Almost three years ago, on September 5, 2015, my brother was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. At that time I was caring for my mom and had been for the last 17 years. My brother was treated aggressively for his cancer, he had a colostomy and received chemo for almost a year. He traveled back and forth to San Francisco for treatment. During this time I would travel with my mom to visit my brother, it's the only traveling she would do. For all the holidays, for each birthday, his hers and mine, she wanted to spend with my brother.
Early in 2017, my brother was in partial remission, his chemo treatments were far apart and few between, he was doing well. During this time his wife had a Deep brain stimulation treatment procedure done for Parkinson's disease, they insert rods in the brain to offset the tremors and other side effects of the disease. My sister in laws doctor had performed 3000 of these procedures all with success however my sister in law's procedure was not successful and eventually the procedure was reversed with my sister in law being left legally blind and her parkinsons symptoms worse.
Mid 2017 we lost our mom to complications of living a full and happy life. My mom was 90 years old and I think because my brother was in remission and my sister in law stable, my mom took the opportunity to have a beautiful end of life. My mom passed away on September 7, 2017.
In December my brother found out that his cancer had spread, the treatments he was having were no longer working and once again would start aggressive treatment. The chemo didn't work. My brother chose to forgo aggressive chemo and only go for comfort chemo. The cancer spread more. My brother chose to go back to treatment and was accepted into a clinical trial. He was to receive radiation treatment and chemo pills. He was caring for my sister in law and receiving his chemo. Once the radiation would start he would no longer be able to lift or push which is a must, caring for my sister in law. At the end of April, 2018, 7 months after the loss of my mom, my brother asked if I would caregiver him and my sister in law on the weekends.
At that time I told my brother that I would quit my job if he wanted me to and without really thinking about the impact this would have on me, I agreed to the task. I was really having a hard time being alone on the weekends, I could handle one day alone but the second day was too much. The loss of my mom was really affecting me. I decided that maybe spending the weekends with my brother and sister in law would help me through the grieving process.
Mid May 2018 I started making weekend trips to my brother's house. I work Monday through Friday and after work on Friday I go to my brother's house and stay until Sunday evening. Driving there brings me memories of driving with my mom. Signs that we would see, turn offs we never took but commented about. My mom's presence is so very strong on the drive.
I truly believe I am following the big plan. I know in my heart that this was next.
At my brother's house I am comfortable talking about my mom, talking about things we talked about.
There is an empty wheel chair which sits in the living room. It is a reminder that my mom is there with me.
At this time I really don't know if caring for my brother and sister in law is part of the grieving process or avoiding the grieving process, maybe even preparing for more grieving. I do know that the time out of my house, away from the memories of being home with my mom is helping me to adjust to her physical absence.
My biggest fear right now is the idea of losing my brother so close to losing my mom.
The most important thing is knowing that this grieving while caregiving makes perfect sense in the present moment and that I am finding and being my best self in the process.
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