Cara Luke Meet Gertrude!

First post: Aug 27, 2021 Latest post: Sep 20, 2021
As the title holds, my mother and I are very elated to explain who Gertrude is. But first, a little backstory. 

Some of you may have remembered when my mother preferred to be called, "The Granny Nanny." When my husband left for basic training for the Air Force in late November, my mother practically moved in and became my live in nanny. I began my career as a Registered Nurse for Sanford working straight nights. She created fun evenings for my kids, such as having meal plans for each night of the week, random activities to distract them from me leaving, and not to forget the random, MULTIPLE, home catastrophe's we encountered. Every morning I returned home from work to find an exhausted but ecstatic "granny nanny," from whatever chaos our five children would bring to her table. For the record, I am incredibly thankful for my mother and her time, patience, and diligence she demonstrated with my family. 

My mother and I have always had a close relationship via our phones. For most of our adult lives together, one of us is always busy. So both of us would try to update each other regarding our lives at least once a week with a paragraph explaining how things have went. It usually consists of me mentioning how wild and crazy the kids are, her mentioning how many hours she slammed at work, and end the conversation discussing what our evening plans hold. She's usually on her deck basking in the shade with her Golden Retriever, Chloe and I'm usually simmering down with alcohol and video games. 

So as tradition holds, my mother called me on the morning of July 21, 2021 to ask me some medical questions. Not uncommon, but not something we talked about a lot. As she's mentioning her symptoms and explaining to me what she's done so far, both mom and I convinced ourselves that she may be suffering from some sort of impaction/gastrointestinal blockage or her gallbladder was giving her hell. She told me that she had an appointment scheduled for the afternoon, and that she wanted me to come with her. Of course, I did. 

Once we visited with the doctor, he decided he wanted to run some blood tests and take an x-ray of her abdomen to either rule out or diagnosis our problem. Me, being a nurse, knew that an x-ray won't show direct issues with the gallbladder, but we'll play the, "figure out the diagnosis," game. The x-ray resulted inconclusive and it ended up giving us no answers, and her bloodwork was abnormal, but still could've been indicative of gallbladder issues. In fact, I was certain. The primary care physician sent us to the ED to get more comprehensive lab work and scans done to further discover what is truly wrong. 

Of course, once we arrive so does about six other trauma's, so mom and I waited in the waiting room for quite some time. But, once she got back to her room, they began the tedious process of numerous forms of scans and more blood work. Between July 21, 2021 to July 25, 2021, mom was hospitalized, tortured with exams and pokes to discover that she wasn't impacted and she didn't have a gallbladder issue.

Mom has cancer. But not just the, "C word," cancer. A monstrous, relentless, unpredictable cancer. It took us about a week from hearing the words, "malignant," to her final diagnosis. Pancreatic Cancer, Stage IV. The cancer had traumatized the tail of her pancreas, infiltrated her adrenal glands, completely possessed and engulfed her liver, entangled her splenic artery and kissed the bottom of her stomach, and both bases of her lungs. 

Now, that's the part that none of can digest. It still hasn't settled, and we all know that. But, we've made the most of this diagnosis and created a friend out of the monster, which leads me to Gertrude.

One of the side effects of this cancer is called ascites. It is extra fluid that ends up getting stored her in abdominal cavity, surrounding her organs. The liver is responsible for filtering toxins out of our body. Remember, the cancer began with the pancreas, but annihilated her liver. Therefore, her liver doesn't have the capability to manage her fluids correctly anymore. It was one of the first symptoms she noticed (remember, she thought she had a bowel impaction), and prevails to be one of the top symptoms we deal with. So, mom would notice that her belly would get larger. One day, after diagnosis, I visited her out on the lake because she wanted to have a lake day. I asked her how her tummy was doing, and she said, "I'm trying to decide if it's a girl or a boy." As we laugh through the crude humor, I continue on and ask, "well, is it sitting high or low?" When she said high, as she rubbed her belly, we both looked at each other and said, "it's a girl!" As we continued giggling, and continued our crude humor in classic Cara fashion, we decided to call her, Gertrude the Gut Monster and her Ascites Friends.

On a real note, though, the gravity of my mother's diagnosis is a HEAVY one. In fact, as uplifting as my mom can make it, I, as well as many others, are absolutely devastated and shocked by this reality. Pancreatic cancer is notoriously known as, "The Silent Killer," due to its lack of symptoms until it is far too late. My mom (and I) are incredibly aware and understanding that, unfortunately, there is no coming back from this. This cancer, and it's devastating aftermath, is going to be what takes her out of this world with us. With that being openly said, my mother has a couple options as far as Palliative Care goes. Those options are still being discussed and toyed around with right now. Her prognosis, we've got anywhere from, "a couple months," to, "up to 9 months." 

I want to utilize this site to update everyone on the steps we take and the consequences or rejoices we discover along the way. We know we have less than a year with her no matter what we do, so at this point, we want to make it an absolute blast. So, readers, thank you for stopping by, but it's time to wipe the tears, blow the nose, and say, "Congratulations on the baby girl, when should we celebrate?" 

PS - if you would like to connect with my mom, please reach out to me at 605-951-8040. Not only is mom hardly on her phone, but she has exceeded her personal limit of discussing such a nasty diagnosis that reaching out to me will be the quickest avenue to get an update or speak with her and potentially make plans. Kind reminder, she is not sad. She is not depressed. She is ready to P A R T A Y! She grants us permission to do the, "sad shit," when she's gone. So keep that in mind when reaching out!

With love and peace, Kiley