My mother is in a lot of pain, but she’s a taaie tante so she doesn’t complain much. Sometimes it’s so bad she can’t sit still, she cries or rocks back and forth hoping to find some eleviation. Over the last ten years her body has been getting rickitier and rickitier, her joints, mostly. The cancer is taking a lot out of her, and she’s aging very quickly, and that’s certainly not helping her problems. She got stereotactical radiology on her lung, which also caused some tears in the muscles of her shoulder as a side-effect and by now the pain is unbearable.
Yesterday, she and I went to the hospital together to talk about the options for pain treatment. My mother says she’s feeling fine, and the cancer doesn’t bother her, but her shoulder is giving her so much pain that she’s eyeing the euthanasia-papers more and more lately. She says that all the medication she’s taking – and it’s a lot – is to get rid of the pain in her shoulder, and it’s not helping anything. The side-effects of the medication are also pretty severe, so if she could find an alternative, get rid of the pain, she’d be so much better off.
There are three options; 1) running an electric current through the two nerve clusters that are giving the most problems, coupled with a shot of steroids to get rid of any possible infections. This will result in a numb arm but usable arm. Problems are that she won’t be able to feel pain, so if she hurts herself she might not notice. 2) Shutting down neural pathways so that her entire arm is not just numb, but also paralysed. My mother doesn’t consider this an option. She’d rather live with the pain, as one of the things she cites on her euthanasia-registration as quality of life is the ability to take care of her own body. It’s a deal-breaker. 3) The same as option number 1, only this time instead of doing it to a nerve cluster, they do it straight on her spine. It’s a very intense operation, during which she has to remain awake in order to give directions to the operating doctor to say whether or not the pain is gone.
We’re going with option number 1 first. Hopefully that’ll do the trick, and even if it only takes away half of the pain my mother experiences at times, it’s going to be such a relief. It’s going to be a relief for everyone; my sister, my brother, anyone who helps her out, because you just want to tear your hair out of your head in frustration because you want to take the pain from her, if only for a little while. It reminds me, in a very geeky way, of the priest spell Shield Other in D&D, where you’re able to half the damage of the one you shield. I would gladly take my mother’s pain if it would give her a moment of respite, even though she would never let me do it, of course.
During the interview with the doctor he asked me if I could add any more information to my mother’s story. I told him the entire story, in chronological order, with all the elements that I thought were important. I told him that she was technically untreatable and that her life-expectancy wasn’t so long by the look of things, and that while she is riding out the last of her days (weeks? months?) she wanted to concentrate on the things that matter to her the most, the people that she’d leave behind, without the encumbrance of that pain, because it would pollute everything. He understood. My mother, suddenly confronted with the reality of the situation, broke down. The second time that happened since this all began. Sorry, mamma.
We walked home together. The air was cold and crisp and the sun was warm, and my mother said she had the energy, and so we walked, meanwhile talking about the things that were on her mind. She talked alot about the relationships she has had with men, her father, my father, my step-father, etc. She told me about the problems she’d had, and the reasons for them, and it struck me that she was so incredibly self-aware, and so open about her flaws and her mistakes, and I felt privileged to listen. God, even though my foot hurt like hell (Kung Fu injury), I didn’t want that walk home to end. I haven’t connected with my mother like that in years, and it was all so comfortable and…fluid.