Saturday, July 23, 2005

I just returned from Portland. My arms are not tired; we drove. I spent the last three days with my Mom who was having cancer surgery again.

Two years ago at about this time, my mother's doctors discovered that she had ovarian cancer. They operated. The nature of that kind of cancer is that is fills the peritoneal cavity with hundreds of spoor-like tiny tumors. The surgeon said it looked like someone had sprinkled a hand-full of rice or coarse salt among her organs. They removed all of her reproductive parts (leading me to say good-bye to prospect of ever getting a little brother to help balance out my surplus of sisters). They vacuumed up as many tumors as possible and removed her appendix. They then put her on chemo-therapy to finish off the rest of the tumors.

Because the chemo wiped her out, Mom spent the next six months with my sisters in Alaska. Mom loves my sisters and their families. She loves Alaska. But six months was enough to convince her she's not ready to give up her house, her cat, her stuff, and the freedom to decide when, what, and whether to eat dinner. Having firmly decided to be an independent widow woman, she was diagnosed with a new tumor last winter.

The doctors decided to try chemo first. I decided to try irritability and sulking. By May, it was clear that the chemo was not working. Number three sister came down from Alaska and we went in to talk to the surgeon. She showed us Mom's CAT scans which showed a russet potato sized tumor nuzzled up next to Mom's spleen. Why are tumors always described in terms of food products? No one ever says they removed a tumor the size of a 400 cc piston or two votary candles and a bar of Lifebouy soap. Okay, I'm off subject. Let's see-- potatoes--surgeons-- number three--we're up to summer.

The surgeons wanted Mom to detox from the chemo. That gave her time to go up to Alaska for her only grand-daughter's wedding, and return with sister number one for the surgery. Clever Wife and I went down to Portland for the surgery. The surgery went better than expected. Though large, the tumor wasn't attached to very much. They saved her spleen. There were no other visible tumors. Mom is a tough old babe in good spirits, so she heals well.

As grown ups, we try to treat things like sick parents maturely, or so we think. When my Dad died, one of his friends said, "We shouldn't be surprised when someone dies. We know everyone dies. We should only be surprised when they don't. But even though we're not surprised at the fact of it, we're always shocked at the timing of it. We're always shocked that they died 'right now.'"

The first time they operated, we had no time to digest the shock. "You're Mom has cancer. We're operating next week." We were all still saying, "uh, cancer? Is it bad?" when she was in recovery, sipping morphine and reading the latest Harry Potter. This time we had too much time to think about it.

I've been getting crankier and crankier for the last five months knowing my mother was sick. "How can you ask me to fill out my time card when Mom is sick?" "How can you raise the price of gas when Mom is sick?" "How can you nominate UN ambassadors when Mom is sick?" Doesn't the world have any decency? Don't they know they need to shut down when I'm distracted by the stuff that matters most? When they told us things went better than exoected, Clever Wife and I went back to the hotel for a nap and slept for fourteen hours. I think we were a wee bit wound up.

At least this time, the world had the decency to time the new Harry Potter to go along with Mom's surgery. I took a copy down for sister number one to read to Mom while she heals. She tells me that morphine and Harry Potter are a combination that can't be beat.

Did I miss anything while I was gone?

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