Thursday, April 22, 2010

Still on her feet in a state of grace

Ten years ago, I would never have dreamed that my mother would be turning 101 on Monday. Ever since she turned 84, the age my grandmother died, I've been preparing emotionally for my mother's death.
As she entered her 90s she began falling, and then the cellulitis in her feet created the decade-long struggle with lymphedema (which creates swelling and pain), and then the skin cancer surgeries, and then the lymphoma cancer, and subsequent surgeries and radiation, and then the broken coccyx which led her to declare, "I'm done," then the strokes and the migraines that sent her to ER hallucinating, and then more of the same. She developed bone spurs on the bottom of her right foot, as a result of walking wrong, which caused excruciating pain.
But the extraordinary thing about all of this, she stayed on her feet. If she had a stroke, she rehabilitated stronger than before. If she had cancer, she recovered, even when the oncologist had declared her terminal (a few weeks before Christmas five years ago).
Last summer her doctor sent her for tests to determine if she had vascular disease, and then declared her unfit for support hose, which could potentially restrict blood flow. The lymphedema got worse, she fell and broke her foot, and she was confused. We were planning a trip to Nova Scotia. I decided it was finally time to move her to assisted living, thinking this was the final step, which was a logical assumption, given her age of 100.
The assisted living facility nearly killed her, but mom, in spite of their best efforts, stayed on her feet.  When we returned from Nova Scotia we packed her up and moved her back to Orchard Park, the facility in which she has lived for 18 years. We moved her to the main floor, just down the hall from the dining room and the beauty shop to what I call the great-grandmother suite.
The managers and residents welcomed her home.
Since then she has attended memorials for other residents. Yesterday she had me read an obituary to her. The man lived at Orchard Park and used to sit at an adjacent table in the dining room. He was 90. She said, "I never dreamed he'd go before I did."
She was sad when her friend of 17 years, Helen, was moved away to Arizona. And then her favorite managers moved away.
But the strangest thing has happened. Mom's lymphedema was brought under control. Her vascular disease was declared "not all that bad," or words to that effect. The bone in her foot healed. And then, remarkably, a home health nurse who "just happened" to be a foot expert, did ultrasound on her bone spur and it disappeared.
Although she struggles to get up at times (we laugh when I give her a lift from behind)...she's still on her feet, and walking almost comfortably.
But besides all of that, the emotional struggle mom and I have been in for decades, has abated.
Her humor is in tact, and she seems more at peace than I've ever known her to be.
Stan and Annie arrive Friday to help us celebrate her birthday. Jared will come Sunday with his friend, Kiersten, to help celebrate mom's 101 years.
I'm not sure why we've been blessed with it, but we're in a state of grace.


Wendy said...

What an extraordinary story of strength your mother has. Wishing her a wonderful birthday.

martha said...

Yes, extraordinary. Thanks Wendy.