The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

From the Not As Bad As Some People Got It file

I'm currently breaking in a new bookkeeper at my office. The last one was here just over a year. Her last day was May 22nd. While she and I had our different approaches to things, we got along well and I was truly happy for her when she got an opportunity move into a better position.

Penny had moved to River City from New Orleans after having weathered Hurricane Katrina (and the unspeakable condition of that city in the months following that disaster). To what she thought would be a much better life, I suppose. She is 60 years old, but very much has a joie de vive and a (seemingly) inexhaustible supply of energy. Her husband, of 18 years, is a self-employed handyman and, according to Penny, a work-a-holic. I don't know him well, only having met him on a couple of occasions.

One month ago, as I was battling bronchitis myself, Penny's husband was doing the same. He's a lifetime smoker, so he was having a more difficult time bouncing back from it. So, neither of them was particularly surprised it was so slow going for him.

About a week before she left the company, Penny came in and reported that she'd taken her husband to the doctor (he'd finally given in to her near-constant nagging, I suppose) and they had discovered he had one collapsed lung and fluid filling the other one. While attempting to do whatever they do to drain fluid from a lung, they discovered a mass. Funny to think that "mass" has become such a scary word, huh?

They scheduled an MRI, which he had the next day, and discovered (13) tumors throughout his bronchial tubes, his esophagus and in both lungs. And he was pretty terrified. So was Penny. A biopsy was done, but the doctor advised them that it looked pretty much like cancer. Nearly a week later, that was confirmed. And then updated to "fast growing cancer".

Still battling pneumonia, and now being told that the tumors are also on his lymph nodes, the doctors were rather intimidated on coming up with a treatment plan. Difficult to treat the cancer when he was in such a weakened state from the pneumonia. Impossible to treat the pneumonia as the tumors were directly blocking the entrance to each lung.

While trying to come up with a plan, Penny's husband suffered a major setback and was admitted to the Critical Care Unit at one of our local hospitals. That's been about two and a half weeks ago. He was, at that time, put into a comatose state and hooked up to ventilators and various other equipment. He's been taking iv antibiotics and has had a radiation treatment and several chemo treatments since that time.

The prognosis does not seem too good, though. Moving him from a hospital bed to the area where the radiation is done nearly killed him. So he won't be getting anymore of those treatments until and if he can. In the meantime, the family has been called in and the doctors have begun talking about disconnecting life support on Friday if he shows no improvement by that time.

Best case scenario is that he recovers from the pneumonia and can begin treatment for the terminal cancer that he isn't expected to last more than 18 months from. As if that isn't heartbreaking enough, as a self-employed handyman, Penny's husband only carries major medical insurance. I cannot imagine what the impact is going to be to her financially. With him not working for the last month, and bringing in no income, the funds are stretched pretty thin already.

But, wait, that's not even all of it. One of her husband's brothers came down today from Michigan to see his brother and to help Penny. He and his wife rode their motorcycle directly to the hospital and made it there sometime mid-morning today. After visiting a bit, they headed out to Penny's house to unload their travelling gear and grab a shower and a bite to eat. Unfortunately, it was pouring down rain when they left.

As avid bikers, they dressed in their rain gear and headed out of the parking lot. One block from the hospital, they were t-boned by a car that did not see them. The brother suffered a broken leg, the wife suffered a broken leg, ankle and a crushed foot. They are both currently in the emergency room at the same hospital.

So, the help that Penny had been so grateful to get, to help her through this difficult ordeal, has become one more burden on her already overburdened list.

And did I mention that she started a new job two weeks ago? Her new employers seem to be genuinely trying to work with her through this. I'm glad. Certainly makes you rethink some things in your own life, huh?


Blogger AaA said...

That is pretty terrible to have happen all at once. Don't know what else to say.

6/11/2007 7:32 AM  
Blogger SuperWife said...

Yeah, it's pretty unimaginable. And though it's been dragging on for weeks now, the onset (and graveness of the matter) seems to have come on so quickly and without any real warning. Which is frightening to the rest of us.

The update this morning is showing little hope. There is a meeting with the medical staff to discuss options. Apparently, his heart rate has been more than twice normal for an extended time (a fact I hadn't known) and they are having great difficulty addressing that. Concerns of permanent lung and heart damage, even if they are able to get him through the point where they will begin aggressively treating the cancer are pretty significant.

Penny is simply not ready to give up. Admirable, on the one hand, but heartbreaking to watch.

6/11/2007 10:24 AM  
Blogger Spider Girl said...

I have a friend recently diagnosed with brain cancer. They think it started as melanoma and spread. Whenever I am stressed out (all the time lately!) I try to remember that comparetively, my problems are tiny. It should help put things in perspective, why doesn't that really work though? I mean sometimes it helps but, not as much as I'd like! Its like trying to think of starving kids in Ethiopia to make you feel better about the fact that your ex is an a-hole or something. Should work, but doesnt!!

6/14/2007 4:34 PM  

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