I have been hesitating to give you an update in the life and times of Max and Bernie as it’s been a roller coaster of a ride since the new year. I was excited to start this year because I felt it had to be better than 2021. Smudge Hedgehog went into torpor on the 1st. What this means is that she got cold and stopped eating and drinking. This is not serious unless it lasts for more than one day. When torpor happens, I usually put the hog in the tub which forces them to wake up and run around because it’s a new and strange environment. It helps to get their blood circulating. This time, Skipper, jumped in the tub with Smudge. He loves all the animals not realizing if they are friend or foe. Smudge was not at all bothered. After warming up with exercise, I put her back in the cage and she began eating. Going a day without food and water is okay but I don’t want her to go more than that.
Trouble began when mom, who lives with me, fell at 1am on Thursday, Jan. 13. Since I’m at the other end of the house, I never heard her call for help. She got herself up and to bed but by 3am she was in a lot of pain. This time I heard her calling me. I got her to the bathroom and I got dressed to take her to the hospital but then she couldn’t walk at all. I called for the ambulance. Medics came and then they came and finally by 5am she was transported out of the house in the freezing cold weather. Due to Covid, the hospital was not allowing visitors so I had to wait at home. Around 8am they called and said they did xrays but would need to do better scans. I received a call from the nurse late afternoon and was informed that she had a fractured hip and the scans picked up masses on her ovaries meaning metastatic ovarian cancer. They allowed me to go and visit her while she was in the ER before going up into a room. She received a partial hip replacement on Saturday as the surgeon didn’t think her bones would support pins. I guess they didn’t tell him she was riddled with cancer. That alleviated the hip pain but the cancer pain went out of control and she had a very rough weekend trying to manage her pain. Mom didn’t want to take any opioids for fear of becoming addictive but she had a high pain tolerance and regular pain meds didn’t touch it.
I was allowed to visit on the 18th to discuss a plan of a short rehab at a facility and then to home with Hospice care. By the 23rd it was apparent that she would not be able to rehab as walking was very painful. I think the fall sent the cancer into overdrive. She also stopped eating due to a sore throat which was finally diagnosed as thrush from some of her meds. By time it was caught, she had already gone several days without eating. My last photo with mama was on the 23rd. I believe she put on a brave face for me. I’m crying as I write this.
I got her home on Tuesday 1/25 and she was in a lot of pain. She also had not been sleeping well at the hospital with noisy roommates. The first night being rough for both of us. I decided the next morning to put her on a regular regime of pain meds and late that night she grabbed my hand and said that she felt so much better, that she slept thru the night. I said, no, you slept the whole day. I felt better. But she wasn’t moving except her hands and head. Nor was she eating and not really drinking either. She only sucked on a foam pop after each med. Theo kitty visited her. The other cats were afraid of the hospital bed. Sam stood on her legs and I had to shoo him off. Tigger got up there to say hello but didn’t stay. Theo was the only one that settled down but mom was in and out of lucidity and sometimes she knew he was there but most times not. I was not alone as mom’s first cousin, Jo, came and sat for several hours each day. Mom loved Joanne like a sister. Their mothers were sisters whom both died of cancer. My best friend, Deb, came in the mornings for several hours to help and then again in the evening to help me attend to her. The nurse came a few times the first week. My sisters were not able to travel here to help me and so I had to keep them updated. The Hospice social worker was a gem with a vibrant attitude, and mom saw the chaplain on the 28th.
I surrounded mom with tons of photos and a stuffed black kitty named Tipper which resembled the old girl she lost the other year. The wall in front of her had cards and a cross. I wanted her to feel comfortable, warm and welcomed. I left all the Christmas decor up because we love the lights. As the days progressed she left us little by little and it got harder for her to talk but not before I asked her if she was in pain on the 29th and she said she wasn’t. I exclaimed that I was happy because it was my job to keep her pain free. She said I had a crappy job. She was dying and still had a sense of humor. I burst into laughter and tears. We got a couple inches of snow, so Jo was not able to visit. Then came Sunday and I really thought she would pass on the 30th as she was worsening but no, she hung in there. Monday rolled around and response was minimal. The nurse said it could be any moment, any day and would be back on Tuesday. She stopped totally responding after Jo left that afternoon. Theo visited her and stared at her at 9:06pm. He knew. In my heart, I knew.
February 1st arrived and two nurses showed up (1 in training) and cared for her with a cleansing bath. The Chaplain called and I welcomed his visit. Then Jo showed for hours but mom didn’t respond. That morning a friend from work asked if she could come and pray and that we had been on her mind. I welcomed her to visit around 5:30. Deb stopped by and we saw a cardinal in the tree outside the kitchen window. I hadn’t seen one all winter long. The Hospice social worker thought to pop in to comfort me and mom. They left and Joann from work arrived ten minutes later. As we were standing beside mom talking, I thought I saw her stop breathing and gasped. Joann immediately began praying over her and at 5:47pm on February 1st I watched my beloved mother take her last breath on this earth. Oh my God, the pain! I held her hand, stroked her cheek siting the Lord’s Prayer. She was finally free. I called Deb and Joann left. We made all the calls. Calling my older sister was rough and I asked her to call our little sis as I couldn’t handle it. Deb and I sat there with mom and talked. Theo jumped up on her bed and settled down. He then began staring at the ceiling with wide eyes and mewing. He either saw her spirit or the spirit of all our beloved cats coming to greet her. There’s a photo. By 9pm I was alone with the Hospice nurse and funeral home coming and going along with Deb. It was hard. I felt like a zombie. The whole day was surreal.
Tomorrow is March 1 marking a long sorrowful month. However, I saw a cardinal yesterday (2/27) and I hadn’t seen one since the 1st. I loved the visit. All the Christmas decorations are down. I left the tree up but decorated it with roses and Victorian hearts for Valentine’s Day. She would have loved it. In April, I’ll change it to spring flowers. We love the lights. My heart is still heavy but the days are getting better. You are probably wondering why I’m sharing this most personal time and that’s because you, Max’s followers, our friends have been so kind to us with positive comments. You welcomed Max into your home through our videos. You care for Max and I. It’s only fitting for me to share my story with you. Yes, there are new YouTube videos – Jan 2022 and Valentines 2022.
I haven’t taken many photos of Max in January or February but here are several for you to enjoy. We have had crazy weather of ice, rain, thaw, snow, thaw, snow, and low temps. I can’t keep track of it. Here you’ll see a few photos of the flooding on the 12th and 18th. I’ve also had a visitor to my front yard bird feeder… a big turkey! He also stopped at the perimeter fence to stare at Max on Feb. 7th and returned on the 18th. It is never a dull moment around here! Two more videos – Max Ice Baby and Max Chicken or Fish?
I will try to keep my website/blog with up to date posts from here on out but no promises! ❤