On Wednesday, March 13th, 2019, my grandmother woke me up. It was a cool morning, cloudy, and when she woke me up, I thought it was because I hadn’t made breakfast, yet, and she was hungry and tired of waiting. But, “I want eggs.” is not what came out of her mouth. What came out of her mouth would be the beginning of the most jarring two weeks, I’ve ever experienced.
“When are we going home? Is it time to go home? Where are the kids?”
I immediately sent a text to my parents. Something isn’t right. My Dad came over. She didn’t know the year, she knew him, if she thought about it for a few minutes. The day before had been completely normal. She’d gone to bed with a minor mix-up over something, I don’t remember, but it’d been trivial and soon forgotten in the routine of going to bed. The night before, I had cleaned up the house, prepared the kitchen for breakfast, the next morning, and planned for life as we’d come to know it.
That Wednesday, we brought her to my house (I was nomadic, splitting time between my house and my grandmother’s), after a mild panic attack on her part. She was in tears, knowing only that she didn’t want to be at her house, and that she wanted to live with me. But, the confusion continued. Memory slips, losing control of her tongue (spilling syllables and/or words with no real context to the given conversation or no meaning, at all), and an irritability, I hadn’t really seen in her before.
The first thought was stroke. It wasn’t that. A doctor pushed, explaining that in elderly women, this is the presentation of a urinary tract infection. It was. That cleared up. The mental fog did not. She was given a mild dose of something to calm her down, the first night there, but even after the medication wore off, the battle to pull her out of the fog continued. She forgot names, places, dates, everything from her own name and date of birth to the names of her kids, the relationships, everything. It was all there but when she tried to access it, it would get all mixed up.
It was found. The spots on her liver, lungs, and with the right form of CT scan, on her brain. We kept pushing. She kept getting worse. In two weeks, she went from being mildly confused to, I don’t even know. We went from day by day, to hour by hour, now it’s minute by minute wondering who we’re going to get. Music helps. A crowd of people does not.
It was laid out for us, a few days ago. My beloved grandmother was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer and hospice care was recommended. My Dad worked overtime to find her a care facility, paying out of pocket for her stay, and ensuring she received the best possible care with them and with hospice.
That’s where she is, now.
If you’d asked me two weeks ago, I would have said the beginnings of dementia. I did not know brain cancer presented itself like dementia. I did not know it came with the same symptoms. I did not know I’d be sitting on my bed, listening to Zendaya and Zac Efron singing about rewriting the stars, wishing I could do the same for grandmother. I wish I could change it. Wish I could make it better. But, I’m still processing it. I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I’m losing her. In some ways, I’ve already lost her.
On Wednesday, March 13th, my grandmother woke me up.
What would follow would feel like a nightmare.