by Cheryl Lynne
Since my mother started her journey with brain cancer in the middle of January 2010, she has been a patient in three different hospitals; one for diagnosis, one for treatment, and the hospital in our hometown where she worked as a nurse for 38 years. The hometown hospital has made it easier for family members and friends to visit with her and has given her the opportunity to be cared for by the women that she worked with over the years. This is one of the few blessings we have experienced on this difficult journey.
We have met many people along the way. Other women with brain cancers who have shared her room during the diagnosis and treatment aspects of her illness and other women who have suffered from cancer, falls, broken limbs, or surgeries. Some were there for a day, some for a couple of days, and some for a week or more. Other patients on the same floor in other rooms have also been very much a part of this journey. Some of these ladies have passed away now. Others had to give up their homes because they can only get 2 hours of home care a day and that isn’t enough. They have no one able or willing to take them home with them.
My mother's memory is very much intact as to past events but remembering what she had for supper 10 minutes later is beyond her. She is on steroids to prevent brain swelling and it has given her quite an appetite. The meals are very good there, the kitchen staff is a most thoughtful bunch. There were flowers on the tray with pink napkins for Mother’s Day and often some other little gift. We have established a tomato soup ritual, her absolute favorite. I go and make her a cup to enjoy with her supper and I make it just the way she likes it; add a little butter, some pepper and soda biscuits. It may seem a silly thing, but it makes her happy. I must say though that the most popular ladies on the floor are the women volunteers from the Hospital Auxiliary who bring around the snack cart just before 8 pm.
Most days she is up and dressed. She gets outside onto a patio at the back of the hospital on nice days. She enjoys that very much and often has her lunch out there. I notice a big improvement in her when she has been outside for bit of fresh air and sunshine. My father takes her out and usually both of them manage a nap in the shade from the trees that overhang the picnic tables. The floor in the hospital she is in is for Acute Care patients and so far other family members, former neighbors, former classmates, and family members of former classmates have been admitted. For the most part though, they have gone to one of the rooms at the end of the hall. The sadness in the air is palpable at these times. The hall becomes busy with family and friends coming to say their final farewells. Every second is a precious commodity now as they wait for what is coming. There is no denial, no emotional outbursts. There are many faces. The calm, wizened, resigned face of an old farmer who is losing his wife, being the rock for his children and grandchildren. The daughter with her mouth set so it doesn’t tremble, comforting her children. The sister, leaning against the wall, head bowed, hands on her legs, bracing herself for the final moments. No doctor, the doctor is never there. The doctor only seems to come to pronounce the death. The family is gone quickly from the hospital. This seems to be the doctor’s job. Don’t grieve here, move along now. Sometime later, an older man in a gray suit with a kind, kind face comes off the elevator with a gurney. On the gurney is a scarlet body bag. He is the undertaker, come to retrieve the body and take the departed to the funeral home. Funerals are for the living. The deceased has no more worries. Mom died on July 11, 2010.