Thursday, March 6, 2014

Love Always, Michelle

After her last post, Michelle underwent a painful chemo regiment that she ended up having a bad reaction to.  Subsequent scans revealed that once again, in spite of treatment, the tumors on her lungs and liver had continued to grow.  The treatments had made her sick and she had not been able to make a follow-up post.  Then things took a terrible turn for the worst.  Before she passed away, she had asked for us to make a post on her behalf to explain her absence...

     It was just a couple of days before Thanksgiving.  Michelle's sister Klair and our niece Vicktoria had come to visit for the Thanksgiving holiday from North Carolina.  Thank you Barbie for helping to raise the money that made that trip possible [Michelle specifically asked for this to be included in the post].  Michelle was experiencing a bad headache and her pain medicine was not helping.  She began to loose her eyesight, became disorientated, fell down, and was conscious but unresponsive.  She had a seizure in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and second seizure after she arrived at the emergency room.  They performed a brain scan and discovered that the cancer had spread to her brain.  The tumor itself was golf ball size and the swelling around the tumor was extensive.

    They did not expect her to pull through, but she did!  The swelling was brought under control using a steroid and she started taking anti-seizure medication for good measure.  They encouraged us to take hospice, but Michelle was too courageous to go down without a fight.  Hospice was turned down so that she could continue to pursue active treatment.  She began taking radiation in order to shrink the tumor.  This left her weak and caused her to start loosing her hair again.

     About two weeks before Christmas, the swelling came back and we took another ambulance ride to the hospital.  They increased her steroid dose and performed another brain scan.  The tumor had responded to the radiation and shrunk by a couple of millimeters.  Again they pushed for her to accept hospice but, in spite of the edema and always a fighter, she chose to continue her radiation treatments while at the hospital.

     They increased steroid dose, got the swelling back under control, and Michelle recovered in time to come home for Christmas. Our oldest son Keegan had put the tree up for her and decorated it himself.  We had also rearranged the furniture in the living room to accommodate a hospital bed.

We had a good Christmas.

     At this point the high dose steroid regiment had began to take its toll on Michelle's body.  She was losing a lot of weight and she was having trouble eating and drinking.  We called home health for assistance and they sent a nurse to assess her.  It was the morning of January 8th and she appeared to be quite healthy and cognitive.  She told the nurse that she was concerned about her inability to consume sufficient nutrients and fluids and she requested an I.V. and a feeding tube.  He got the I.V. approved almost immediately and it arrived by courier later that evening.  The request for the feeding tube, as it would turn out, did not get approved in time.  

     Overnight her pain began to increase.  Home health and her oncologist pushed again for hospice.  Hospice offers top of the line pain management at the expense of having to discontinue all active treatments including ambulatory service.  Because we needed to get her pain levels under control, we agreed to meet with them.  They arrived at a little after 10am the morning of the 9th but by then it was clear that we were out of time.  As her MIL laid beside her and as I clung to her, she passed away at 10:40am before the consent papers had been signed.  In a way, she had refused hospice one last time.  She had fought to the bitter end and through it all; she never, even for a moment, gave up.

     My plan, at this point, is to make at least one more post.  Michelle had started and published plans for a kitchen makeover last year that was not completed.  It is my intention to complete that makeover and publish the result.  My goal is to have the project completed and published around this time next year.