Monday, March 09, 2009

My mother has lived with my sister, who is single, for a little over 20 years. My mom is now 84 years old and her health and strength are slipping, so Patty has increasingly taken on the role of caregiver for our mother. I have tried to help out here and there, but clearly, the largest burden has fallen to her.

The weekend before last, my sister thought she had a migraine headache. She didn’t have a history of them, though she had been having more routine headaches a lot for about the past three months. Over a few days time, the headache didn’t get better, but became much more localized around her eyes. She also found that her balance is off, and fell down at home several times. Once she realized she could not safely go to work (in the deli at Kroger) she called her doctor. He was on vacation, but she was seen by someone else in his office.

My sister has a long history of health problems of her own. In a way, I always believed that was one reason she and my mother living together worked out so well. Mom didn’t feel like she was being a burden because often my sister needed her help, too. I mention that because it explains why she was already the patient of a neurologist.

Jumping forward to spare all the tedious details, an MRI was run that may or may not have shown a spot on her brain; we don’t know because they ran it without color contrast, which is apparently pretty essential in a brain scan. She has been sent to an ophthalmologist, who has determined that her eyes are not the cause of the problem. He said her eyes themselves are fine and he can tell her that there is not an increase of pressure on her brain, as he would have been able to detect that. Her neurologist is waiting for the color contrast version of the MRI to figure out what it tells us about her brain. And Patty is at home, unable to drive and barely able to walk around without falling into a wall.

Thus it is that this morning I drove to Zanesville (a little over an hour’s drive from my home) to take her to one doctor’s appointment and expect to be back there on Wednesday to take my mom to a doctor and on Friday to take Patty to have the MRI done. Unless someone cancels and they can schedule her MRI sooner, or something else changes.

I’m really worried about my sister. She looks very ill. Her eyes have that sunken look people get when they dehydrate, and the left one seems partially closed. She literally cannot walk down a hall without staggering. I also noticed that her short-term memory seemed worse than usual, and she had trouble coming up with the word she wanted as she talked. She reports that when the episodes of headache get bad (which occurs more than once daily now) she often sees flashes of colored light. She is very light sensitive, too.

I hate even putting this fear into words, but I am so afraid that we are dealing with a brain tumor! She is a breast cancer survivor. About ten years later it metastasized into her bones, but they were able to beat it into remission with radiation. It has been about another ten years since then, so I feel like a tumor is not an unreasonable thought.

Of course, she has had a seizure disorder for years, too, which is somewhat of a wildcard. We never really knew what caused that. Whatever it is could be at the root of these episodes, too. And as always in these medical situations, the not-knowing is the very worst part. Without information, we tend to imagine the worst.

The fact that Patty is our mother’s caregiver makes it particularly problematic. Even a few years ago, it wouldn’t have been so dire because they had a circle of close friends like most of us do who would have provided some transportation and support. But in just the last two years, probably, they have been plagued with the deaths and moves to warmer climates of many of their closest neighbors and friends. At this point, they are feeling pretty alone in the city of Zanesville.

It is fortuitous, really, that I am unemployed at this moment and can make frequent trips down there to help them. But they both feel bad about it and I can’t seem to completely convince them to look at it as a blessing of timing. And I suspect that if I stay on this frequent a commuting schedule, I may begin to have trouble seeing the blessing in it, too, after a while. That said, though, I am at the moment very grateful that I am able to be of some help.

I ask my readers to pray for Patty and for the whole family. Prayer makes a difference – and we need it right now!


Anonymous said...


I'm so sorry to hear about Pat's difficulties. I will include her in my prayers.

Deborah W said...

Hey Susan, that "anonymous" is me, Deb Wissner. I haven't quite figured out this "comment" business, I guess:-)