Restarting Chemo with an Angry Bladder
Last updated: March 2023
Mom restarted her chemotherapy instillations 2 weeks after the first attempt. The 2-plus hour drive from Manteca to Palo Alto seemed like an eternity. We knew anything could hold us up - traffic, an accident en route, a positive Covid screening at the door. The catastrophic possibilities seemed endless. Still, we had to push forward.
After arriving at the Stanford Cancer Center, we parked in its private lot, and I walked Mom to the doors. This time, we were told I couldn't even wait in the lobby. I would have to wait outside while Mom went in for chemo alone. Again, more solo trauma.
"I know, Mom! When you get your instillation, call me. We can talk while you're waiting if you want."
I hugged and kissed her, and she whisked herself into the cancer center. Due to the large windows, I was able to see her walk the long corridor to Clinic F.
Restarting chemo for bladder cancer
I had just finished using the outdoor port-a-potty when my phone rang. The display read, Mommy Dearest.
"Hi, Mom!" I tried to sound chipper and upbeat, praying the pain in my stomach would disappear.
"Oh, Son, this shit burns!" she exclaimed. I heard the anticipation in her voice.
"Oh, Mom, I'm so sorry. I was hoping it wouldn't be that bad this time," was my pathetic reply.
"I put a timer on my phone. I still have 48 minutes!" she said.
"How long will that make your holding in session?" I asked.
"An hour," she replied. "They said to try for an hour, so I have to do it."
I felt a sense of hope and pride overflowing within me. My warrior Mom was so uncomfortable and scared, but she remained resolute. She wanted her health back.
We talked about this and that until the time was nearing for her to void out the chemo.
"Ooooh, Son! This is torture! And I still have another medicine to hold!"
"Wait, what?" I was under the impression they would instill both meds at once.
"Yup, I have to do another hour," she said. This time, her voice warbled a little. She was upset.
"Call me when you get back with the other medicine, ok?"
Looking out of the window, staring out at her son
Sure enough, after the next medicine was instilled, Mom called me. I had figured out where she sat as she waited, and there was a large window looking into Clinic F. As we talked on the phone, we also looked at each other through the window.
The look on her face broke my heart. She was so afraid and anxious. I think the kind of pain, burning, and discomfort she felt was completely overwhelming for her. It shook her deeply.
Between a few sniffles and choking back tears, Mom and I talked about anything we could. We talked about my financial coaching business, some client conversations I had, my day job, and our family. We especially talked about her beloved Yorkie, Maggie, who was waiting for us at home.
"How much longer on your timer, Mom?"
"20 minutes. Son, I don't think I can hold it."
"Well, Mom, if you can't, you can't. Hold it as long as you can, but don't overdo it. We will be back next week, and we can try again."
A few minutes passed when she suddenly shot up and exclaimed, "Oh, Son! I can't wait. I have to go!" We hung up, and I went to the lobby entrance to wait.
Encouraging my warrior
Mom walked out with her regular, no-nonsense gait. I wondered if this was a good or bad thing.
"I couldn't do the whole hour, Son. It burned too much," she said with a look and sound of defeat.
"Mom, you did amazing! I'm so proud of you. I don't think I would be able to do what you just did," I said.
"Oh, Son! I pray you never, ever have to!"
"Do you want to go straight home?" I asked her.
"No. Let's stop at Brighton," she said.
Finding grace and gratitude
The Stanford Shopping Center has a Brighton store that my Mom has frequented since her last cancer battles. The ladies got to know her well, especially a sweet woman named Deborah. Deborah became something of a bestie for Mom during some rough years. She also encouraged Mom and told her how amazing and strong she was for all she endured.
Mom and Deborah chatted as I looked at some of the gemstone jewelry. We made some purchases and then drove off for lunch at Foster's Freeze in Pleasanton, the same town where she got her BCG instillations. We loved how clean their restrooms were and the yummy burgers and fries. Mom also loved the berry cheesecake shake.
We ate in the car and listened to the 60s XM channel. I just knew we were headed in the right direction.
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