This has not been an easy piece to write – emotions come to the surface as if they happened yesterday…. A situation that would be bad enough under normal circumstances, but with some controversy in her choice of treatment among “the family” this saga became a little more complicated. Because of It’s length I will post it in two parts….
My Mom’s “cancer life” could be described as Broadway play, expertly produced and directed from the beginning…. Looking back I watch it unfold, time and time again… I say that only because as I was in the middle of it, I feel like everything happened as it was meant to be….
During the years of her treatments, I went with her many times to Colorado Springs… driving her down or going to pick her up and bring her home, or sometimes when we as a family could get away, just to visit. There are many stories of driving in all sorts of weather from downpouring rain to raging snow blizzard, wonderful moments of time to visit with other….or sitting in the waiting room while she took yet another dose of radiation. She reminded me over and over again to just look around at the others who were there and to count our blessings…..
A couple of things she said to me driving in the car are still as fresh in my memory as if she were sitting next to me right now….. There were special songs where she would reach over to turn up the radio, her thoughts on life and love, and her memories of childhood….As depressing as it could be, I loved our trips because we could spend time alone together…
Chemo was relatively new in those days for her type of cancer anyway, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “Standard” treatment for lymphoma was radiation on the new tumors when they appeared… Chemo was kept as the “last reserve” type of treatment and was totally and completely feared by anyone who had to go thru it in those days…..The day came when she had received all the radiation she could have and Chemo was the next treatment of choice….
It wasn’t until 1976 when she started on Chemotherapy….. If I remember right she had several treatments of Methotrexate. It was given intravenously. I’m thinking 4 to 6 in total…. She did not have a “port”…. I don’t remember her being given the option.
Along with this they also prescribed Leucorvorin as an antidote to lessen the effects of the Methotrexate. Leucorvorin was given as a shot and I was instructed by a nurse how to give it.Returning home after her treatment for a certain number of days I had to go to her house and give the shot.
Earlier in that last year Mom was hospitalized to have yet another procedure of some kind…. The day before surgery I was “summoned” to her room…. She had called the motel and just said she needed to talk to me with no one else around, I went immediately. Mom was in a zone I couldn’t quite enter. She gave me a piece of paper and a pen and told me to take notes that she had some things she wanted taken care of….. I did as I as told, puzzled. She needed to talk about if she died… She gave me instructions as to who would do her services, who she wanted to sing, etc…. what she wanted done with certain items, etc. When she was finished she simply said “I know I can trust you to complete all of this and make sure it’s done” I gathered my notes and left. I left like I arrived, feeling puzzled more than anything. I kept the notes she had made me take tucked away in my purse…
Throughout the 4 years of radiation and now facing chemo, “the family” which consisted of her Cousins, brother and sisters, questioned her decision to stick with conventional medicine.One of her cousin’s in Oklahoma had a son who was dealing with the same disease, a young man in his 30’s. His family had decided, due to some acquaintances of theirs, to take a different route and look outside of conventional medicine and into an unproven drug, a holistic type of treatment. They traveled to Mexico several times a year for checkup’s and to purchase of “Laetrile” a drug that many in the 70’s bought into.
The history of Laetrile can be traced back to the mid 1800’s becoming better known by Laetrile’s grandfather in the early 1900’s you can read the entire history of the drug on this website:http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Cancer/laetrile.html
Studied by Dr. Ernst T. Krebs Sr., and his son Ernst Jr. so called the father of laetrile, begin to market this as an anti cancer medicine around 1940….. Dr. Ernesto Contreras, MD of Tijuana Mexico, entered the picture in about 1960. The “Laetrile Movement” ran out of steam following a Supreme Court ruling.Anyone considering an alternative form of cancer treatment should read this drug’s history….
Mom stuck with her doctors in Colorado Springs, even as many in “the family” encouraged her to try the other route.
Later in that year, (1976) following one of her treatments, I went over that afernoon to check on her and she was in bed, …She was in a great deal of pain. I wasn’t sure what to do for her, I needed help as well as her. I called Dad who was at work, he suggested I call her local doctor. I did, he was out of town, his replacement was no help. Mom refused to be hospitalized there.Dad’s brother who lived in town and had a small plane offered to fly her she and I to Colorado Springs the following day….. Dad had to stay and take care of the business, it was their only livelihood and they needed the income….Someone needed to be with her…. I was designated Mom’s caretaker while he handled the store…..
She told to me then that her “cousin” had called and offered to send one of us to Mexico, pay for the plane flights provide a place to stay and pay for the drug. Mom said “What we’re doing now does not seem to be working and if it would make “the family” happy, I am not against giving it a try”… and that Dad agreed. Could you make the trip she asked?
I talked with Jim about it that night and we both agreed that I just needed to do whatever needed to be done in order to support her and Dad and help where I could….. Jim said he could handle the kids and things at home and help Dad as he could however long the trip took.
I was given instructions to call the cousin and do whatever he said. It was decided that as soon as we got her to Colorado Springs and got her settled, I would leave from that airport, meet the cousin’s son’s wife Jan, who would be on the plane from Oklahoma, and we would travel together to their “connections” in California who would keep us at their home and transport us to where I would meet with the infamous “Dr. Contreras” in Tijuana.
Mom had a rough night and my uncle came to the folks house the next morning to take us to our local airport…. Dad came home to help and we loaded her in the car, he set in the front seat, Mom was bedded down in the back seat and I crotched down on the back floorboard to be next to her….. I’ll never forget as we pulled away from the house she ask for help to raise up for what I now know was to take one last look. We got her loaded on the plane, Dad & brother nearly carrying her, and before I knew it we were in the air headed for the Colorado Springs airport…. My uncle had rented a car, he and I got her loaded in that…. Finally we got her to the hospital where they took over…
I had went thru this day completely “blanked out”…. Everything I did seemed automatic…. But my mind was numbed.
Mom was in desperate need of help….. the hospital personnel got pain relief started quickly and put in a call to her doctor.The uncle left Mom and I there, I was on the phone with Dad constantly calling with any news or he calling me to make sure we were doing ok. I just stayed by her side and slept in the hospital that night. None of us realized how bad she was, only she knew. The doctor came in the next morning and simply said it seemed that things had blown up on them and there was not a lot they could do but keep her comfortable.
I called my sis and ask if there was any way she could come and help….or take over the store so Dad could come…. I felt so alone. She and Dad agreed that he needed to be at the store and it would be better if my brother in law could drive Sis to the springs, help us get settled in a motel and put some organization to this whole ordeal. Everything had happened so quickly….. I ask myself what was happening.
Sis arrived we found an old motel not far from the hospitsl.….Dad drove down just a couple of days later. He left their car with us, and his brother flew him back home. Everything was finally falling into a routine. Sis and I would get up early in the mornings and set with her through the day at the hospital.When Dad came which was as often as he could, we would leave and take a break while he was there with her, Mom was not doing any better slipping in and out of consciousness. within a couple of days Dad suggested I call the “cousin”….
With one phone call the plans were made, “the family” was happy that we were accepting their offer. Sis took me to the airport then returned to stay with Mom. Dad and I visited with the doctor before I left…. We told him I was going to Mexico for other medications…. The doctor told us he understood that there were no other options left and if it was him he might do the same thing. I picked the ticket up at the airport where it was waiting on me, boarded the plane and was escorted to first class and seated beside my 2nd cousin’s wife Jan. I was glad to see a familiar face but I was scared to death…. She assured me at once that she had done this many times before, their connections were wonderful people who would take care of us, and we would be fine…I felt that all I could do is go along with the next direction….. I questioned many times where the strength would come from.....
Please continue to "older post" for part II