Living With Divorce, Cancer and Despair

Photo For years my daughter Kitty was depressed, sick, was unable to hold a job, lost weight, was practically housebound. At the age of 33, she had chronic pain in her hands, back, knees…

Living With Divorce, Cancer and Despair

Photo

For years my daughter Kitty was depressed, sick, was unable to hold a job, lost weight, was practically housebound. At the age of 33, she had chronic pain in her hands, back, knees and ankles. She had this pounding pain for decades. She hated her life because she felt like she was constantly being abused.

We are a large family with 11 children, and if one child showed signs of depression, it affected the whole family. I have found that it’s not only the pain that causes depression, but just seeing your child in so much pain.

After Kitty lost 200 pounds due to the weight she was lugging around, the day came when I took her back to see her acupuncturist, who found “irritation” in her spine, which meant there was an old injury or inflammation. I don’t know how this doctor, who was 60 and old, got such a diagnosis. I even questioned myself, was this my daughter, was it really injury? I later found out that a few years before, Kitty had been diagnosed with sciatica.

Luckily, we found a specialist who had a different approach to this. I remember seeing him once and begging to get this thing tested. I was not a scientist or doctor, and yet I just knew something was wrong. He took a MRI and found a giant mess of a tumor in her right ankle.

They tried to shave down the tumor in the leg, but it grew back. With surgery and chemotherapy, a big chunk of it was removed, and for years we were lucky. For the next three years, her physical pain could be measured in inches and centimeters. She had headaches, just sitting there, in severe pain, and was on disability from work due to this intense pain. I was unable to handle it and no longer allowed her to do normal things. I have a bad back and legs and things like that, so it was hard for me.

After about a year of this, Kitty suddenly had another MRI that showed no tumor, just bad cartilage in her spine. We still didn’t know what was causing her back pain, and I had to take her back for a third MRI — this time a CT scan. Again we did not find anything sinister, just a mass in her back. It was either all the scans were of the wrong place, or it was buried deep under her body. A biopsy was finally performed. Her cancer was in a spot that had seemed impossible to find in those initial scans.

She got radiation, on top of the chemo she was already on. She had a lymph node removed from her chest, which was supposed to be filled with masses. It was a lifelong battle, and she has been fighting it, against each tumor, for nine years. She was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. It was a long time coming for her, and for me. I had to come to terms with the fact that it was serious.

My son, Charlie, got a package in the mail from us that told us that he had leukemia, too. My other kids were sick of me trying to be there for them.

I found out that one of the doctors said to me that it was worse than them, and they were all diagnosed with kids. He told me he would have it his first day in the hospital. It ended up being the third Monday, and we found out we would need three days in the hospital. Charlie, during his fight, has had a chemotherapy drug called Taxol that was hard to take, and had to take all his lunch from McDonald’s. The hardest part of cancer is going through it for the rest of your life and not being able to be with your kids.

The final curve ball for Kitty was being diagnosed with a form of dementia. It made her lose her voice and was deteriorating her mental capabilities. For about four months she had a walker to help her with limited mobility and was going around with us trying to communicate. She could not walk the walkway without falling. Sometimes it would take her five trips to get around the drive-thru to order her food. I took her to a bunch of hospices in the area and thought she was gone, but she was not.

A friend told me to take my daughter to UCLA and take care of her, but I had my feelings for her. She was all I had left. My niece showed up with me and it is a miracle I kept her alive.

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