Talking Business With Mom

Around 11:30 this morning, just after returning from breakfast out with Grace, the phone rang and it was my mom calling. In typical fashion for my mother when she wants to talk about something serious, she was very vague, saying only that she needed me to come up to her house in Marysville to discuss “business”. Since we are not actually involved in a business, I knew that it at least in part meant money.

So a couple hours later, I drove up there and got the scoop.

First she told me that she was going to sign her car, which we are buying from her since last june, over to us. I pretty much expected that.

Then she told me that a couple of months ago, she found a lump on her breast. Now, if there is one thing my mom knows about, it’s cancer. Her mother and her mother’s twin sister both died of it. one of my mom’s own sister’s died of it. My dad and stepdad both died of it. And in the early 1960’s, my mom herself fought it and survived it.

So she went a week or so ago to see my sister’s no nonsense doctor, who told her it was almost certainly cancer. But there were no tests done yet.

And there won’t be too many done next week when Mom goes in again. A few blood tests and an x-ray is all that will be done.

Why? Because that is all Mom wants done. She firmly told the doctor that there would be no big needles, no cutting open, no painful tests. Should it prove to be a malignant tumor, there will be no chemotherapy, no surgery, no radiation…in short, no treatment. Pain meds when the pain gets bad, but that is it.

Also no hospice or hospitals.

As Mom told me, she’s nearly 84 and not inclined to suffer all of those tests and treatments only to find out they didn’t work or if they did, just to “hang around a few more years all weak with parts missing”.

Now, I could have argued with her (amazingly, neither of my siblings did) and, given that I have all the legal powers over her that she could give me a few years ago, I could force her to get treatment, but that ain’t gonna happen.

Mom has made her choice and, were I in her place, it would probably be the one I would make. She is opting to go forward on her terms, knowing full well what the end will be. It’s her choice to make.

Some people might think this is crazy and ask why she would not fight for every extra secondminutehourdayweekmonthyear she could get. I’m not sure they would understand, but here’s my (and Grace’s take on it.

Life is not about the destination, because we all end up at the same place in the end. Life is about the journey.

And my mom has had a long, extremely eventful journey full of all those things humans experience. Maybe more than many experience. She’s lived though the Great Depression, many wars, social upheaval, love, childbirth, pain, happiness, loss…everything that happened to her between 1928 and the present.

But the last few years have been a pretty lonely stretch of the journey. Two husbands and all of her siblings gone, along with just about every friend her own age and several who were younger…children and grandchildren all grown up…health pretty good, but a touch less every year…less and less desire to go places she’s been to a million times. Life has become more of a burden and I think Mom is tired of carrying it.

She’s winding down. We all do it sooner or later, but for some people it’s just easier to do. If you know that sort of person, it’s easier to see. I’ve seen it happening to Mom over the past 3-4 years.

Does this bother me? No, not at all. Everybody should be able to check out of this life whenever they truly want to. My mom is no exception. As I said before, it’s her choice

Now, Mom told me that she will stick around as long as she can, and she may well last a good long while. Hell, the lump in her breast could be benign. She’s in a remarkably calm and fatalistic mood about all this and her sense of humor is still sharp.

But being of Irish stock, we’ll go into this thinking Death is just outside waiting in his car, ready to come ring the doorbell anywhere from tomorrow to years from now. We’ll assume Mom is dying. After all the cancer related deaths in our family, it’s how we roll.

I love my mother and when she is gone, I’ll miss her very much, but until then, I’ll play this out by Mom’s rules.

Thanks for listening.

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7 comments on “Talking Business With Mom

  1. gaylin says:

    Doc, yes, to everything. Your mom’s choice, your response, all of it. Yes.

    My mom is 76 and I have watched her winding down for the last few years. She refused open heart surgery a couple years ago and my sisters were quite angry about it. I wasn’t. She has had a hell of a life and is tired. She has agreed to a hip replacement in 2 weeks and I have a feeling she may not survive being put under. 65 years of smoking and anaesthetic are not a good combo. I love her to bits and would like her around for years to come but that is not my decision to make or to put on her. I don’t live within easy access to her but phone often, tell her I love her and work very hard at honouring her choices.

    You are a good son to honour your mom’s rules and I hope however long she has left that she knows you love her. Because you do, I can read it in every word.

  2. Lil Gluckstern says:

    She sounds like a remarkable woman, who knows herself very well. You are a remarkable son who is taking care of her and following her wishes. There is a certain peace that comes with that, along with missing her.

  3. Jill says:

    When my grandmother was in her early 90s, her doctor was after her to have a mammogram. The doctor even called my sister to enlist her help persuading Granny. We talked to Granny, who explained that even if cancer was found, she wouldn’t have it treated, so why bother? Luckily we agreed with her.
    As it turns out, she didn’t have cancer and lived in pretty good health until 101.

  4. Lora in Florida says:

    Having been through the treatments, I totally understand where she is coming from. And I applaud your decision to support her. I fought mine because I am young. But if I were older, and had lived a good life, I don’t know that I would want to put myself through it again.

    I will say some prayers for your mom.

    • Deb Romano says:

      I think people have a sense of when they need to fight an illness and when it is time to let nature take its course. Your mom sounds like she is at peace with her decision and is unafraid. I wish he peace and happiness, whether she has ten more years or ten more months.

      You are so good to be honoring her wishes! I hope her doctors don’t try to push her into something that she doesn’t want.

  5. Kathy Sweeney says:

    Oh, Doc. I am so sorry- not because of your Mom’s decision, but because she had to make one at all.

    We watched in horror as my great aunt’s sons pushed her to pursue chemo at age 88 when there was no real hope. It made the last years of her life absolutely miserable. Your Mom is a tough cookie and I hope, no matter what happens, you and your siblings will honor her wishes.

    Just catching up on your blogs (which I love, by the way).

    Can I post this link in my Boobburgh blog? I totally understand your Mom’s decision and I think it makes a nice addition to my recent blogs.

    THANKS and your family will be in my prayers.

    • Doc Cross says:

      Yes, Kathy, you can repost it.

      We will honor Mom’s wishes because I’m the guy at the controls, so whatever Mom wants, Mom gets.

      I would probably make the same decision Mom has if I were her age, although I would go out in a spectacular and useful way before the pain got too bad.

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