mellicious: pink manicure (nautilus)
(Written yesterday.)

Remember when I was talking about Buc-ee's? I went to Galveston for a doctor appointment this morning, and on the way back I spotted a new billboard on the freeway - for the Buc-ee's in Madisonville, 138 miles away. It said so on the sign. It didn't say Madisonville, I just happen to know that's where it is. It's sort of hard for me to believe that it's really cost effective to put up a billboard that far away from the destination they're advertising. Do that many people really leave Galveston and drive straight through Houston to Dallas? (which is some 250 miles, so the Buc-ee's is more or less halfway.) I think of most Galveston tourists as being from the Houston area but I know some do come further. (I didn't bring a camera so I don't have photographic evidence for the billboard, but it looked essentially like the one I posted before, anyway.)

I hadn't been to Galveston in a couple of months - there are still pockets of destruction visible but things are back to some semblance of normal, at least, and the tourists are back in force. It's that time of year, though - as a former tourist industry worker, I would say the peak tourist season in Galveston is about July 1st to mid-August. The minute the kids go back to school, it's over. Wanna visit Galveston with the warm weather but without the crowds? Do it after school starts.

The doctor's visit was mostly about prescription refills, so nothing much interesting to report there. Oh, except that I learned that my doctor lives in one of the few areas of Galveston which did not flood, lucky woman. I hadn't seen her in a year, so we had to catch up on the (massive) changes in all of our lives since then. Things at UTMB are edging back towards normal a bit, too.  The office was busier than the last time I went, for sure, and the clinics in general were, too, but still nothing like it used to be. I hear the ER is about to re-open, though, so that will push things back towards normalcy some more. (If you're not entirely getting the connection, it's because the ER is a big driver of admissions and clinic visits and all that stuff. So "getting back to normal" as far as volume of business at UTMB can't really happen at all without it.)
mellicious: pink manicure (me - age 4)
It's not good, as I expected. As a matter of fact, I correctly predicted more or less exactly what the doctor said. The weird thing about brain cancer is, you can see the effects plain as day. Art said she was starting to have trouble distinguishing letters and numbers when they were playing bingo. And her motor skills on her right side were getting worse. So to me that said that the tumor was mostly likely growing again, and I was right. And while the chemo she had after Thanksgiving seemed to help a little, it obviously did not have any really dramatic positive effects, and we already knew that that was pretty much the last-ditch effort as it was. So that means that we are out of options as far as any real treatment is concerned, and it's time for hospice. I thought they might keep her at MDA - I'm pretty sure they do have a hospice wing there - but they brought her back to The Pointe, which is where she has been, and that's probably best for all of us. Particularly Art, who goes to see her every day, and doesn't need the strain of the daily drive up to the Medical Center. The Pointe is only a couple of miles from the house. (Mom's, I mean, which is where Art is still staying.) And apparently what they do is they get the hospice people to come in and do their thing there. I don't think it's like with other kinds of cancer, though, where there's going to be a lot of drugs involved, because having your brain eaten away from inside is apparently not a painful process, at least not so far. And I have no idea how long they expect her to live, even now. Her oncologist has never been one to throw out numbers like that anyway, and I bet Art didn't get any out of him today - or at least if he did, he forgot to tell me. The hospice people will probably have a good idea, once they spend some time with her.

I cried some, but mostly I'm pretty calm. Dragging it out for months on end would be much worse than this. Up until a couple of months ago she was still fighting, and I was proud of her for fighting, but now I think she is done with that and ready to go.
mellicious: pink manicure (Xmas - pink aluminum)
I have started "preparing" for Christmas - that is, the tree is out of the closet and so are the ornaments, and I've addressed a lot of Christmas cards already - but I have no idea what we will be actually doing for Christmas. Last year was like this too. As I said yesterday, for some reason these things always seem to happen around this time of year. Last year my mother spent just about all of December in the rehab hospital (a different one, actually) and apparently this year is going to be about the same. A couple of weeks ago when my mother seemed really out of it, I was thinking that, well, we might just go up to my aunt's for one night and try to have a normal Christmas. But now my mother seems somewhat more herself, so I can't see leaving her in that case. Obviously we're going to have to play it by ear.

Last year we checked my mom out of the rehab hospital for the day, had lunch somewhere (Kelley's? Luby's? I forget) and went back to her house and opened presents. The year before that we went to Austin to my sister's and it was relatively normal on the surface, but we had the prospect of mom's surgery already hanging over our heads, and also Paula already knew that she was about to leave her husband, so things were definitely somewhat strained, although we ended up enjoying that Christmas, for the most part. Then there was the year - which one was that? - that my mother had a radiation treatment on Christmas Eve. (That was her first bout of cancer, which was unrelated to this one. It must've been 2001 or so.) And before that there was the year - 1999, it would've been - that my uncle was in the hospital at Christmas, and died a few days later. Really, it seems like there hasn't been a "normal" Christmas in my family for years and years.

(Later) We went to see my mom this afternoon, and - I'm almost afraid to say these words - she seemed better. Is it too early to think the chemo could be working? The oncologist did say we would see results (or not) fairly quickly, but three days? It may just be the good effects of lots of rehab in the last week, but still. She's moving her right side much better. Lately she hadn't been wanting to move her right arm or leg much at all.

The place she's in is kind of a hoot, and not really in a good way. I mean, it's nice enough, but it's entirely different from the rehab hospital she was in last year (which is just down the road from this one). That one was purely a rehab hospital, and this one is a rehab hospital AND nursing home, and boy, does the difference show. It's probably more noticeable on Saturday afternoon - probably the peak for visitors - when there were rows of little old ladies in wheelchairs parked in the lobby. (Or maybe they're there all the time. I don't know the answer to that one yet.) And some of her neighbors in the 300 hall engaged in a screaming match while we were there. I don't mean they were screaming at each other, either; they seemed to just be randomly screaming. First one and then another, like it was a contest. They didn't seem to have any particular purpose or be in pain or anything - it seemed more like a way to amuse themselves and maybe get some extra attention. Very weird.

 Holidailies gold


Dec. 2nd, 2006 01:17 am
mellicious: Retro Houston Astros logo (Astros - retro)
By way of writing something introductory for Holidailies: since I am always talking about my mother and her brain tumor these days, hey, let me introduce you!

My mother is named Billie. The tumor is called an astrocytoma, which I always thought was a little bit ironic, considering that we live in the Houston area, where the names of all sorts of things start with "astro" - Astrodome, Astroworld (now late and lamented), the Houston Astros, and so forth. And of course all of those names come from the astronauts, who all live generally in my mother's neighborhood, since they train at the Johnson Space Center, less than a mile from her house. That prefix "astro" is all tied up with Houston being "Space City" and all that kind of thing so the connotations for us are usually positive. But not in this case.

Well, anyway, the astrocytoma became part of our lives a little over two years ago now. The first symptom - although nobody figured it out at the time - was that she suddenly lost the hearing in one ear. And I do mean it about suddenly, as in, she was walking through Wal-Mart one day, and poof! it was gone. The doctors were baffled. They did do an MRI at the time, but nothing showed up, and they told her to get another one in six months.

Then, a bit later, came the seizures. These started - naturally - just before she was due to go back in for the six-month MRI. The first diagnosis was a stroke, so at the time, the possibility that it could be a brain tumor rather than a stroke didn't sound so bad. Brain tumors are benign sometimes, after all.

It wasn't benign, although it took an awful long time for anybody to tell us that for sure. It's not an unusual type of cancer, apparently, but up until we got to the big cancer center in Houston, people acted like it was something they'd never seen before. The neurologist who did the initial biopsy sent it off to Harvard to be diagnosed, like he'd never ever seen such a thing before! Finally, my sister made a lot of phone calls and got my mother in to be seen at M.D. Anderson, where they have people on staff who specialize in these kinds of things. (Two years in, I gripe a good bit about M.D. Anderson and their neverending bureaucracy, but they are the #1 or #2 cancer center in the world - depending on who you ask - and they have that reputation for a very good reason. They know their stuff.)

So meet the astrocytoma. It's called a grade 3 astrocytoma in this case - in grade 4 it morphs into another thing altogether, a thing called a glioblastoma, which is very nasty and aggressive and you REALLY don't want that one in your brain. But there was no sign of that. Mom had grade 3, which  isn't any piece of cake, either - it's not as aggressive, but it doesn't just go away, either. It may go dormant for a while, but once it's there, it's there, like a little time-bomb in your brain.

They decided to do surgery even though it was in a delicate part of her brain to mess around with, near her speech center. But the surgeons thought that they could get the bulk of the tumor out without doing serious damage, and they did. She had some problems talking - she said it was God punishing her for talking too much all her life. (Very religious, my mother is. But not in an obnoxious way.)

Then a year ago (I don't know why this stuff always happens in the fall), something new showed up on her MRI. And this time when they did a biopsy, something went wrong. They've never been really clear on what - if they even know. Bone fragments, necrosis, I don't know, but something is interfering with the things that matter. Not just her speech, but her whole right side of her body, as if she had a stroke after all. (Although she didn't; they checked for that.) Things have just gotten worse and worse all year, and I don't know what's going to happen now. My mother's a trooper, though, she just keeps going and never complains. Well, except she was mad that she couldn't come to Thanksgiving dinner with us, as she was in the hospital at the time. Poor thing.

Holidailies gold

Well, crap.

Dec. 1st, 2006 10:03 am
mellicious: pink manicure (fall tree)
I started writing a whole long entry last night about my mother and her brain tumor - I thought well, that can be my welcome to Holidailies since that's at least half of what I write about lately anyway. Then I forgot and left it at home. Maybe I'll go get it at lunch time, because I'm sure not writing it over.

So, if you're a new reader who's wandered over here from the portal, welcome! This journal is in a different place than it's been before but it has the same name and it's still the same me writing it, since 2003. (Which makes this my 4th year doing Holidailies, yike!) I am not one of those people who has been writing on the web forever, obviously. I didn't even discover that such things as web journals existed until about 1999 or 2000. Then in 2001 I started hanging around with The Usual Suspects, a lot of whom are people who have been writing on the web forever - or as long as there's been a web to write on, anyway - and after that it was really only a matter of time. (I probably would have started one sooner, but in 2001 most people were still hand-coding their journals, and I wasn't willing to go that far. I am not an HTML person.)

Let's see, me? I'm in my mid-forties, married, no children. I have a job that pays decent-but-not-great (I'm a secretary) but I have good benefits and I like the atmosphere there. (Or I did until they started all the layoffs this past year, anyway. The atmosphere lately has been a bit strained.) My husband works for the same employer but a completely different department, so we only see each other occasionally at work. It's a big place. My life has lately centered around the aforementioned mother-with-cancer and the attendant family drama. This has not been a really cheery journal to read lately, I warn you. (As if you didn't figure that out from the brain tumor mentioned in the first line.) Things have actually settled down a bit though, and I haven't gotten around to writing about this - my mother had been in the hospital for over a week, but she had a big dose of chemo Wednesday, and yesterday they transferred her to a rehab hospital close to her house. Basically, the oncologist said they will be able to tell after the one dose of chemo whether it's doing any good or not and so they will wait a couple of weeks and evaluate before deciding whether to do any more. But I was encouraged to see that she was getting a little bit stronger in the hospital - I think because they were doing OT and PT every day - and so I'm hopeful that the rehab place will actually do some good. She's been going downhill so fast lately that anything that stops the downhill slide seems like a miracle to me.

Holidailies gold
mellicious: pink manicure (fall leaves orange)
Sigh. I just THOUGHT I was going to get out of Houston to sign papers. Now I have to go give permission for them to do chemotherapy (which apparently consists of a shot every 2 weeks). Then I ALSO have to go to the nursing home. Honestly. Nobody seems to consider that you might have a job to go to.
mellicious: pink manicure (Buffy quote: bad cop)
Have y'all been in a hospital lately and seen these channels on the TV that are like Muzak with pictures? My mother keeps watching them - they have pictures of, you know, flowers and mountains and waterfalls and other "relaxing" things. I was amused to find out that the one at the hospital she's at was called C.A.R.E. - Continuous Ambient Relaxation Environment. Funniest acronym I've seen in ages. (That probably wasn't their intent, was it?)

I am, on the whole, not particularly impressed with M.D. Anderson's patient care. I got mad at them a year ago when they released my mother after her biopsy despite the fact that she could not walk at all. Uh, anybody consider that this might be a problem? Apparently not. M.D. Anderson has really good doctors and they are a good place to go if you have an unusual form of cancer or if you want especially aggressive treatment. But there are a lot of things around there that could stand improvement. They have lots of money to throw around, but the nice lobby with the waterfall and the piano is just window-dressing. It might be better spent in other places.

(In somewhat-related news, I am having that damn needle biopsy in the morning. Y'all cross your fingers for me.)
mellicious: pink manicure (fall leaves orange)
I was intending to write a long entry today but I am tired and sick and grouchy and it's probably best that I just keep this short.

My mom is in the hospital at M.D. Anderson (that's the big cancer hospital in Houston). She is not really any worse than she was, except that they doubled the dose of steroids she's on and now she can't talk coherently at ALL. She seems to understand what you're telling her perfectly well, but when she goes to answer you the wrong words come out. You know how sometimes you mean to say one person's name and you say somebody else's instead? Well, she does that every single time. Like, when she means to say "Art" she says "C.L." instead (that's my dad), and when she means to say my sister's name she says mine, and I decided the other day that she may be messing up "yes" and "no" also. I think tomorrow when I go I'm going to make her nod or shake her head instead, and see where that gets us. I know I'm frustrated and I can just imagine how she must be feeling.

There is a ray of hope - or I'm choosing to take it that way, anyway. They are talking about doing surgery again. I figure if there was no hope at all, they wouldn't be considering it. I will probably have the final say on it, since she can't really tell them and I'm the one with power of attorney, god help me. I am going to ask a LOT of questions before I say yes, I know that. I'm hoping I will be able to tell how mom feels about it, too, even if she can't actually say so. Up to now she has been consistently in favor of the agressive approach. (But look where that's gotten us.)

We ended up having a decent Thanksgiving. We got invited to horn in on somebody else's dinner - one of Art's kids - and we accepted gladly. We were still invited to my aunt's in Bryan, of course, but I just didn't have the energy to go up there. The worst part was that we went to see Mom first, and she wanted to come with us to dinner. I felt so bad leaving her!

I have been sick all week - either a cold or allergies, it's hard to tell. I probably shouldn't even have been going to the hospital at all in that state, but I wasn't sneezing or anything, and I washed my hands a lot. (And how am I going to tell my mom, sorry, I can't come see you, I have a cold?) I think I was choosing to tell myself it was allergies, although the way it's been steadily progressing from runny nose to sneezing to cough all week, I suspect that I was probably wrong about that. Anyway, now I am to the coughing stage and I'm really tired of it. I did stay home and try to rest today but I don't know if it helped that much. I still feel exhausted.

(This was longer than I intended but it all poured out pretty fast. I've written much shorter entries that took much, much longer to write.)
mellicious: pink manicure (umbrellas)
We went to Wal-Mart Thursday and it appeared that the Red Cross had beaten us there. At least, that's what we were theorizing. There weren't a lot of items that were completely gone, but a lot of the staples were visibly depeted - not so much the traditional staples like flour and sugar, but more the kind you would use to cook for a modern-day mob - pancake mix, Zatarain's rice dishes, even pizza. And when we left we saw them wheeling out a huge palette full of stuff. There is a shelter in the Methodist church here so I'm assuming that's where it was going.

Overheard in the ER:
-- Nurse to unknown patient down the hall (I'm guessing it was one of the evacuees, who all seemed to be quite elderly), very patiently: "This is a hospital. I'm your nurse."
-- One nurse telling another how much it sucks to work here. (This is really the reason this entry is friendslocked* because saying that, especially right within hearing distance of a patient, could get her in very much trouble. It was really an extremely inappropriate comment, don't you think?)
-- Apparently a lot of people here are on call to go to Louisiana for Search & Rescue ops. It's interesting that they hadn't (as of Friday) been called out.

Not that this is really going to surprise anybody who knows me, but the worst thing about being in the hospital? No computer. I imagine that I might could've borrowed a laptop from work (after all, it wouldn't even be leaving the premises) but I don't think we run to campus-wide wi-fi just yet, so it wouldn't've done me that much good.

I said I was going to have a rant in me soon, and it came out on paper while I watched the news in the hospital the last couple of days. Check Whys & Wherefores - hopefully I'll manage to get it into the computer soon.

*unlocked long after the fact
mellicious: pink manicure (Default)
Remember the other night when I said, "I gotta quit watching so much CNN"? That may have been a little more true than I knew.

Because, you see, I woke up in the middle of the night that night with chest pains. (All the gory details - more or less - under the cut.) Read more... )
mellicious: pink manicure (fall leaves orange)
Tuesday I slept late again. I think I'm catching up on my sleep deficit from last week. Then we went to lunch with Aunt Betty. She invited us on Monday. We went to Pullman Bay again, but this time we had breakfast (even though it was actually lunchtime by the time we got there). Aunt Betty talked nonstop. She is funny.

We hung around the house for a couple of hours and then we decided to go to the theater downtown and see "National Treasure" - it was fairly dumb, but not bad.Read more... )
mellicious: pink manicure (Default)
8pm - My mom is having surgery right now. She is having a craniotomy - basically, a biopsy of her brain. She had a seizure a week ago. At first they thought she had had a stroke, but it turned out that she didn't.

She couldn't have any food or anything to drink all day - since midnight last night - and they didn't even take her up to surgery until almost 6:30 tonight. That was partly because the neurosurgeon wasn't happy with her MRI and wanted another one (I don't guess you can argue with that!) and then she had to wait for him to finish with another patient. I have about used up all the battery power on my cel phone talking to my sister and my aunt. My sister was here all weekend, but she needed to be back in Austin today so she didn't stay. She left when it was time for Mom to come to the hospital. She said it was really hard to leave, but she did the right thing because unless she was going to stay until tomorrow she wouldn't have gotten to stay long enough for anything to happen anyway. (Austin is about a 4-hour drive from here.)

We asked the neurosurgeon if they would know anything tonight and he said no, absolutely not. He said that they would probably send the sample (or part of it) off to Harvard to be analyzed.

(Later) She got out of surgery at 10:20. Over 2 and a half hours. Jesus. They said it went fine, but I saw her when they wheeled her down the hall a few minutes ago and she didn't look too good. I guess I really shouldn't be surprised at that, though!


mellicious: pink manicure (Default)

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