Three weeks ago I put the final touches on a project that has been bothering me for well over a year.
My grandma, while still independent and able to care for herself, was reaching the point where she needed some help. Although my uncle (her son) has retired and lives with her, I could see the warning signs that she needed additional support. Unfortunately, event though I recognized the signs it was a difficult thing for a strong, independent woman to accept.
For the first time, I cursed my new job with its wonderful hours and great paycheck. My once-a-month visits weren’t enough. If it weren’t for my wonderful job, I could probably convince the Bean to uproot the family so we could move in. This wasn’t just any family member. This was my Grandma. I lived with her during my college years. We took road trips together and stayed up late at night, laughing. The two of us nursed my Grandpa during his final weeks of emphysema, taking turns between us with his round-the-clock care until we were finally able to grant him his wish— dying at home. I was 19. Grandma was 73. I imagine it’s a bit like war—it’s not the sort of thing you can go through and not feel a deep, inexplicable bond.
It took several months of dropping hints and wheedling, but I was finally able to get her to agree to some outside help. Thankfully, a close friend of mine who does geriatric care happened to have an opening in her schedule right at that time, and we put the ball in motion. The weekend I went riding was the weekend it all came together— after months of worrying, I was finally going to be able to relax.
Last Wednesday afternoon, just 8 days ago, my grandma went in for some testing. She’d been feeling a little lethargic, and she was retaining a little more fluid than was normal. Her potassium was a little low, but with some extra vitamins, they should be able to bring that back to normal.
The hospital released her on Saturday.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.
They gave her anywhere between one and eight weeks to live.
My family gave the news to the Bean rather than straight to me, hoping he might have some way of making it seem less of a shock to a pregnant, hormonal woman.
He gave me the news in stages, trying to give me a chance to absorb it, but it still felt like someone had punched me in the gut.
One to Eight weeks.
I knew it was coming. It’s inevitable. It will happen to all of us. It’s just…
One to Eight weeks.
I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
I called my family, desperate for some kind of reassurance. She was doing well, just a little tired. No, no, my visit could wait until the next week, especially with my job.
Then came Sunday night’s call.
Maybe I should reconsider waiting until the weekend, my family said in broken voices. In fact, maybe I should probably go up there as soon as possible.
I threw things in a bag and at six the next morning my sister and I made the three hour drive up to Kern County to find a pale, faded version of the grandmother we knew. It hadn’t even been two weeks since I’d last seen her, but the diagnosis suddenly hit home. We stayed with her two days, holding her when she cried, brushing her hair, rubbing lotion on her dry skin.
We snuck out to the funeral home and began the expensive, time-consuming process of death.
She stabilized slightly and we kissed her goodbye on Tuesday, telling her we’d see her this weekend.
We left off what we were both thinking, which was, “I hope.”
One to Eight Weeks.
Screw you, cancer.