Last week a new reader messaged me on Twitter and said they’d read my last blog post, and hoped my mom was doing well. I realized I hadn’t followed up here with the rest of the story, so here goes.
Mom died on April 25, 2023.
In the last blog post, her doctors had just discovered lesions on her liver that they assumed were liver cancer. It was; Stage 4 lung cancer metastasized to her liver.
We were in the hospital for a full week after that getting more tests and waiting for an inpatient biospy. The doctors didn’t want us to leave because outpatient biopsies were backed up for weeks, while they could squeeze her in for an inpatient test as soon as they had a cancellation so we just waited and waited until finally one night, in the middle of the night, they took her for the biopsy.
The first week of April, the oncologist talked with us about options including chemotherapy, radiation to try to reduce the size of the two tumors that were actually causing her pain, and even radio frequency ablation to try to stop them from growing so quickly… all with the understanding that it wouldn’t stop the progression.
He said absolute best case with all of that treatment, she would live another six – nine months… but Mom wasn’t a best case. In fact, because of her auto-immune disease, she was a worst case from the start.
Mom was so tired. She didn’t want to take treatment, and I couldn’t blame her. The doctor said she’d probably have two-three months to live, and that we could start palliative care quickly to manage the pain. He set up an appointment for us to meet with them at the first possible appointment early the following week.
A few days later (before the palliative care appt), on Friday night, Mom started complaining of stomach pain again, and had a fever, so we went to the ER. The decision had already been made that she wouldn’t have any further treatment to prolong her life, but she was in pain, and they could help with pain.
The ER oncologist said he thought we needed to move more quickly past palliative and begin hospice care immediately because the cancer was spreading more quickly than expected. We were discharged on Monday to a flurry of activity with a hospital bed delivery, switching out her oxygen tanks, and following up with all of her existing doctors to cancel standing appointments and treatments for her other diseases.
Hospice came to the house later that day with a slew of new medicines, and new instructions for how to take care of her. Mom was still able to talk with us and eat and tell us when she was in pain and knew exactly what was happening. Those were very sad days, as you can imagine.
Fortunately, we only needed very small doses of the medicine for the pain at that point.
But everything happened so fast after that. Hospice said it could still be a few weeks or months before she passed and explained what the deterioration would look like. They were wrong.
By Wednesday, she had lost the ability to walk or move to the bedside commode, and wasn’t coherent. Thursday she stopped eating. I tried again on Friday to offer her something to eat, but she didn’t want it. I let the Hospice nurse know when she came for her daily visit on Friday.
By Saturday, mom still hadn’t eaten, and was her body was starting to jerk. When that would happen, she would sometimes muster the strength to say that it hurt, that it felt “electric.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was having uncontrolled seizures.
I’d already given her all the medicine I was allowed to give her, so I called the nurse to tell her what was happening and ask if I could give her more medicine, and to tell her mom still hadn’t eaten. She said, “I’ll be there in 15 minutes. Your mom is actively dying.”
She wasn’t kidding about getting here fast – I don’t think it was even 15 minutes. And when she got here, she immediately went to the medicine and said, “Put X amount in the dropper while I do this other thing.” I started to do that, but my hands were shaky, and apparently I was going fast enough because she came and took it out of my hands, saying, “I don’t think you understand. She needs this RIGHT NOW.” I know it sounds crazy but she wasn’t being rude; I’m thankful she was here doing what she was doing.
In the midst of quickly giving Mom medicine and checking her vitals, she was on the phone calling doctors and explaining what was happening and setting up 24 hour care to start immediately.
Mom passed away three days later, on a sunny afternoon, here at home in her bed with Bob and I by her side.
And, a special hug for our friends Sharon, Shawn and Kyra who brought Nila to their house after school the day Mom passed. Nila didn’t want to be home when Mom died, or when they came to take her away afterwards. Sharon and Shawn jumping into action so quickly meant she didn’t have to.
It was roughly three weeks from diagnosis to the day she died.
So many people have asked how I’m doing, and if I’m sad. Of course, I am. But mostly, even now a few months later, I feel relieved that she is no longer suffering. Suffering… it was just that. So many years, one insufferable illness after another. It’s hard not to feel happy for her to be free, when the alternative would have been more suffering.
Bob was kind enough to write her obituary for me. He included in it several inside jokes that would have made Mom smile, and acknowledged her aide (Pumpkin), who loved mom dearly, and without whom I personally wouldn’t have been able to manage the last year.
Her obituary will always bring me a bit of joy when I read it.
Melena Brown Obituary
Melena “Mo” Brown (Keechle), 67, of Texas City, TX passed away on April 25 in Columbus, OH. She was born on July 13, 1955 in Waverly, OH and graduated early from Kiser High School in Dayton, OH.
She is survived by her three children Alex (Teri) Keechle, Joe (Natalie) Osborne, and Angie (Robert) Meeker; grandchildren, Brian Osborne, Nila Meeker, Connor Keechle, Tyler Osborne, and Sawyer Keechle; and her siblings Kathy (Ron) Hughes, Bill (Anne) Keechle, Doug (Charlene) Keechle, JD Keechle, Laura Johns and Kerri McHenry.
Mo loved sweet tea, owls, Texas, and Pumpkin. She was a published author. While Mo lived with a rare autoimmune disease called Stiff Person Syndrome, ultimately lung cancer caused her death.
Melena requested her ashes be spread at her happy place, the ocean in Galveston, TX. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Galveston Boys and Girl Club of Texas City, Texas where Mo volunteered: https://southernusa.salvationarmy.org/galveston/galvestonbgc/.