Life gets a little more complicated

Photo: Lorraine Smith smiling at her grandson's wedding
Mom was at Judy's son's wedding in 2009

I thought that I was getting back into a groove, both with this blog and my yoga practice, after the disruption of my father’s death on January 4. But this week, the other shoe feel: my mother (Lorraine Smith) had a stroke and has been hospitalized. Her left side, including arm and leg, has been seriously affected to the point that she can barely get out of the hospital bed with assistance. My daughter, Stephanie, went to check up on her on Tuesday morning and found her asleep in a wheelchair in the kitchen. She immediately that something was wrong with my mother and called the visiting nurse. By the end of the afternoon, there was mob of loved ones, friends and caregivers around her, trying to get the best option for her. My sister, Judy, took her to urgent care at her clinic (Kaiser Permanente) and then to the hospital.

When I was with her last night, she spent a lot of time sleeping and couldn’t carry on a conversation for long. That may just be the body try to heal the damage done to her brain. Today, we had a long session with the support team at Holy Cross Hospital to get a handle on her situation. The team thought there was a good chance that my mother can pull through this crisis because of her tenacity demonstrated in previous illnesses and accidents. We will need to get her into a rehab center as soon as she’s strong enough, and then we have to have a plan to take care of her, either in a nursing home, assisted living or her home.

Photo: couple in the late 1940s
A young minister and his wife smile on the future in 1947

One thing that we discovered last year with her accident (fell while picking up the Sunday paper, fractured pubic bone, shattered elbow, lots of scraps and bruises) is that she has Stage-IV breast cancer. More than 25 years ago, she was diagnosed and underwent surgery to remove the left breast and lymph nodes, radiation and hormone treatment, and rehab. Apparently, the surgeon did not get all the cancer (or it had already spread). Once she was taken off the hormone treatment after 10 years, the cancer probably became active and spread through her body. So the cancer’s been hanging around for 25 years, but has not compromised any vital organs. When she was given an x-ray after her fall, the doctors noticed a shadow in one lung, and determined that the cancer. She was put back on hormone treatment, and the drug has really beaten back the tumors.

So my mother has been battling a lot of things over the past year or so. She’s 91 years old.

I thought that my mother had really done well before the stroke. She soldiered through the events surrounding my father’s death. In recent weeks, she concentrated on getting her papers in order to settle Dad’s estate. She had reduced the number of boxes of files stacked around her living room chair down to a handful.

And what about me?

Like I said, I want to get back to regular yoga classes, to the gym for aerobic training, to a routine that allows me to focus on writing, reading, learning, taking photos. I’ve put on an extra 5-8 pounds since Christmas. Oh yeah, and I want to get in eight hours a day of work so that I can dig myself out from under a huge backlog of work. I am so late on some tasks that it’s embarrassing.

I guess I’m asking for a lot. But what I’m going to have to settle for is managing each day as best I can, responding calmly to the needs of my family, and seeking out quiet moments of mindfulness. And in the evenings, spread out my mat on my study floor and release all the stress of the day. “Grace, ease and balance,” that’s what my yoga practice is about this year.