Overwhelmed Again and Again. . .
. . . Often after a mountaintop experience one plunges into the valley. The week after Easter was full of terrific opportunities: renewed energy, projects accomplished around the house, my first time back to COM after an absence of a year. Simply put, I felt like my life was finally resuming. Little did I know that the following week, beginning with the scan trip to Jackson would see that plunge into the valley. But, God has reminded me day after day of His overwhelming Presence, that it is not the circumstance that gets the focus, but the God who is in the midst of the circumstance. I'll bring you up to date.
We arrived at the UMMC Cancer Center at 7:30 a.m., right of time, and started the boring process. On our way up, we kept track of the storms in the northwestern part of the state that were coming our way. While we were anxious to learn the results of our visit, we were more anxious to get finished and on our way home before the storms caught up with us. Things went well, even though I did have to wait an extra hour to see the doctor. I could have written his script: "The scans are stable, so we'll continue with the regimen of two treatments a month." I had my script ready: "Could we possibly reduce the amount of chemo? Could we spread out the time between treatments?" He was ready with the answers. Bottom line: chemo continues indefinitely and I am at peace with that decision.
Instead of enjoying a nice lunch as we usually do, we headed home, stopping only at Sonic for food to eat in the care and got home by 2 p.m. ahead of the storm. About 3 p.m., Tommy texted for me to turn on the Weather Channel that there were live shots of Yazoo City (where I lived and worked 4 yrs. after college) as tornadoes were approaching. For the rest of the afternoon I watched as tornadoes ripped through the rest of the state, crossed into Alabama. Lousiville, MS saw the worst of it, with two tornadoes touching down there. We have Suttle family and I have a friend from high school and her husband who live there. They were not injured, but the hospital where my cousin is on staff received much damage. I monitored storms and prayed until a little after midnight when things were calm enough for local stations to go back to normal programming. I had been awake since 4:15 a.m. and was ready for sleep.
Tuesday was beautiful, but not for long. Molly Maids came to clean--always a happy day--the sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze. Imagine my surprise when I read on FB that Petal Schools were having early dismissal because of impending storms. Gray skies replaced the sunshine, stronger winds replaced the breeze. The bright spot was a clean house left by Molly Maids. The storms of the day before that came within 25-50 miles of us were replaced by more that were approaching from the south and south west. It was another day of monitoring and destruction. We had tornado watches and warnings for several hours, along with flash flood warnings, which we see a lot in this area. I was glad I had bought flood insurance this Spring, even happier it wasn't needed.
It had been a rough couple of days, but nothing compared to what came next. Thursday morning, Tommy appeared at my door with a look of shock on his face. He had received a text from a long time friend telling him of a tragedy that occurred in our Jackson church family. A husband had shot and killed his wife the night before. The couple had been our good friends for years: he was an elder in the church, our eye doctor, a talented musician, a kind, gentle man who was dedicated to his wife and family. (They had three sons, ten grandchildren.) She was the personification of a Southern Lady; gracious, loving, very active in the church as a gifted musician (choir member, Handbell Choir Director, children's choirs, youth musicals) women's ministries, flower committee, grew beautiful roses and shared with everyone, did beautiful needlework, painted, a special friend who was devoted to her husband, their three sons and ten grandchildren and so happy to have three daughters-in-law.
My thoughts and emotions have run the gamut. There is the grief of losing them and the overwhelming grief felt for their family, friends and the church community. Initially, there was shock, disbelief which, in reality, led to the deepest valley of all. You see, the husband had Parkinson's and exhibited many of the same symptoms that Tom did. As I have followed the news stories and read many really hurtful FB comments, I have wanted to react and not respond with the gracious comments made by other friends and family. No, I have experienced outrage at the ignorance and the insensitivity of people. I have revisited the years with Tom and how the disease affected him and wondered about the things I should have done differently.
As long as Tom lived, I was his advocate. It was especially true when it came to medication, the patient's lifeline. The couple of times he was hospitalized and the month he spent in the nursing home a year before his death, it was especially true. Personnel do not know the particulars of every illness of every patient; institutional pharmacies distribute medications at their convenience, not at the specific instructions of the prescribing physician. After a month at the nursing home, I realized that Tom would not survive if he stayed there. Advocacy is vital for PD patients. So, who is my doctor friend's advocate? Is he receiving his meds and in the prescribed way? Thus far, only his attorney has been allowed to see him.
And, what about stress? That was a biggie for Tom. Remembering the things that set him off, how he reacted when I was not with him or when he thought I was in distress of any kind, is painful. I was concerned for his physical decline, the hallucinations, other symptoms, but was most concerned about what stress did to him. He was used to being in charge, most often solving "problems" and then announcing the solution which we should all accept. My health contributed to much of his stress--couldn't be helped. We are all grateful to God for my bonus years that allowed me to care for him.
If the doctor remembers anything, if he wonders why he is alone, how is that stress affecting him? I can only imagine.
I am living proof of the advances in treating ovarian cancer. People seem to know about cancer, even if misconceptions exist. Awareness is present; money is raised for research; resources are abundant.
Not so with Parkinson's! Trembling hands, poor balance, slumped shoulders, expressionless faces seem to characterize the disease. No one talks about the cognitive problems, the hallucinations, the paranoia. Not every symptom affects every patient--part of the problem. Embarrassment of family members, often disguised as protection, serves no purpose. It's time to speak up! I have been reminded by this "too close to home" tragedy that awareness is key. Who better to advocate, to raise awareness than family and friends who have been touched deeply by this terrible disease?
As usual, two little girls have cheered me. One day Meredith came in and said, "Maw Maw, I'm sorry about your friend. But, remember she's in here," as she rested her hand on my heart. Yesterday Elisa, little Miss Chatterbox, was going on about Easter etc. She told me she believed in Santa Claus, but she wasn't so sure about the Easter bunny. In a couple of minutes, she continued: "I know where the Easter bunny lives." Naturally, I ask where. "China." I asked how she knows that. She replies: "Well, my Easter basket had a toy in it that said 'Made in China.'" How's that for logic?
Though I have been overwhelmed by grief, rage, even depression, I am more overwhelmed by God's Presence, His patience when I let the circumstances be the focus. The indefinite regimen of treatments began again yesterday, another way that God reminds me that He is taking care of me at this time, in this place.