Justin: (copied from letter to cousin Judy)
Mom had a nurse come over a few days ago to check how she’s doing, how she looks at home, how she’s taking her medication, etc. She was here for a long time – more than an hour – and decided that the doctor should see her the next day, too. They both came by and did the same sort of thing together. The funny thing is, while the doc was sitting on the couch Mom pulled the coffee table lid up for him to take notes on. (It’s got a tabletop that comes up on hinges.) He took one look at that and said, “From that, I know you’re doing really well – better than I’d hoped. Most of my patients could never do that,” meaning they’re just not as spry and mobile as Mom is. So that was nice. The day before, the nurse listened to her breathing with a stethoscope and found air moving in the bad lung. The doc confirmed this when he came by. It seems that her “collapsed” lung is no longer collapsed. It’s apparently got about 75% capacity! How is this possible? It collapsed before not because there was anything actually wrong with the lung (aside from the fact that a tumour was growing on the side of it) but because the airway was being blocked by the tumour. And now it wasn’t. It seems the radiation therapy has shrunk the tumour enough to not have it push against the airway.
They went over her medication and decided that the 5mg of morphine was appropriate. What’s it for? Her sore shoulder. She gets horrible pain in her right shoulder 4 or 5 times a day – again from the tumour. It’s pushing against her nerves connected to her shoulder. So the morphine is supposed to help with that pain, but it also has the side effect of stopping her up. Now she’s got one more “thing” to take – a stool softener. She mixes it with water and gulps it down. Of course she’s not impressed about having one more thing to take, so yesterday we went out to buy prunes and beer. (The prunes were for her, the beer for Floyd and I. No, we’re not stopped up – we’re renovating the add-on room, and it’s hard work.) So now she’s on the prune kick.
Let’s see – she gets tired sometimes when she overdoes it all. If she goes slowly, she can last the whole day without much fatigue. But as soon as she starts running around or stands in the same spot for too long, it’s game over. Yah, standing really wears her out for some reason. I assume it’s because she’s gotta use energy, but the body isn’t moving or allowing the blood to be chased around fast enough. Not sure the reason.
I tried acupressure on her several times, and she thinks it helps, but of course it’s only temporary. Temporal pain relief is better than none, but I’m no expert in acupressure, and I can only find half of the points I should. I think it’s also just the human interaction – the touch – that helps with pain management. … I hate that term – pain management. It sounds so clinical. But I guess it is what it is.
Because of the shrinkage of the tumour, one of the questions Mom asked was if it could all go into remission. But both the nurse and the doctor said that, since the cancer has gotten into the lymph systems which travels all around the body, the cancer cannot be stopped. (It’s not like they can take out all the lymph fluid and the nodes.) So remission is not possible. “My job is to let you be the most comfortable … with the time that any of us has left,” the nurse said. The doctor’s words were something to the same affect.