pure unadulterated joy: 2

(The second in a series about my mother)

The emergency room doctors and nurses were kind and concerned in dealing with Joy’s eight day-no poop issue. Some scans were conducted looking for intestinal blockages. When those came back negative, we were sent home but Mom continued to complain of intense back pain. She was having great difficulty walking around her small apartment.

It’s the tumor! Where is the freakin’ hiding tumor?

I was the Nancy Drew of tumors after Mom’s last lung cancer surgery. Isn’t lung cancer one of the most metastasizing cancers? Doesn’t it show up in your brain or your bones…or somewhere? Her beloved brother had died of cancer some years earlier.

The cause of her reoccurring bladder infections? A tumor. Frequent lung and breathing difficulties? More tumors. The cause of her recent back pain? A giant tumor in her spine. How many people do you know who’ve survived lung cancer surgery and who have NOT had a recurrence somewhere else? That’s a highly exclusive club, for sure.

Mainly I was convinced I would again come face to face with another cancerous tumor, because….you see (cringe)…..Joy still smoked. Yes, I know it shattered every retirement home rule. She was gonna light the place up like the 4th of July, smoking while she was on oxygen 24/7! Her smoking felt like death by a thousand cuts to me.

Mom, is grandma smoking? Her apartment smells like cigarettes!

On our weekly Walmart forays, she bought air freshener by the case. I upchuck at the cloying fragrance of lavender clinging over menthol Kool smoke. When did she smoke? How was she not discovered by the retirement home police? Did she think I was an idiot? (you don’t have to answer that one!)

One day the Sprout visited her grandma with me, and she remarked the bathroom smelled smoky. I donned my sleuth hat and entered the bathroom. I opened her shower and the intense odor assaulted me like a smoky bandit. Dammit! She’s smoking in the shower with the shower vent on! I was too upset to do any yelling or pleading that day. I returned the next day and talked with her…too loudly, like always.

Mom…they’re gonna throw you out of the home! Then, where will you go? You can’t live with me….you’ll be a homeless, old deaf woman on oxygen meandering the streets looking for a handout! Please don’t do this…I’ll get you chewing tobacco, more nicorette….anything.

Never knew for sure how she obtained the cigs. She couldn’t drive, so I suspect she bribed a more able-bodied oldster to secure them for her. Maybe some sinister resident who took the bus to the supermarket every Wednesday? Perhaps she bartered with Dulcolax or Poligrip…who the hell knew?

Don’t remember having another conversation on this topic, however I do recall searching her apartment while she was at bridge group. (Sick, I realize. Don’t judge.) Found the pack of cancer sticks concealed in a box stashed in the way back of her desk drawer. I took them out. Don’t know if she smoked ever again, but her large purchases of Glade morphed into grand purchases of Nicorette gum.

For now, Joy was in pain and couldn’t care for herself. Me? Nancy Drew was preparing for battle with the phantom tumor.

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