Friday, December 5, 2008


It's April 2002 and I've had colon cancer, the surgery is now over and I have chemo coming up. The doctor said that it would last 22 weeks and I realized that I would not be able to drive the long distance for me to receive the treatments of 5-FU and Luprivorin. I'd have to have someone to take me up and wait while the medicine dripped ever so slowly into my veins and then bring me back home. Mainly it was daughter Shirley who took on the task.

The first two treatments were a breeze and I thought to myself, 'Hey, this isn't bad'. Then it hit. I was so weak I could scarcely pull myself up off the couch. Elbert was ever present, ever worried and yet he could not nothing to help me, except take me by the hand and lead me for small walks.

We missed church a lot. I couldn't drive and Elbert shouldn't. Twice he had gone to church by himself and gotten lost, taking over an hour to make it back home. Trips like that would have to be curtailed until I was able to get behind the wheel.
One time that we did go, a dear old member, hard of hearing and nearly blind, had talked rather loudly through much of the service. On our way home Elbert was talking about the disruption she'd caused. That sure opened a door for me. Isn't it amazing how doors get opened for us?

Elbert listened while I talked about some of the problems that he had experienced over the last months, rambling throughout a sermon, unable to remember what his text was, forgetting where parts of the service were supposed to be conducted. Our small church was filled with loving friends so they understood but I knew he was not filling his obligations. As I talked his face was filled with disbelief for he had no recollection of anything being amiss. I suggested that perhaps it was time for him to 'retire' from his ministry. He agreed.

Springtime ended and I felt weaker and weaker. I asked Elbert to help out, maybe do a little housework or warm up some leftovers. Everything I asked of Elbert he did not or could not do. I had to get well soon for somebody had to take command of the ship or we were going to sink. By the end of 2002 I had finished my chemo and was recovering from it's effects. We'd survived it and were actually pretty much back to normal.

In years past Elbert and I had performed our specific roles as a couple, parents, homeowners. He went to work, did the gardening, did his beloved foxhunting and took his family to church on Sunday. I was in charge of the housework, taking care of the children and I had my own hobbies that I pursued.

Now things were getting complicated. Elbert was becoming more dependent on me, following me from room to room, asking what I was doing, where I was going, who I was talking to on the telephone, when were we going to eat. At the same time I was having to accept more responsibility. The chemo had put a huge strain on my body, my memory was even affected. I began to question myself. Did I give him his medicine? When was his next doctor appointment? Did I get all the bills paid and the car serviced? The added pressure of having to constantly answer the same old question over and over 'Yes, dear, the oil in the car has been changed'.... 'Don't put that in the garbage, it belongs in here....'I need that phone number so don't throw it away'.....'Don't put my clothes in the washer, I have to do them'... 'Did you wash your hair, brush your teeth, change your clothes?' I so desperately wished that someone else was in charge besides me. The year ended and a new one rolled around but nothing changed. No magical solution to our plight. The new year would be no different and things would continue to get worse.


Linda said...

Latane, You are a very talented writer! The things you have written here will be so helpful to others sharing the Alzheimer's journey. This is some of the best information I have read. Like you, I have been a caregiver for many years. My dad died after a six year battle with cancer in 1991. He and I knew there was something not quite right with my mother at that time. He was so concerned for her future. She died of Alzheimer's in January 2007in a local nursing home after numerous falls and surgeries for broken bones. I was POA, caregiver and the only child to my mom and 3 aunts for nearly 20 years. I only have my 95 year old aunt left. We raised our grandson since birth. Thankfully, the adoption was final 2 years ago. He is nine yrs. old and a delight and a joy!
I am so glad I met you through blogging. I will send my Alzheimer's caregiver friends to visit you. In my opinion, caregivers being able to share and support each other is so important to be able to make it through this journey. Thank you so much!

The Tile Lady said...

This was an excellent post, Mom! You are covering each phase you and Dad went through with such depth, but without overburdening the lets someone know, who may be at that particular phase, what can be expected, and that they aren't the only person who has felt the way they are feeling. You are doing a wonderful job with this! I know it will help a lot of people who read it. Love you!