So Mom would probably be mortified if she knew I was revealing this to the world, but it really is something that a lot of caregivers can relate to.
Today, all I wished for was poop.
Mom has a colostomy and after spending a week in the hospital, mainly on a liquid diet, her stoma had “gone asleep” in a manner of speaking. The medical staff warned us it might take a day or two to get things going, but after three days of solid food, Mom was barely outputting any stool. And that in turn was making Mom very sick. (Imagine how you feel when you are really constipated.) I feared another ER visit was in our near future.
But today, angels might as well have sounded from the heavens. Mom had stool in her colostomy bag! Yay for us! Our home care nurse was just as excited, and pointed out how when you are a caregiver, you have to enjoy the small victories in the face of illness.
That’s very true. I remember during Dad’s steady and steep decline into dementia, we would be happy if he was just able to eat, and didn’t have a fall in a day. It’s difficult to believe that one could take pleasure in the face of decline, but if you only focus on the negative, it will swallow your soul whole. I’m the ultimate pessimist, but even I recognize the joy of my mom being regular again. It keeps us out of the hospital, and out of the Grim Reaper’s grasp for a little while longer.
Mom almost had forgotten how she had taken care of a “bag” before she was stuck with her colostomy bag. Dad had a catheter inserted temporarily at one point when he was still living at home and he had to “pee into a bag” that was attached to his leg.
Mom handled the extra duty with ease. Dad was already starting to drift mentally a bit by that point, but even if he had been mentally sharp, I think he would have wanted Mom to take care of it.
Now Mom is having to deal with her own “bag” issues, in this case a colostomy and it looks like it may be a permanent thing for her to deal with. Mom mainly has a good attitude about it, but she does get down sometimes, especially when there are accidents, like today.
I have also surprised myself by stepping up and being able to manage a medical issue with some level of competence. If someone had told me a year ago I would be able to change a colostomy bag successfully, I would have told them they were crazy.
I think what I have learned so far through the illnesses of my father and my mother is that we humans can more easily adapt to change than we give ourselves credit for.
Mom is going for tests over the next couple of weeks that will let us know if her cancer has spread. We’ve been talking a lot about the pros and cons of chemo. Mom is an optimist and a fighter, but she also wants a decent quality of life. Still, I think she will probably at least try chemo to see if she could tolerate it.
That made me think about Dad, and what he would do if he were the one in my mom’s shoes. As I’ve written before, Dad avoided doctor’s visits like the plague. But he did pull through his emergency gallstone surgery and dodged death a few times over the last year of his life.
I can’t imagine Dad living with a colostomy bag. He did have urinary issues at one point which required a catheter being inserted and Dad wearing a urine collection bag attached to his leg. I think he had to wear it 1-2 months. Mom did all of the draining duties. Dad wasn’t the best patient, but he grumbled his way through the ordeal.
Mom is grinning and bearing it with her colostomy bag. She manages to crack jokes about it while we are dealing with it, but she’s also admitted it’s depressing to know she may have to deal with this for the rest of her life.
But Dad? I guess if Mom was here to take care of his colostomy bag, he would grumble his way through it. But chemo? Forget about it. I think Dad would have holed himself up in his bedroom with a pile of library books and refused to even meet with an oncologist.
It’s interesting when the two people who brought you into this world have such opposite personalities and perspectives on life. It also makes me wonder how I would react if faced with a similar situation.