Thursday, August 6, 2020

Cancer: Hospice, Week 3

I'm running hot and cold. Some days, I've got full functionality and can do normal things and feel like an adult, and other days, I'm clutching my stomach and staggering around like I've been junk-punched by a silverback gorilla. The worst days are the ones that start out as normal and end up junk-punched. 

Cathy is still in hospice. I don't want the word "still" to have any undue emphasis, like I'm disappointed. Quite the contrary. Rather, the emphasis should be on "in hospice," meaning, she's not home yet. Yet. 

I'm still trying to find a scenario where she gets to come home. I don't have a solution yet, but I'm working on it. In the meantime, I find that a routine is settling in with us, almost like the schedule of a long-distance trucker. I'm on for three, off four four. But those three are 18 hour days a piece. This is exhausting, and the whole family has been rocked back and forth, up and down, and we are all frazzled. 

I don't want anyone to think that I am not grateful for the assistance; I am. It's been really nice having someone, anyone, in the house when I get home. But I want everyone to know that I am absolutely festooned with feminine energy right now. Covered up, even. I'm pretty sure I've started to ovulate. Everyone's cycle is all linked up, now. Mine, the dog's, everyone. 

I've been sitting on some short takes and little incidents that have stacked up in the last few weeks, and I want to share a few, if only to take my mind off of the grind of the days. 
I had the doctors make an adjustment to the meds they were giving her and Cathy has woken up now. She's not so spacey and disconnected, and I hope this will improve her Quality of Life while she's at the Hospice care center. The NG tube is still in place, and her stomach is being suctioned every two hours. She's drinking food, and pooping. Honestly, if this bowel obstruction hadn't happened, I think we could have jumped into the clinical trial with no problem. I try not to think about that too often. Today is today.

That being said, there's something a little disorienting about the care center. They all wear the same purple scrubs, and they all have masks on, and to make matters worse, there's a LOT of people working there, more than you would expect. Most of the caregivers can be separated into two general groups: middle aged, plump, grandmotherly women with Busy Mom haircuts that call Cathy "honey" and "sweetie" and fuss over her; and taller, younger, willow-thin women with their long straight hair pulled back into a pony tail that all say, "HiiiIIIIIiiiiii..." when they enter the room. I just need a little more to go on, is all. Maybe numbers on the scrubs? The masks? Without a whole face to look at, I am baffled. 

So, the other night, during shift change, a woman walked in, and said "Hello," to me, and I said it back and waited to see if she introduced herself, meaning, "I'm new here," or "I haven't seen you before." But she didn't, so I just assumed I'd seen her previously and now I was supposed to know who it was. My social acumen is suffering greatly with these life-saving masks, I tell you what. 

Cathy, on the other hand...from a morphine fog, drifting off to sleep, she smiles at the nurse and says, "Hi, Nurse's Name Goes Here! How was your vacation?" 

Without missing a beat, they began to discuss the particulars of Nurse Name Goes Here's "staycation," as she labeled it. I just stared. Of course Cathy has made friends with the staff. And of course they are telling her all about their lives. And of course, Cathy can recognize them even as they are covered up like purple health ninjas with only their eyes glinting in the twilight. Because that's Cathy. 

There's a male nurse/helper at the hospice center, a big guy, six foot four, built like an ex-football player. He's very nice, and gentle with Cathy, but with his mask on...from the bridge of the nose to the top of his head...he looks exactly like mid-90's Steven Seagal. 

And so it came to pass one night that the evening shift nurse was checking on Cathy and asked if she needed anything, and Cathy replied, "One of those chocolate shakes," momentarily forgetting that she'd sent the big guy off on a quest to find one about fifteen minutes prior. I interrupted the exchange to tell the nurse that someone was already on that task. 

"Oh? Who?" she asked, a very normal question.

"Now, I should know who this guy was; after all, he wasn't grandmotherly or willowy. But I blanked on his name and blurted out, "Steven Seagal." 

The nurse shot me a look, and I felt really embarrassed until she doubled over with laughter. "I can't unsee it, now!" she said. 

Cathy, from the haze of her meds, patted the nurse on the arm and said, dreamily, "I can't take him anywhere."

Before this is all over, I'm going to get him to say to me, "I'm just a cook."

From our Engagement Photo shoot, from deep within the VCRP years.


Rawvans said...

Ah, I'm bad at names of people I *do* see the whole face off, and Ang is bad at faces... So we make quite a pair together. Also, we've got a vet we really must remember not to call Dr. Ken Tucky, and a doc who, especially when out of his comfort zone, reminds us of Beaker from the Muppets.
I feel you on the hospital shifts - when Ang was in for the long haul, it did wear me out, even though I'd not visit every day. But you know, it is what it is. And it seems that you're not like me - unable to accept help unless practically forced upon me.

jcrawfie said...

See your sense of humour is coming back. Befriend the nurses, they are your new drug dealers. Keep us advised . Tell Cathy we have her back. And know that we have yours. Still sending prayers to Crom, Bhudda, Yahweh, etc. Stay strong!

Adventuresfantastic said...

Thanks for the story. I'm glad you're able to see the humor in things. Prayers are continuing.

And I can never remember my students's names, so you aren't alone.

Jeff Fair said...

Thanks for sharing, Mark. You’re in our prayers!

Martin E. Thomas said...

My brain has reached a level lightning speed that it can forget names AS they're being spoken to me.

DeAnne D. said...

I'm so glad to hear Cathy is doing better. And that you are swaddled in estrogenical tyranny. So awesome. :)

Re names: The older I get, the more grateful I am to be from the southern part of the country, where it's perfectly acceptable for me to refer to everyone as darlin'. Sometimes, sweetheart. Hell, I've called people Hushpuppy, Tumbleweed and Throckmorton. (That is totally my new ukulele band's name) And if one annoys me, it's prefaced by "little", as there's nothing quite as adorably menacing as "Now, you listen here, little darlin'". And I'm really terrible at face memory too, so I mean, I recognize maybe 15 people, and I live with two of them. I've spent the vast majority of my life saying "Oh wow, so good to see you!" and then turning to Deb or Holly and asking "Who was that?" ;) True story.