It wasn't a big deal
Just after New Years 2013 mom was done with all the pre-op and testing appointments. I was happy to get it all done so quickly, but I wasn't so thrilled about spending several days before and after New Years watching the snow fall from our hotel window. Even though my husband and I hadn't "rung in the New Year" for many years, it somehow didn't seem right that he was so far away. It also didn't seem right that I had to miss my sons 21st birthday celebration, although he assured me it wasn't a big deal.
"It's more important to take care of grandma", my wonderful son took it in stride (my guess is he wasn't as thrilled about the prospect of his mother celebrating this particular birthday as I had been). The assurances and encouragement from my family throughout this ordeal meant the world to me. Their continual support helped me focus on what I had to do.
Now, all we had to do was wait for them to schedule the surgery. I was hopeful it could be scheduled soon. It seemed every day moms pain increased to new levels and it was taking more and more morphine to ease the pain, nothing eliminated it. With the most recent increase the doctor told us, "We are getting to a point that we may have to consider another option." Seriously? We have other options? Do tell!
Mom's dosage of MS Contin (long acting morphine) had been increased to 200mg every 12 hours and even so, she was still needing a good deal of Roxinal for breakthrough. I think at one point I estimated she was receiving at least 500 - 600mg of morphine each day and was still in significant pain continually. "We really don't want to go much higher in her morphine dosage", we were told by the doctor, "have you ever heard of methadone"?
While both mom and I had heard of methadone, neither of us knew much about it. The Palliative Care doctor spent a good deal of time explaining the pro's and con's of methadone. Personally, I thought the con's greatly outweighed the pro's, but it had to be moms decision. As long as she was able to make her own decisions, they were hers to make. After a lot of discussion and much consideration, mom decided she wanted to think about it. "I think we should talk to the surgeon before we make any changes", mom told me after the doctor had left. I thought that was a good plan.
"Only if she has decided not to have the surgery", was the surgeons answer. She went on to say, "Without the surgery, her pain will likely increase, she may need to consider the methadone. If she plans to have the surgery, I would not recommend it". The surgeon, once again made us feel very comfortable with her assessment of mom. Her caring, compassionate attitude made us feel less apprehensive about the surgery. I wouldn't say we were thrilled about the prospect of moms surgery, but at least we had hope. For the first time in months we felt we had been given enough information that we could appropriately weigh moms options. For the first time in months mom had options. Granted, they weren't great options, but at least they were options.
Mom could choose to continue to live with excruciating back pain. She could choose to continue to take mass quantities of narcotics to gain slight relief from the pain. Or, she could choose to take her chances and go ahead with the major surgery on her spine. At least, I consider a surgery requiring a minimum of eight hours and two surgeons a major surgery. Still, she had choices.
"I hope they can schedule the surgery soon.", mom interrupted my thoughts. It was clear that mom had made her choice. She was reading through all the paperwork and concentrating heavily on the unlikely, yet possible, outcomes. "It could kill me, you know.", mom said. I assumed she was talking about the surgery.
Although, I wasn't completely convinced the surgery would alleviate her pain, I wanted to be supportive of her decision. "Only if God is ready for you", I replied. I guess it didn't matter that she had been referring to the pain rather than the surgery. My response would have been the same either way.
We had to keep our faith in God. We had to believe The Lord was our guide. We had to believe He would not have brought us to it, if He could not bring us through it. We had to believe our prayers had been heard. We know the outcome will be His will, not ours. I prayed His will would include my mother living through this horrendous surgery. I prayed His will would include eliminating, or at least reducing her pain. It seems like I have prayed more in the last year than I have prayed in my entire life. I know I can't bargain with The Lord, but it didn't stop me from making promises. I hope I can keep at least some of those promises.
Can sharing our pain with others make a difference? Will sharing our story help anyone? Could reliving this horror be of any benefit to anyone but me? Can sharing promote caring?