Yesterday my mother left the Bozeman Deaconess hospital and went to a nursing home. The week before she fell on the way to a radiation appointment. The fall was serious enough to put her back in the hospital. The poor woman has been in and out of hospitals for six months. She has terminal brain cancer and is about half way through her radiation treatments. When her radiation and chemotherapy treatments end the focus will be on keeping her comfortable and pain-free until she dies.
My mother’s mental state is up and down. The tumor started near her speech centers on the left side of her brain. The surgeons managed to remove most of the tumor and the radiation and chemo have kept the remnant in check. Unfortunately, the cancer and surgery have impaired her speech and memory. She cannot reliably recall her birthday or tell us what year it is. Sometimes she cannot recall why she is in the rest home and her sense of time is out of whack. Today she was asking for her own mother: a woman who died six years ago.
People have mixed feelings about losing your mind when you’re close to death. Some say it’s a blessing. It takes away the fear and blunts oppressive anxiety. Others feel it’s a premature death. What’s the point of living if you cannot remember your life? I’ve watched Alzheimer’s drain people from the inside out leaving breathing hulks where sentient beings once dwelled. Brain cancer is faster but it seldom dulls the fear and comes with a menagerie of cognitive deficits. Believe me sudden unexpected death has many benefits.
One thing is clear, don’t expect your golden years to unfurl like some idiotic AARP or Viagra commercial. Forget about banging hotties or gathering around the campfire with a horde of cute grandchildren. You’ll be lucky to get out of bed for bowel movements. Old people smell is a real mixture of loaded adult diapers and stale body odor. Live now — there’s always time for death.