Multiple Myeloma Strikes Again

I’ve been trying to process the awful news that my dad has multiple myeloma.  We all want to be strong for each other, but this weekend I have been crying quite a bit as my dad gets ready to start chemotherapy.

One of my dearest, closest friends also has multiple myeloma and after seeing what it’s done to her, I just can’t stand this.  Well, she also has other factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and more, but we have had her over every Christmas for years, including since her diagnosis, and watched her as she suffers.  The cancer itself makes her puke her guts out. Add chemo and it’s even worse.  Right now her cancer is “slumbering”, but it doesn’t go into remission.  She and my dad will never hear the words, “You are cancer free.”  You can stop its progress for a while.

This wasn’t a total surprise because abnormal protein showed up in my dad’s blood just like my friend.  It makes your kidneys work extra hard, which makes one exhausted.  The doctor said it could develop into multiple myeloma, but I didn’t think it would happen so soon.  He has to be on a low sodium/low protein diet and this man loves bacon and eggs for breakfast.  It’s the only thing I’ve ever seen him cook besides BBQing some things and making microwaved vegetables.

The unknown is scary.  Maybe he’ll surprise us and the chemo won’t be as bad as we fear?

He’s going to lose his trademark mustache.  I think the last time he shaved it off was when I was 4.  I said, “Daddy!  You took your mustache off!  Put if back on.  Right now!”  His 70th birthday was mustache themed.

There are worse things than losing hair though.  It could cause tingling in his hands, which would affect his guitar playing.  That is his passion.  My dad has a lot of life left in him.  He has kept himself healthy and pretty active.  He has been taking care of his mother multiple times per week and she was recently put on a hospice program. I don’t know when he’ll be able to go over there again, but I’m planning on making weekly visits if possible.

My mom has health problems aggravated by stress. I worry about her just as much as I do my dad.

My parents have done so much for us and gave me and my siblings a pretty wonderful childhood even when they were worried at times about how to make ends meet.  I’m so grateful for them and I need to take care of my health too so I can help them as much as possible.  I have to somehow not become sick with worry myself, which I am prone to.

Humor is my coping mechanism.  I will continue to use it, but it doesn’t mean everything is OK. I just have to stay well and I’ve been trying to get well since around September.  I have mostly recovered from a flare-up, but not quite.

I know I am not alone.  So many families have gone through this.  Please share your thoughts with me.  Also, if you have any good ideas for low sodium/low protein recipes that taste good, I would be grateful to have them.


Dreading Loss

Shortly before Christmas, my grandma was not doing very well.  She lost her appetite and ended up in the hospital because she was very dehydrated.  She hasn’t really wanted to eat ever since she moved from her apartment into the assisted living center.  She didn’t want to leave her room at all and socialize with others because they’re not interesting.  Her mind was still in tact and she still liked to have political discussions or debates (if she could lure you into it).

It was hard enough moving her out of her home she had been in for decades where most of her memories were – where she raised eight children, including three who passed away.  I felt terrible when we had to help her downsize and move into a small apartment.  My grandpa has been gone for over twenty years now and with the good health she has been blessed with, I could see her outliving another one of her children.  That would be devastating to her.

She is being evaluated for hospice care, but my dad feels she just doesn’t want to try anymore.  She has become very weak because she chose not to leave her room except to go to the doctor.  I won’t go into detail, but relationships with her have been strained and I can’t help but wonder if she would continue trying if she felt like many loved ones were excited to see her often and came to visit more.

No one is going to urge her to get up or eat anymore and I respect her decision, but I’m also scared that all she’s doing is bringing on a long, miserable end to her life.  I went to visit her yesterday and she had a meal replacement shake and a glass of milk next to her bed, so she’s eating a little bit.  I have no idea what to expect and I don’t want her to suffer.  I don’t want her to be lonely.  Yesterday she was watching CNN with no sound and later my dad said it’s because she accidentally muted it and can’t figure out how to turn it back on.  Just laying in bed in a dark room at 4pm reading subtitles on CNN.  Alone.

Grandma is basically the only grandparent I ever had any kind of relationship with between my maternal grandmother being missing for over 40 years, my grandpa having a stroke that made it impossible to have a conversation, and my other grandpa not being able to carry on a coherent conversation because of the brain damage he suffered from alcohol.  He was in a nursing home for years, but still managed to find a way to literally drink himself to death.  My grief was more about the relationship we could have had and the fact that he wasn’t leaving a huge void in my life.  I watched him have seizures as he was in a coma all week and all I could think about was how he was a stranger to me.  That is a tragedy – when one’s death doesn’t cause unbearable grief for someone.  I remember my mom coming home and crying, “I didn’t think it would hurt this much.”  Considering her childhood with both of her parents’ alcoholism, abandonment, and becoming a foster child, she didn’t expect to miss him terribly.  She did like her dad though – just not the person he was when he drank.

As difficult as my grandma can be, I know my family is going to miss her and it’s going to hurt more than they realize.  She has many good qualities.  Her mother, on the other hand – her memorial service was horrifying, especially to my husband who didn’t know her.  It was just family because she lived 97 years.  Everyone who got up struggled to say something nice about her.

“She was very determined.”  (aka stubborn and unbending)
“Her house always smelled like coffee.”
“She always had ice cream.”

I kid you not.  Finally her son got up and said, “To be honest, I didn’t really get along with her.”  He broke the ice and one after another, relatives got up to tell stories about my great grandma being selfish, narcissistic, always right, etc.  My dad’s cousin drove her old car and when it broke down, she snapped at her that she was driving it wrong.

This was one of the most depressing experiences of my life and it made me very nervous thinking that maybe these genes had been passed down to me.  I told myself, “If your death doesn’t make your closest relatives feel like they can hardly go on living, then you failed.”

Some people are given a very short time to live.  It’s frustrating to see others given over 90 years to make things right, but they don’t.  And if they did try, I would hope their loved ones would accept the change they’re offering rather than pushing them away.  It’s never too late to change and to try to right your wrongs.  Sadly, that rarely happens.

I’m trying to reach out to her more and encourage her other 23 grandchildren to do the same.