Saturday, May 2, 2009

"I will not go to Houston!"

Mom is quite adamant that she won't be going to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. No one knows why, though we have our guesses: (1) due to continued cognitive impairment, she doesn't fully comprehend her situation, or (2) she understands just fine, but is either in denial or is willfully refusing to consider certain treatment routes.

Personally, I'm betting on (1). Mom's current behavior is remarkably similar to her behavior on April 16, the day we took her to the hospital. On that morning, I witnessed some frightening cognitive changes in Mom, including aphasia and problems with her memory. She was almost entirely passive, sitting in the living room and watching Korean TV. Alarmed at her sudden change and fearful that Mom had suffered a stroke, three of us four guys tried to persuade her off the couch to go to the emergency room. She shook her head and refused with a simple, almost childish, "No. No." When we asked her why, her response was again, "No." Eventually, David lifted Mom to her feet and she stopped resisting. I like to think she was rational enough to realize that she needed help, and that further resistance would have been useless.

Right now, despite marked improvement in her cognitive ability, Mom sits in front of the TV and resists the notion of going to Houston for evaluation. If it were not for my aunt, Mom might not be talking at all, but my aunt never leaves Mom's side, constantly engaging her in conversation in both Korean and English (as is common with long-time Korean residents of their generation). I encourage this. I encourage whatever it takes to keep Mom's mind working. My aunt says Mom's responses continue to be fairly short; I assume that Mom isn't carrying her side of the conversation the way she might have before all this happened.

My brother David is itching to get Mom out of the house. We'd all love to drive her out somewhere beautiful, let her take in some real scenery, but right now, there's so much going on: various appointments (including the hoped-for trip down to Houston), the imminent start of her treatment regimen, and the many callers and visitors who drop off food and offer Mom words of love and encouragement. In interacting with these visitors, Mom often gives them the impression that everything is now fine after the surgery, but the family knows this isn't the case. Why is Mom acting this way? Are we witnessing incomprehension or conscious denial? I'm no psychiatrist; it's hard for me to tell.

I think Mom ought to at least go to Houston and get the consult, even if she ultimately opts to remain in northern Virginia. But Dad seems to think we might try a bit of judo with Mom, letting her have her way right now, keeping her local until a later arrangement can be made to get her to M.D. Anderson.

More later on how all this turns out.

ADDENDUM: Many thanks to our family friends, Dale Molina and Pat Conforti, for visiting. I know it's a long drive for them both. Their visit (and their gifts) made Mom very happy.


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