Recently, I wrote about my mom experiencing a mysterious pain in the same general area of her colostomy surgery. She had a few other vague symptoms that warranted further testing. The oncologist ordered CT scans of the abdominal area and the chest.
Unfortunately I had to get back to work so Mom had to manage the scan prep on her own. Even though Mom certainly has her eccentric ways, it is such a blessing knowing that she is still fully capable of handling things outside of her routine, such as going for medical tests. Yes, it was stressful for her, but at 77, she managed quite well.
The tests were done right before my birthday, with the results coming back the next week. I admit I spent a pretty good chunk of my birthday weekend mulling “worst case scenarios.” The colon cancer was back. The cancer had spread to another region. What would I do this time? I cannot afford to quit my job again. How would I afford Mom’s care.
Mom had a followup appointment with the oncologist on Wednesday afternoon. I was both eager to hear the results and dreading them at the same time. Finally, Mom calls. For once, she didn’t beat around the bush. (If it had been bad news I had a feeling she would have delayed the announcement.)
All of the tests came back normal. No cancer was detected. Mom was given a clean bill of health. Now of course that doesn’t solve the mystery of Mom’s pain (she insists on calling it a “discomfort.”) But the pain has not increased in intensity so far and it doesn’t stop her from going about her life.
So a sigh of relief, for now. As caregivers we are always ready for the next health crisis. But we also learn to appreciate those good days a bit more.
Mom had to go have a test done today, prep for her upcoming oncology consultation. I wasn’t allowed to go back with Mom for the procedure, so I set in the waiting room. There was a lot of tension in the room. There was an elderly woman anxious for her mammogram to be done. Another mother-daughter combo who I believe also were there for a cancer screening. There were grim looks on many faces, sick people resigned to undergo tests that could in part, decide their fate. You want to know, but then again, ignorance (and/or denial) is bliss.
There were also people awaiting routine screening tests. I wonder how many of those people would end up being called back for suspicious test results. Hopefully none of them, but we know every day people have their worlds turned upside down by a routine test with not-so-routine results.
Mom is being a good patient by willingly going through all of these tests. I don’t think Dad would have been nearly as cooperative. He hated doctors and was bored to death in waiting rooms. And of course, when the dementia struck, certain tests would have been virtually impossible to conduct on Dad.
Maybe Dad was the lucky one, not to be spending so much time in waiting rooms and having tests done.
Dad refused to have most of the medical tests that were ordered for him before his dementia set in. I remember begging him to go have the prostate exam done, as he showed multiple symptoms and at the time I thought for sure he had prostate cancer.
I sent cards, I begged him on the phone, all to no avail.
Of course, my diagnosis turned out to be wrong. Cancer would not kill my dad, despite his almost lifelong smoking habit.
The last test I ever saw performed on him was the swallow test at the hospital in Albuquerque. It was about a month before his death. He failed the test miserably. Then came the dreaded feeding tube question. We declined. He was hand fed instead, but I don’t think he actually ate much that last month of his life.
Now Mom is the one that faces test after test after test, to keep track of her cancer. It is daunting, keeping all of the doctor’s appointments straight. There are people out there, too many poor souls no doubt, that have to manage all of this on their own. No one should have to do that, while trying to recover from surgery and get stronger.
The trepidation behind the tests are two-fold. Not only is there fear and anxiety of taking so many tests, but there is the fear of the results of the tests.
All a caregiver can do is to try to be a supportive secretary, by setting the appointments, helping to navigate the logistics and offering moral support.