Having arrived in Vermont on a Saturday had an obvious disadvantage.
There were no doctors around to answer any questions.
During our initial conversation with Mother’s best friend, we agreed that we needed to speak to her oncologist as soon as possible.
We had to know whether Mother was on a life sustaining regimen or at end-of-life care.
This information of course was extremely crucial as we needed to know whether Mother would be returning to her apartment.
If not, then we would have to start dismantling it immediately.
There was also the question of finances and expenses.
We agreed that meeting with the doctor was the first of many hoops that we had to work our way through.
Now, we all know that doctors are not available on weekends.
And so it was agreed that on the following Monday we would make every effort to track down oncologist.
Imagine my pleasant surprise at about 11:00 a.m. on Mother’s Day, when a woman walked into Mother’s room and introduce herself to me as her oncologist.
I immediately stood up and introduced myself as daughter.
Then, I told her that I was very surprised to see her here on a Sunday, and on Mother’s Day no less.
She told me she had come specifically to check on Mother.
It was then that I asked her if we could have a private conversation in the hallway.
Mother was semi-awake and I thought it best for her not to be present as the conversation we were about to have was of a very sensitive nature.
Once in the hallway and after thanking the doctor again for coming in to visit Mother, I told her that I needed information.
Setting all emotions aside, I had to focus on the task and questions at hand.
I asked her what we all needed to know:
“Is Mother on a life sustaining regimen or at end-of-life care?”
She looked at me intently as she quietly gave her answer :
“Yes, she’s definitely on end-of-life care.”
Taking in a deep breath, I let my heart take in her words.
My knees did not buckle.
I didn’t cry.
Then the doctor continued:
“The tumors in her lungs are just too large.”
“How would you like us to proceed?” she then asked me.
I told her that I watched my Father suffer for three weeks in the hospital before he died of liver cancer.
“So, you’ve been through this before?” the doctor asked me.
“Yes,” I answered trying to block the memory.
“I don’t want her to suffer.”
“She won’t suffer,” the doctor then assured me.
At that moment, I recalled a discussion that I had with my Mother regarding her cancer. It was one of many.
She repeatedly told me that she was not afraid to die.
“Really I’m not,” she said. “I’ve had a good life.”
The second memory was one of Mother telling me about her conversation with the oncologist when during an appointment, they discussed Mother’s decision for no chemo and no radiation.
Mother smiled at me she quoted her oncologist:
“Don’t you worry Gerda. We will keep you very comfortable.”
Those two memories helped to sustain me then.
And they still sustain me now.
(photo above is a panoramic view of the Respite House)