12 June 2011

My Shoulders Aren't That Big

There have been so many things going on in my family, health-wise, which is alternately making me feel stressed and overwhelmed and guilty.

First, there's the situation with my Dad.  He had his fifth (I believe) back surgery on April 25th.  He was supposed to have a very long period of time in the hospital, which was to include his rehab time.  His doctor, before he went in for the surgery, said that he'd be in the hospital at least a month.  So we were all pretty surprised when we found out that he was slated to come home on May 12th.  We questioned the doctors and the rehab folks, but they all said that he was ready.  But he wasn't.

I drove him home that afternoon (after hours of waiting for him to be released because the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing) and he was in a lot of pain.  I had to leave fairly quickly - Dad lives about 75 minutes away from me and I had responsibilities at home.  My sister-in-law and her mom (who rents a room from my Dad) helped get him settled and we expected things to go fairly well.  Unfortunately, I got a call the next evening asking me to come out for the weekend.  Dad was falling again.  And he was very confused and hallucinating.  It was pretty bad.  My sister-in-law had back surgery the same day as my Dad, so she was out of the running to be able to help him out.  The call came as we were on our way home from dinner celebrating Teddy's graduation, so I pretty much packed a bag and headed out.

A weekend ended up being almost a month.  Dad wasn't getting any better and he really couldn't be left alone.  Rich came up with the boys on Sunday (since there was no one at home that could watch them while he was at work) and the boys and I set up camp at Dad's for almost a month.  We found out that some of his problem was that he'd been given too weak of pain meds.  We went to see the back doctor the first week I was there and he prescribed something stronger.  It seemed to help a lot.  At least, the hallucinations are gone.

He'd been getting a bit better while I was there.  He was still confused sometimes, but I was forcing him to get out of bed regularly.  I stood there, sometimes for half an hour, reminding him that he had to get up.  I pushed him to do as much for himself as he could.  I cajoled him into doing the exercises he needed to do to get feeling better.  And for awhile, it seemed to be working.

Then, the weekend before I was supposed to leave, the confusion started getting worse again.  He started falling again.  And, as much as I wanted to be able to help more, I had to leave to come home.  The boys were starting PDO on June 8th and I wasn't going to have them miss that.  Plus, Rich had some things coming up that I needed to be home for (more on that in a little bit).  And, I'll admit it.  I missed my own bed and being able to see my husband every night.  Selfish?  Maybe.  But I wanted to be home.

I haven't been home for a week, and Dad's sliding again.  My sister-in-law (who, along with my brother, nieces and nephews, moved in to help out) has called me several times this week about Dad.  He's getting more confused.  He's not eating.  He's not refusing to get out of bed.  He's not drinking or urinating nearly enough.  And his falls are getting more frequent.  She's keeping me in the loop, in part because he's my Dad, and in part because she wants to know how I can help.

Tonight, she called to let me know that she'll be calling his primary care doctor tomorrow.  With all the things happening with Dad, I think it's a good idea.  The problem is, I'm the only one that can drive him.  My sister-in-law is still healing, my brother has medical issues that keep him from driving, and my sister-in-law's mom doesn't have her TN license yet.  So I need to drive 75 minutes to pick him up, bring him back to Nashville for his appointments, drive him back home, then 75 minutes back to my house.  I'm going to be with Dad, taking him back and forth to doctor's appointments all day on Thursday.  And I hope this is when they can fit in an appointment with his PCP.  Because I don't know if I can do it otherwise.  This week is going to be hell when it comes to scheduling.  Here's a brief look:

Monday: Storytime, 10:30 am
              Vacation Bible School for Teddy, 5:30pm to 8:30pm
Tuesday: Eye doctor's appointment for Teddy, 8:45am
               Vacation Bible School for Teddy, 5:30pm to 8:30pm
Wednesday: PDO for Teddy & Peter, 9am to 2pm
                Therapy appointment for me, 1pm
                Vacation Bible School for Teddy, 5:30pm to 8:30pm
Thursday: Doctor's appointment for Dad, 10:30am
                Doctor's appointment for Dad, 1pm
                Vacation Bible School for Teddy, 5:30pm to 8:30pm
Friday: PDO for Teddy & Peter, 9am to 2pm
           Vacation Bible School for Teddy, 5:30pm to 8:30pm

Rich doesn't have classes to teach or any tutoring this week, but he also doesn't get home until just about 5:30.  And we've got a lot of cleaning to do because my mother-in-law is coming down from NJ on Sunday.  Saturday, we're going out to my Dad's for a combination birthday party for Rich and my sister-in-law's mom, plus Father's Day.  So that'll be busy there.  I've got a lot on my plate this upcoming week and I'm not 100% sure how I'm going to fit everything in.

Add on top of all of this the things going on with Rich medically.

Back in April, Rich went in for a routine colonoscopy.  He had a family history of colon cancer, so they started checking him early, every 5 years.  They found a polyp this time around, but the doctor said it didn't look cancerous to him.  He was wrong.  It was cancerous and there was no healthy cells between the cancer and the end of the polyp.  So they couldn't be sure they removed it all.

This brought us to a surgeon.  He basically told us we had three options: we could do nothing and hope that they'd gotten it all; we could remove a portion of the colon around where the polyp was found; or we could remove the whole colon.  He was pushing for a full removal, because he's seen far too many patients that have come back in a year only to have more cancer further into the colon, and it be far more aggressive.  But it's not an option Rich feels comfortable with.  His family history leads us to believe that, even if the cancer returns, it won't be aggressive.  I'm hoping he's right.

We also found out that Rich has a genetic anomaly that makes gastrointestinal cancers much more likely.  Because of this, we also needed to schedule an upper GI scope as well.  There is the possibility of him having cancer there as well.  He had that done on Friday.  The doctor again found a polyp (this one much, MUCH smaller than the last and in the stomach) and is again sure that it's not cancer.  But it's being biopsied just in case.

The colon surgery is scheduled for a week from Tuesday, June 21st.  They'll be doing the surgery laproscopically, but he'll still be in the hospital for a few days.  Then he'll be home anywhere from a couple weeks to a month in recovery.  He's got 2 weeks of sick and vacation pay left, and short term disability doesn't kick in until after 30 days.  We have a bit in savings, and we're hoping that will help get us through.  But this is why my MIL is coming down.  She's going to help keep an eye on the kids, help keep things running at home while I'm trying to be with Rich as much as possible during his hospital stay.  My nephew will be coming down to help the first week of July - the week that the boys have off of PDO.  I'm definitely going to have some help with this.

But I'm still worried.  Because what if my Dad needs me?  How can I decide between my husband and my father - not that either of them would ask me to make that choice, but with the situation happening with both of them, I can see something coming up where I need to be with both of them at the same time.  And I'm going to end up feeling like shit because I can't be there for both of them.

So... yeah.  This is what's been weighing on my mind lately.  I feel like I need to be Superwoman, but I'm woefully unprepared for the part.  I know that I'll make it through all the health issues in my family, most likely with my sanity intact.  But right now, I'm just feeling a bit strained.