them. I've heard their reasons, and I understand that it would be a huge disruption to someone's daily routine to bring in aging parents, one of whom is terminally ill. But even though I understand how difficult it would be, I can't imagine turning my parents away in a time of need like this. If MJ hadn't needed so desperately to come home to NY, I would have moved them both into my house in Iowa and done what I could to make her comfortable.

But, the situation is what it is, and so we have been looking for an apartment for them. I think we found a nice one, and we will hopefully finalize the lease tomorrow and move them in this weekend. We want them to have a place they can call home. MJ has a great support group of friends who would let her stay with them. But she needs the comfort and privacy of her own place, without feeling beholden to someone who is letting her sleep in a spare bedroom. She is feeling hurt, rejected, and sad that her son and daughter-in-law won't let her stay with them. She feels uncomfortable at the thought that my brothers and her sons will be pitching in with the cost of the apartment so that they can afford it. It's not an easy situation, but it's necessary. We are arranging to have family members come out here to stay with Dad a week at a time. He needs the support, and the family members will need a place to stay while they are here. This apartment will serve that purpose as well, and it's much cheaper than a hotel rental.

Along with the logistics of securing an apartment rental comes the emotional toll it is taking. My dad told MJ that he resents not being included in the apartment finding process. He didn't mention this to me, and while we weren't including him in narrowing down the selection, we took them over to view the place we selected so that they could say yes or no. I wish Dad would talk to me about feeling left out, instead of burdening MJ with his anger. They got into an argument at the hotel last night. They were arguing about the apartment, and the bitterness of the situation all floated up to the surface. I don't suppose Dad realized that the kids and I could hear everything he was saying. After the full day at the hospital, we were all wound so tightly that we risked snapping, but that argument made me desperately sad. I had to get out of there and get some fresh air to clear my head.

It is stressful for us all, but we have to make this as easy on MJ as we can. So I'm trying to find the balance between helping MJ out and not stepping on my dad's toes in the process. It's not easy.

Last night when I came back after the argument, MJ had gone to sleep. Dad came out and was sad and crying. He wanted comfort from me. I gave him a hug and he sobbed, "What am I going to do?"

In that instant I felt a mixture of anger and pity. Anger that he was still so focused on his own pain and fear. But pity for him, because he doesn't handle emotional situations well, and this is the mother of emotional hell.

I had a long talk with my aunt last night and she made me feel so much better. I'm struggling with this and having a hard time wearing all of the hats I'm feeling responsible to wear this week. She likened the situation to triage after an accident. We need to focus first on the most severely injured patients, and unfortunately those who have less severe injuries will have to be tended to later.

My first priority is to help with the logistics of making MJ comfortable so that she can either fight this disease with all she's got or die with peace and dignity. My dad needs help too, though. I am thankful that my Brother Z is coming out next week. He'll be here for dad when MJ is in the hospital, recovering from surgery. Z is very good at being there for Dad. I'm very good at making things (like the apartment and the doctor's visits and the logistics of it all) happen.

I think things happen the way they do for a reason. I've been able to spend this week out here doing what I do best, and Z will be able to play to his strengths with Dad next week.

We'll get through this. But it sure isn't easy.

(I don't have time to proof read this, so please forgive me if it's unreadable...)


Barb said...

No need to apologize... Not only is it readable, it's amazing and real and heartfelt. What you are doing is so hard, but so necessary and I'm sure MJ is very appreciative. I'm glad you are able to write about it all. It really does help to get it all out plus it'll be good to be able to go back and read it later to see that you did everything possible and have no regrets. Big hugs coming your way from me.

Little Miss Sunshine State said...

You have a huge heart to be doing this for your dad and stepmom.