Monday, May 16, 2016

Chapter Six, Part 2: Waiting for the Magic

If I had to characterize my paternal grandmother in just a few words, I would describe her as tough and fiercely independent.  Apparently, nobody gave her the memo about what the hospice nurse had said on the day after Thanksgiving, and she showcased her tenacity yet again over the weekend by starting to improve in her condition.  By the middle of the following week, she was eating, drinking, and occasionally even giving one-word answers or nodding to respond to yes or no questions she was asked.  So much for the prediction; evidently, they cannot call all of them, and we were grateful that Grandmom was able to get back into her routine at the nursing home.

As the weekend came to a close, those of us from out-of-town left in waves, until just my youngest sister N and my brother and his wife and children were left.  N had to work on Monday, and so my brother volunteered to accompany Mom and Dad to the oncologist’s office that day.  In what was surely a complete surprise to everyone in the family (heh!), I had written out a list of questions and requests to be addressed by the doctor and his staff at the appointment, especially since Dad continued to have a very sore throat and had now developed a hoarse voice and a cough in addition to the headache and fatigue that had been plaguing him.  On my list:  I felt that we needed to have a Case Manager onboard, someone to coordinate between the staff at the Brain Tumor Clinic at Duke and our local oncologist’s office.  I wanted to be sure that none of the recommendations of the Duke doctors was overlooked, including tapering the steroids, scheduling the next round of chemo/Avastin exactly two weeks from the initial dose, and scheduling an MRI one month after the Duke protocol had been started.  I wanted to be sure the payment "issue" had been resolved with regards to the Avastin (it had).  My brother took notes to the side of my list in the Notebook, Dad was given a fresh rotation of prescriptions, and the next round of appointments was set up.  

Part of the rules for during the time that Dad was taking the chemo pill was that he could not drink any alcohol for those five days per month.  In addition, the doctors at Duke had specified that he was only allowed to drink one beer per day on the other days because his liver would already be working overtime filtering out the chemo that was left in his system.  Dad, however, wanted his Foster’s.  He wanted candy too, “just a little piece of chocolate,” as he requested multiple times per day.  The candy we were fairly free with, especially considering that the scale at the oncologist’s office showed that he had lost weight since he’d left rehab, which was a common side effect of the chemo.  We had to come up with an alternate plan for the beer, though.  Dad sometimes seemed to understand why he wasn’t supposed to have it; other times he got angry about it.  At times, he forgot that he’d already had his “one for the day,” and he insisted that we get him another one.  Other times, he looked at us innocently and said, “What’s it going to hurt to have just a couple of beers?” which was a point I found it really hard to argue with.

But we didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize the magic that we were waiting for, the improvements that we had been promised were just around the corner for Dad at Duke and at the appointment with the oncologist this week.  And so … we faked him out improvised … we stocked the fridge with non-alcoholic beer.  Dad loved feeling like he was in cahoots with one of us when whoever was playing the good guy that day told him we were sneaking him a second one for the day; he savored each sip of the amber-colored Dream in a Plastic Cup (he spilled things so often due to the poor sensation in his dominant hand that we didn’t dare give him a whole can or – even worse – a bottle to drink from!).  Despite the headache and the rest of it, he was pretty happy, and we were happy knowing that he was pretty happy as the waiting for the Magic continued.   

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