I'm so glad you're here! "The Art of Life" is where I share my journey as an artist & Momma. It's a place where I hope to encourage other women that they are artists too. In this small little space I seek to share, document, and be reminded of God's wonderful grace, all around us. ....And I would be so happy to have you journey alongside me! So grab a cup of coffee and linger for a while. I hope you leave feeling refreshed.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Three weeks ago today I received a phone call that turned my world upside down. My Mother was having a stroke. And to make matters worse she was 1200 miles away, in Canada.
~~When I first heard the words I couldn't comprehend them. Stroke? My Mother is young. She just turned 50. She's healthy. Stroke? How could that be?
~~There's a beautiful little summer camp called Pleasant Point Lodge that has been in my family for generations. It's located in Kenora, Ontario. My great-grandparents owned it and passed it down to my Grandparents. Now, my parents have taken over operations. They spend the summer in Canada and the winter in Oklahoma and had only been in Canada a few short days when Mother had the stroke. Thankfully my Grandparents (Mother's parents) were also at the camp when it happened.
~~Mother was rushed by ambulance to the nearest town. But the hospital there is small and not equipped to deal with major emergencies. It was there, while doing scans for the stroke, that the doctors discovered a large mass in her uterus. They immediately told her it was cancer and wanted to do surgery right away. We found out later what a terrible idea that was. The hospital wanted to transfer her to a larger Canadian hospital but my Dad and Grandparents worked to get her medi-flighted to the U.S. She was taken to a hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. This happened on Wednesday. My Grandma went with her on the flight and my Dad drove down. Grandpa stayed behind to take over the camp.
~~On Wednesday afternoon, thanks to some dear friends, my brother, sister and I were able to get a flight to Minneapolis. And even though we were standby, we made it with no problems whatsoever. We got a rental car and drove to Duluth to be with Mom, who was in the Intensive Care Unit. By this time she was in a lot of pain.
~~The doctors in Duluth were wonderful, and so caring. Their first priority was to figure out what had caused the stroke. They knew that Mom would need emergency surgery but didn't want to go into surgery without knowing her stroke risk. The days in Duluth were a time of many, many tests and simply sitting with Mom, hoping to give her some comfort. The situation with the mass was getting worse and every day felt like an eternity while we waited for answers.
Even after many tests the doctors were unable to determine whether the mass was cancerous or not and the cause of stroke was still a mystery. This was another worry for them as cancer can cause stroke.
~~By Saturday the 29th the doctors made the decision to transfer Mother to another hospital in a suburb of Minneapolis that had an oncology unit. They wanted her to be able to get the care she needed if the mass was indeed cancerous. Also, the Obgyn/surgeon at this hospital specialized in cases like Mom's. This meant a 3 hour ambulance ride for her.
~~At the new hospital, more testing began. Mom was being seen by an Obgyn, a neurologist and an internalist and each one wanted different tests run. Every day we waited for news.
~~Finally, Mother was cleared for surgery and her procedure was scheduled for Thursday, June the 3rd.
~~The morning of the surgery we were greeted with some news. They had finally discovered the cause of the stroke. Mom carries one gene for for a hereditary blood coagulation disorder. On it's own it most likely wouldn't have caused problems, but combined with everything else it caused the stroke. Finding this was actually good news because her future stroke risk could now be controlled. Also, it gave more hope that the mass would be non-cancerous.
~~The surgery was intense. The longest 3 1/2 hours of my life. We were told that this was a very risky surgery. The mass was very large and meshed into her other organs. Plus there was a big risk of hemorrhaging. Mother was already very low on blood. In the six months prior to the stroke she had slowly been losing blood until she was at less than half the normal amount on the day she had the stroke. And of course, there was still the risk that she could have another stroke during the surgery. So we waited, and we prayed, and we watched the clock.
~~I will never forget the image of Mom's doctor; all smiles with thumbs up as she said, "It's all good!" She was just as happy and relieved as we were! Mother came through her surgery wonderfully and the best news of all was the the mass was non-cancerous!!
~~My brother, sister and I were able to stay another day and a half before flying home. Mom was released from the hospital on Tuesday; two weeks after the stroke. It is going to be a long recovery for her but she is doing so well. I am amazed by her strength! On the stroke side her recovery is very good. She is walking and never lost any memory or speech. She is getting better and better at using her left hand and they expect that with time and therapy it will all come back. My parents went back up to Canada where they plan for her to spend the rest of the summer recovering. Knowing my Dad, he will be very careful to make sure that she rests and doesn't overdo herself.
~~And so, three weeks later I am here at home; trying to make sense of things. I can honestly say that I'm not the same girl I was three weeks ago. I don't mean that in a silly, cliche way. It is the truth. Sitting in the waiting room of the ICU changes you. Hearing stories and meeting people who are going through their own heartaches puts life in sharp perspective. All that waiting gave me plenty of time to think. And I suddenly saw how silly it is to worry about little things. When life strips away everything else, you see clearly what truly matters.
~~At the beginning I will admit; I was clinging to my faith and yet struggling with so many questions. Why there? Why this? Why my Mother? Ask anyone who knows her and they will tell you that she is one of the sweetest, most thoughtful and caring persons you could know. I am so glad to know that our Great God can handle our questions. So I gave them all to Him and waited.
~~And I began to see God work miracles. The numbers of people calling and writing to let us know that they were praying was overwhelming. We felt lifted up by so many friends, family, and even people who didn't know my Mother personally but were touched by her story. My Mother would cry every time we told her of all the people praying. When you are in a situation like that, prayer means more than anything else. And hearing the story of a friend who got down on his knees for the first time in years made her cry even more. Afterwards a friend told me that he felt God's plan included my Mother having an impact here on this earth. And even though it was not in a way that I would have wished, I can see how that is true. I believe God's timing is perfect. I believe he brought her to the right place at the right time. I praise Him for the miracles he worked in her.
~~It was so hard for me to leave Dustin and the girls. I was gone for nearly two weeks. But I am blessed with a wonderful husband. Even though our business was incredibly busy, he somehow managed. And thankfully his family was here to help him. What a blessing it is to have family!
~~For several days after I came home I kept waking up in the middle of the night, thinking I was in the hospital. I came home to a busy, busy time of life. I told Dustin that it feels like I jumped onto a treadmill turned up to full speed. Our business is busy, busy which is wonderful and exactly what we prayed for. And yet I can't get these images out of my head.
My Mother, hooked up to machines, sleeping to avoid the pain.
Nurses with their caring smiles.
Cancer patients, walking down the hall, pushing i.v. poles and wearing kerchiefs on their heads.
I am not the same.