Sunday, September 30, 2007

Big Week

On 19 September, my grandmother's 82nd birthday, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Further testing has shown that it is in the upper part of her lung and is contained which makes surgery the next step. The first biopsy wasn't conclusive so a second one was performed Friday and barring any unforeseen discoveries, her surgery will be Tuesday or Wednesday. She will be hospitalized for 8-10 days afterwards and then most likely radiation will follow. Up until today, I've handled it pretty well but I feel my confidence waning a bit. She called me a few days ago, the day she found out she needed a second biopsy, and was very upset. I wanted so much to say something uplifting and profound but I didn't. She openly questioned whether or not she would be able to overcome this and before I could say anything she answered herself and said she would and that she would do it for us (her family). I told her she needed to fight for herself, for HER life and that we love her and would support her and pray for her. It is very unnatural for children to become the parents. Instead of her comforting me, as it's always been, I was comforting and encouraging her. I know that may sound selfish but it's not about that. Fundamentally, it's the change that I find so unpalatable. I don't like to face the reality that my grandparents are getting older. In November, Papa John, my grandma's husband, will have been dead 10 years. It was a sudden death--heart failure--and in the last 10 years I've pretty much been in denial that any of the rest of them would leave as well.

Yesterday was my Papa Joe's 82nd birthday. Today is his wife's, aka Ma, 81st birthday. Tomorrow Papa goes in for a consultation with a neurologist to determine whether or not he is a healthy candidate for a stint in his neck to improve blood flow. Currently he has significant blockage on both sides. He had a stroke about 20 years ago and has significantly improved his diet and maintains very impressive cholesterol levels but no medication is good at undoing arterial plaque build-up. We've known about this appointment for a few weeks and it is expected that he will be given the green light for the procedure but the cardiologist wanted to make sure because of his age and I'm thankful he is being careful. The alternative of not doing anything, however, obviously puts him at a high risk for another stroke.

I grew up VERY close to all four of my grandparents. I am the oldest grandchild on both sides and the only girl on my mom's side (and for 25 years I was the only girl on my dad's side and the only granddaughter Papa John ever knew). As you might imagine, I was more than a little spoiled! They have been my cheerleaders, confidants, friends, teachers, and a soft spot to fall when my parents and I wanted to kill each other. The thought of having a baby that didn't meet them...I just can't think about it.

I understand that my emotion is not just about these specific illnesses, it's about coming to terms with the reality that one day they will leave and I will be here without them. I prefer to bury my head in the sand but this week I cannot. I was talking to Papa Joe last week when I found out about Grandma and he told me that he wasn't going to be here forever but he loves me, he knows I love him, he's had a great life, and he's proud of me. That certainly helps, but I'm still not ready.

4 comments:

Jennifer Meachem said...

hi, don't know you... just clickin' around from the splat contest entries and found your blog. my heart went out to you and my eyes are red and burning. you see, my sweet, funny, blunt but honest, beloved gramma... same story. her husband (my grandfather)same as well. weird, i know. i mean, really... gramma lung cancer, a few years before her my grampa sudden heart attack. both leaving the world so differently. if i had another chance, i would talk to her as much as possible. she died almost 10 years ago and i still think about and miss her almost everyday. i remember how scared she was when she realized that this was her end. her words were, "so i am on my way home?" and i told her, yes. we cried together and then she said something funny and we laughed. she was a funny, funny lady. this is of course after radiation/biopsy and about a year of living without any problems. all of the sudden it went to her brain.
i'm sorry if this is making you more sad. i promise, i just wanted to ENCOURAGE you, even though it is so hard, talk to her as much as you can. you will not regret it.

The Gutsy Mom said...

Rachel, my friend, my heart is aching for you. I want to cry and hug you and cry some more. You are an incredibly strong woman with a well of emotional reserves deeper than most, and it is time to dip in. Nothing I can say will make any of this stop sucking, and I don't just mean in regards to handling your grandparents' ailments. We can pray for the best there. What I mean is, coming to terms with some of the feelings you're having, the passage of time, people getting older, and the thought of going on in the world without a loved one (or, for me, the thought of my daughter, for example, going on without me)...those thoughts are completely UNBEARABLE, ad I ache for you that you are being forced to confront them. Life is so hard when we are forced to bear those thoughts. I've been thinking about this more than I care to since Jillsie was born, and now, given the RLBT, I think of it even more. I prefer denial--we all do--but we all also have to have reality-check moments. They suck, suck, suck, but they also remind us of what matters most to us. CYBER HUGS and REAL PRAYERS happening right now for you and all of your family.

Tracy said...

Just wanted to say I'm sorry to hear about your grandma...I'm the same way. I'm almost 38 and still blessed with all 4 of my grandparents, and I hate to think of the day that I may lose one of them. Thinking of you...

Rachel said...

I am truly blown away by your sweet comments. More than anything, it's such a great feeling to know that others understand these feelings. Thank you for taking the time to comment.