blurry smile How's Micki Doing?


  Mom's hair, which you can see coming back in above her forehead, has grown back much more since this photo was taken.



  Mom enjoys listening to seminary classmate and friend Classy.



  It may look like Mom's singing to Classy, but I think she was just talking.



  Classy-Mom-Dad conference with balloons keeping watch.



  Photos by Blake.


  By Blake - July 9, 1999

Six months have passed since the week of Mom's initial episode and diagnosis, and without a doubt, the question people have asked me most is, "How's she doing?" We originally decided to create and maintain this site largely to provide responses to that question. I realize, however, that the updates may not always offer a clear answer.

It's a difficult question to answer. Usually, when asked on the phone, my tendency is to respond, "She's doing well," or "She's doing OK." I'm aware that those replies don't do much to inform the concerned caller, but it's tough to know what measures to use. How are her spirits or how is her health? How is she feeling relative to yesterday, or relative to a month ago? Is it fair for me to say she's doing fine if she's spent most of the day in bed? If I say that she's doing well, does that suggest she's experiencing a recovery? Should I use the term "OK" if the tumor is causing her pain, but that pain is under control with medication? Should I report on the current moment, even if her condition can vary day to day? I want to give an accurate picture, but often feel I can't in a brief phone check-in.

I can safely report that Mom's sense of humor has not suffered at all over the six months. Those of you who have visited our Florida home know that we live at the end of a winding one-lane road whose thick flanking vegetation and sparse traffic give a sense of seclusion, though we are in the city. One day, as we drove homewards in the shadow of the trees, Mom sang "The Naughty Lady from Shady Lane," and though the old song wasn't familiar to me, the mischief in her eyes and grin was. After a doctor's visit where a weigh-in showed that Mom had gained back about 5 pounds of the 15 she had lost, she and Dad joked about her getting "tubby." She then began to incorporate some "momma" jokes from the Prairie Home Companion Joke Book into her repertoire:

"Your momma's so fat, when she goes to the movies, she sits next to everybody."
"Your momma's so fat, when she hauls ass, she has to make two trips."
"Your momma's so fat, she has to iron her jeans on the driveway."
Mom then pushed us to capture some of these jokes on the video camera, as you will see in a future update.

Mom remains as sharp as ever with puns and wordplay. The following examples all come from the past two weeks. After a recent fall which resulted in a stress fracture in her upper arm bone, the humerus, Mom was quick to point out the humorous aspects of the situation. When a relative paying a visit reported, "I saw two deer, driving up the driveway," Mom didn't miss a beat before saying, "The deer were driving?" And, just a few days ago, Mom likened an expression I was making to "Meredith eyes," referring to Meredith, my girlfriend of 3.8 years, who has big brown eyes. I asked, "Meredith eyes?" She said "Yes. Are they marital eyes?" Subtle? You be the judge.

Some of her faculties haven't weathered the storm as soundly as has her wit, however. She walks less and less under her own power; for anything beyond a short distance we usually push her in a wheelchair. It's probably been three months since she climbed a flight of stairs. (Of course, this is Florida, land of sprawling new construction, and there are probably plenty of spry people in their primes who have gone months without climbing a flight of stairs.) Some days she doesn't leave her room, and some days, she hardly leaves her bed. (And there are days like Tuesday, where she traveled 1,500 miles between the bed she woke up in and the bed she went to sleep in.) For weeks impaired vision has prevented her from reading. Changes in her appetite, energy, and mobility have meant that she hasn't prepared food for herself more than five times since February.

And in the storm she's been weathering, knowing which weather systems come from the tumor and which come from the treatment has presented a challenge. Ever since the radiation, which started shortly after the biopsy, I've often wondered which symptoms actually resulted directly from the disease. She is currently taking seven medicines, two of which serve to mitigate side effects of their colleagues. I don't want to suggest that the medicines aren't helping, however. When Mom returned from the Northern Progress in May, long distance travel in the near future seemed unlikely. Indeed, the sensitivity of her head to movement meant that even our curvy, slightly bumpy road presented a formidable obstacle to her leaving our property. But Hospice's help and advice have contributed to relieving much of that discomfort, allowing us to make another trip north.

As I said, any inquiry about Mom's condition may find her at a high point or a low point. Recently a relative visited with her in Connecticut during the heat wave in the Northeast, and she was sleepy and unresponsive. Our family grapevine spread news of this visit, and concerned calls came in two days later, on a day when Mom was walking around on her own, impressing us with her vim and vigor. Amid these peaks and valleys, however, there are landmarks that suggest a trend: two visits to the emergency room, our need to bring in a nurse on weekdays, the lack of any MRIs bearing good news, our renting a hospital bed, and Hospice's entrance onto the scene.

After writing the paragraphs above, I realize that perhaps I have come upon a concise answer to the question posed at the top: As best we can tell, Mom is free from real physical discomfort, but she is unable to do a lot of the things she used to do. Though the tumor has shown no signs of reversing its course, her spirits tend to remain, inspiringly, quite high.

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