I am the only child of my 74-year-old mother who was diagnosed with stage III inflammatory breast cancer just over 2 years ago. She had just relocated to live near me. She also has bipoloar disorder and as soon as she moved here, prior to the cancer diagnosis, it became apparent that perhaps dementia might be making an appearance. She was terribly confused and perseverated about everything.
But then cancer came so we didn't get a chance to address that. She had a scorch-the-earth treatment: chemo, then double mastectomy, then radiation. Then more chemo and radiation. She was often uncooperative with treatment e.g. sometimes she would quit taking her chemo pills and would lie about it to me and the oncologist. I was pregnant with my first child when she was diagnosed and around the time I had the baby was when she had her mastectomy. I had a very colicky baby, a full time upper management job overseeing an office of about 25, and there was only so much I could do for Mom but I made sure she had groceries, went to oncology appointments, and tried to organize her medications. It put quite a strain on our relationship. The cancer never went away, rather, it eventually metastisized to her brain. One day in August following a 6-hour chemo infusion she fell in the middle of the night on her way to the bathroom. I found her and called paramedics. I was 6 weeks pregnant with my second child. From there it was a straight shot into stopping cancer treatment, enrolling in hospice, and entering a nursing home where she remains today. I moved her out of her apartment and took full control of her finances and healthcare decisions.
I thought getting her into a nursing home might offer at least respite from fighting with her about cancer treatment but it just came with new issues. She had a few episodes of what appeared to be terminal agitation but that were not. Still, they had me doing things like physically holding her down there in the understaffed nursing home so she wouldn't try to get up and walk and then fall until hospice could admit her and and stabilize the psych symptoms. She fell several times for a few months but eventually became too weak to get herself out of bed. Her decline has been a horror show at a glacial pace. Even her hospice team has remarked at how surprising it is that she lingers as long as she does in each state of decline.
So now here I am. Still with the job (and not very much leave), the toddler, and about 4 weeks from my due date with my second child. My mom has declined to the point that she could die at anytime but there is no way to know when she will die. She is unlikely to last longer then another month. She is now entirely in briefs. She is on a pureed diet but rarely eats or drinks. She is on oxygen. She can barely communicate. She rarely responds to questions. If she does speak it is almost impossible to understand her and she is so confused that will ask the same question several times in a row. My worst fear of her dying while I am having the baby inches closer to being realized with every passing day. I get by generally although there are plenty of regular tears. Then I have an awful day at work (not often, but I did have one this week), or something happens with my daughter (her daycare called about a month ago to say she was taken by ambulance to the ER following a seizure- apparently caused by a fever. She's ok now) or our pets (a few weeks ago I had to take our beloved family dog to be put down after 10 days of progressive illness) and I am undone. As I am right now. I go through the motions of my life like I am mired in mud. All I really want to do is lie down and watch bad TV for hours.
I have many blessings. I have a wonderful supportive husband who also has a demanding career and his family is often there for us in terms of childcare. I have a healthy toddler and my pregnancy has been going great despite being 40 this time around and despite some complications in my first preganancy. Most days, I really like my job although I'm in a bad patch with it right now.
I know someone will suggest counseling and it's certainly something I would be open to if I could figure out a way to fit it in. I also did visit a counselor about 6 months ago and did not get a lot out of it. I'll probably look into grief counseling with hospice after Mom passes to the extent I can manage it with a breastfeeding newborn.
I mostly just need somewhere to say all this to people who probably don't have exactly these circumstances but who understand that having to be primarily responsible for a terminally ill loved one pretty much means you are experiencing a lot in tandem with them while you give up a considerable amount in your own life. Thanks for listening.