Who am I?
In simple terms, my name is Nanci. I am a daughter, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a niece, and a friend. I am also a caregiver.
My mom, 71, was diagnosed Dec. 2015 a couple weeks before Christmas. I will never forget that day. The day before we had come back from an impromptu getaway to Galveston Island, TX and on the way back home, we stopped at NASA. It was a Monday that I got the call from mom’s doctor. I was running errands, actually I was paying the water bill. I was in mid transaction when my phone rang. When my mom’s doctor told me, my heart sank. I kept it together long enough to finish paying the bill. My roommate and then friend was with me at the time and it was a good thing too. I broke down like a baby on his shoulder. It all felt like a horrible dream, and I wasn’t waking up from it. I had a feeling that she had it before she was diagnosed, thanks to my work experience at a home health company.
When mom started showing signs, I at the time didn’t notice until one day mom nearly killed the 3 of us… my son, herself, and her. The road we were on, been on many times, she got confused on it being a 2 way. An 18 wheeler was headed and she didn’t see it. I did, yelled at her to stop and she did. She had been repeating herself, and again, I figured it was her age. At the time she was 69. Dad and I had talked about her repeating herself and at her doctors appointment that came up after that talk with dad, I got her alone and brought it up to her. So, she did a memory test that they use to get a baseline where she was. On that test, she scored a 13/30 and that raided many red flags for the doctor. Blood work was drawn, urine was taken, and both came out clear… nothing showed up. Next up was a CT scan to rule out strokes, clots, or brain tumors. Nothing. So, when everything came back clear, the answer to my question was clear. Dementia. I want to go back for a moment. When I worked for the home health company, I had worked with a couple of dementia patients, both of different stages. I had a conversation one day with mom on the way home from work and I told her “whatever you do, please don’t develop dementia”. Little did I know, that conversation would haunt me for the rest of my life.
I’m going to fast forward to March of this year, 2017. One day mom was getting dressed and I just happened to see a spot on her left breast. Dad had seen it too. I knew it was probably something I never expected to happen to her. Cancer. April 17, mom had an appointment and my dad was fortunately able to come with me on that appointment. We brought it up to the doctor. She looked at it, and immediately ordered a mammogram. April 18, we celebrated her 71st birthday. The next day, she had a mammogram. They saw a mass. Then a CT scan, then a biopsy on 2 places. One on her breast, one in the lymph nodes on the same side. I will never forget that day. I felt the lump in the node, it was about the size of a half dollar and hard. That feeling will forever haunt me. Fast forward to the beginning of May for her oncologist appointment. The day of shell shock for dad and I. I will never forget the feeling I had when the doctor came in. Stage 4 breast cancer. It had spread to the left lymph node, left 8th rib, a node in her left lung, a spot in her right hip, and her adrenal glands. When the doctor said all of this, I was numb all the way through. I couldn’t think. My mom, the one who had always taken care of me, was dying. The only question I could get out was how long did she have. He said in her case, probably no more than a year without treatment. With treatment, 8-10 yrs.
Here is the funny thing about cancer and dementia. Yes, mom could have had treatment, but the amount of time she would have been given, she would be dying from the dementia. When we got home, we talked about what she wanted to do. She was done. She said let it be. So we are.
So, now, I am the daughter of a cancer and dementia patient. The two most horrible diseases there are. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Not even my worst enemy.