Wednesday, January 14, 2009

TB or not TB? That is the Question

When our mother quit smoking around Thanksgiving, just a few weeks after her yearly chest x-ray, we suspected the worst (though of course Mom denied it). And when I got back from Ireland a couple of weeks ago, those fears were confirmed: a small malignancy was found on her lung. After 53 years of smoking, this was hardly a surprise. But it was a surprise when doctors removed the upper left lobe of her lung and discovered that she didn't have cancer after all, but rather a "smoldering infection."

Since her surgery just over a week ago, my mother's condition has changed on a daily basis. Last Wednesday they thought it might be tuberculosis. So we all panicked and thought about the TB epidemic that Mom had brought to our neighborhood. Friday they were pretty certain she didn't have TB. So we stopped worrying about Aaron's nagging cough. Saturday she had it again. And now? Probably not.

Mom's still in the hospital, so I'm here in Florida trying to keep her occupied. She should be home later today or tomorrow, and Amy will come down tomorrow so we can both help her out at home. Whether or not Mom has tuberculosis, she did have her chest cracked open and still needs time to recover.

When I first saw Mom in the hospital, I couldn't help but picture myself in her place, my own kids coming to see me. "Did it seem like just yesterday that I was 4?" I asked her, and she smiled and nodded. Everyone always tells me it goes by so fast, one minute they're toddlers and the next they're getting married. Soon, it will seem, instead of getting the call that Molly won't take a bottle, I'll be getting the call that Molly's going into labor.

That scares me a bit, thinking that before I know it, my kids will be helping to care for me rather than the other way around. That Declan and Ronan and Molly will have to carefully coordinate their schedules as Amy and I have done, to come care for me as I recuperate from something. And that in the blink of an eye, I may not be able to care for my kids as I have for so long.

But what encourages me, what keeps me going, is that when I cannot rush to Ronan's side when he breaks his leg in a skiing accident, or when Molly has her appendix out, or when the TB Declan contracted when he was 4 becomes active, when I cannot be there, someone else can. With our combined 8 kids spread across the nation as adults and parents, there will always be someone there to help you when you're down.

And isn't that why we're doing this? To give our kids the support we all so desperately need, to insure that they never, ever have to be alone if they don't want to?