News of breast cancer knocked on my door in the coldest season of the year. It rang in shouts of cheerlessness in the months where there is no life. Learning about my mom's impending surgery to remove her adrenal glands for possible healing, cut my freshman year of college short. Christmas decorations were barely retired as our family celebration turned colder than the stillness after a new fallen snow. She was too young to succumb. We were too young for her to expire.
Months of chemotherapy only prolonged her suffering. I enrolled my six-year-old sister in grade school. We cried. We prayed. We watched our mom's illness stretch into the depths of death. In her last hours, she apologized.
"Take good care of your little sister. Care for her as I would do and have cared for you."
"Don't talk like that. They'll cure you. You are my miracle. Don't give up."
She closed her eyes on December 13, 1964, and met Jesus face to face. She left us wondering what tomorrow would bring, but she finally wore peace on her face.
We went to the mortuary. Not realizing how death feels, I reached to rub her arm which she enjoyed all those months during her illness in the hospital. I jumped, stepped back in confusion. Her coldness and her stiffness shocked me, stared back at me. It was like touching coals of fire. It hurt my heart more than I ever knew my heart could hurt. This was reality. She was gone.
Me, stepping down from my lifelong dream of earning a college degree, did not keep her alive. The resentment bubbled up inside me, but I knew my rash feelings had to find another heart to occupy. Life was a struggle. It was hard coping and trying to survive Mom's death. I had to keep smiles on my face and heavy sighs out of my voice for my sister's sake. Actually, she coped better than I did. I decided my nursing skills had failed. But then, I never wanted to be a nurse anyway. I realized my college days were over.
As months turned into years, the hole in my heart from Mom's death shrank. The man I married shared the same birth month as she did and they are so much alike. This helped ease the pain which became a dull toothache; sometimes, it even went away. As I matured, I realized she was with her Savior, and I'll join her and Him someday.
Now, forty years later, I find myself in the midst of physical and mental routines again. My spouse has been diagnosed with renal failure and has been on kidney dialysis almost two years. We chose the Peritoneal style where he filters at night while he sleeps. We chose this type of dialysis because it looked easy but the conditioning schedule is nonstop. Some nights the grind overwhelms me, and I remember the broken heart, the helplessness, and watching a loved one go through agony, anguish and suffering. The pain is fresh and new again. I would take this from my husband if I could.
One day at the clinic, the nurse saw my hands. She laughed and said, "Mrs. Meeks, your fingerprints are gone."
"Wow! I hadn't noticed. I just knew the tips of my fingers stay sore and raw." We all laughed. I wondered of her seriousness - that my fingerprints were really gone.
"Yes, they've washed away. That ALCAVIS 50 cleaning solution is strong. Don't get into trouble or you might be in trouble." This became a monthly joke between us.
I use this solution at least twice a day. A large majority of my clothes wear polka dots now, for it fades everything it touches. Infections are common with Peritoneal dialysis but when the solution is used properly and the cleansing process is done correctly, our clouds have a silver lining.
Before dialysis, we attended extensive training sessions and had to pass an exam. During the night, the Cycler fills his body with a Duplex Solution five different times. Each FILL, takes twelve minutes then it DWELLS for an hour and a half. Each DWELL, DRAINS for twenty-four minutes. He is hooked to the machine from ten to eleven hours each night.
We went to cooking classes for twelve months. Carbs, proteins and fats have to be on his plate each meal and snack. What you put in your mouth determines the health you'll have in your golden years. I cook foods each day with onions in them in some capacity. Starches such as rice, potatoes, corn and white bread have to be omitted from his diet. Almonds, olives, and tomatoes have to be added two to three times a week. Each month, we meet with a dietician. As she checks his chart and food, I add or subtract to keep his phosphorus potassium and calcium count steady.
Cooking for him is a full time job. I grow weary from it with the load of ordering all his supplies and keeping infections down from the dialysis. I am learning at my age, to do all things without murmurings and complainants. I talk to God constantly. I ask His help to keep smiles on my face and heavy sighs out of my voice. The cycle is repeating. The record continues to play. My youth is history. I can see my energy level winding down.
The knowledge I've learned in research concerning problems of the human body when the kidneys stop functioning, the Peritoneal care I give my spouse and all that comes my way, still, does not make me want to be a nurse. I've got fifteen years of nursing experience with no degree. I may get to retire soon 'cause my husband is being evaluated to be added to the kidney donor list.
I never wanted to be a nurse. I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to be a singer. I think I'm too old to go on the road. I think I've been in the right place at the right time and fulfilled the needs of loved ones. They would have done the same for me.
Oh happy day!