Saturday, September 24, 2011

Being a Caregiver is Hard Work

The beginning of my story starts about 4 years ago. My husbands mom was diagnosed with cancer. Again. This is the 3rd time. We have been living in Arizona since we got married in 2004 with my MIL still living in Iowa where my husband is from. I am a Stay At Home Mom to our daughter who was 2 at this time. We had been talking for some time about MIL moving out here to be near us and to allow her to spend as much time as she can with our daughter before it’s too late. Sean and I talk to my SIL, Sean’s younger sister and we all come to the conclusion that its time, whether mom is ready or not, we have to get her to move out here with us. Its just not safe for her to be living alone anymore. We discuss treatment options with MIL and her doc’s. Everyone agrees on a course of chemo and re-evaluate after a few months of that. If the chemo is working and MIL is feeling good about continuing with it, then that is what she’ll do. Her biggest concern was that she would not have a good quality of life being on the chemo. We told her that if she tried it and found she was just too sick on the chemo that we would fully support her decision to not fight anymore. This was after all her third battle with cancer. Her first battle with cancer was was 13 years prior and breast cancer. After that it was constant health issues and doctor’s appointments and surgeries. About 10 years after the first cancer, she was diagnosed with sinus cancer. She did the treatment and it went into remission. But we all knew it was only a matter of time before there would be another diagnosis. Then it happened and it was time to start the process of appts and treatments and all that all over again. MIL did 3 rounds of chemo. She met with her oncologist to discuss how it was going and if it was working to shrink the tumors. To all of our dismay, she wanted to quit. Her oncologist supported that decision because the chemo was not working. The tumors were not shrinking. It was now obvious to us that this was it. Just a matter of time at this point. The doctors agreed and said its time to start getting her ready to move in with one of us. It took about a year to convince her to move out here with us but finally we did it.

During this time though we ended up moving into my grandmothers house to help care for her and the house. But that is a whole other blog! In the new house though, we had a space for MIL that would be a nice room for her to have her own space and not have to share the room with anyone or anything. So we bought her ticket and made plans for her to come out in October of 2008. Literally a week and a half before she was to move out here, we got a phone call from her sister saying that she was in the hospital at the University of Iowa and was needing surgery on her brain. Apparently during a routine scan, they found masses and fluid on her brain. Uh oh. This is not good. We called the hospital and spoke with mom, then spoke to her nurse and were filled in on what was happening. We of course had noticed the decline in mom’s speech and memory and those were some of the biggest reasons we pushed to get her moved out here sooner rather than later. Mom ended up being in the hospital for a week, she had tests and surgery to remove some fluid from her brain. SIL ended up flying out from her home in Montana to be with MIL and Sean flew out the day MIL came home from the hospital. There was a lot to be done after all to get her moved out here that weekend. Her doctors gave the ok to fly and said she has maybe 6 months to live. Gave orders to get her into an oncologist within 2 weeks of getting her moved out here and that was that.

A few days later, Sean arrived home with MIL in tow. It was amazing the difference in MIL’s appearance from the last time we had seen her in March of that year to just a few months later in October. She had aged 20 years it seemed. She was a frail little old woman now who could barely walk on her own anymore. Shocking really. The first week she was here was really difficult, it was a constant battle of trying to get her to understand what was happening and why. Reminding her hourly why she was here and that she wasn’t moving back to Iowa, she was going to be living here now. That was hard. It was hard for her and hard for us. It was hard for Sean because he wanted his mom to be the same woman she had been when he was young. We had to do most everything for her. We got her into the oncologist and that was frustrating because we knew that she didn’t want any treatment. She was done. The oncologist wouldn’t write an order for Hospice because he wanted her to fight it. So we went to our family doc with her and he did agree to the Hospice.

We then called Hospice of The Valley and that is the best decision we made.



  1. Wow! what a story?! Your poor MIL and how sad for guys as her family to have to watch her go through all that for the third time. My thoughts are with you and your family. I have all the admiration in the world for caregivers. Both my husbands grandparents were in assisted living facilities and when they passed they were living in an Alzheimer's facility and I have no idea how the caregivers do it. And my grandfather was on Hospice before he passed and they were wonderful to him and my grandma. thanks for sharing such a personal story.

  2. That must be really hard. You and your family seem to be handling it very well. I'm glad you were able to get Hospice help.


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