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Hack For More

FINAL WEEK: 03/14/05

by Ed McEneely
Mar 15,2005

 

Hack For More

FINAL WEEK: 03/14/05

I had always sort of figured that I'd manage to keep the column going until Week 52, but life, as they say, had other plans.

About two weeks ago, I discovered that my mother had contracted disseminating histoplasmosis, a sort of fungal disease which is perfectly harmless for ordinary people, and which can be shrugged off like a cold. Unfortunately, my mother had been on immune system supressants to combat rheumatoid arthritis for over a year, and histoplasmosis can be fatal in those cases. Even then, she still should have been fine, because modern medicine has developed three possible chemical treatments for histoplasmosis. Two of them nearly killed her outright; the third has caused one of her kidneys to shut down. She is going into intensive care this week, where they will see what can or can't be done from here.

She is forty-six. I am the oldest of her four children, and apart from a sister at college in Michigan, the only child who lives away from home.

The whole situation is like nothing so much as a nightmare; whenever things seem to be going okay, something new develops: it looked like the final drug would be the answer, but now that her kidney has shut down, it's hard to say. The disease has spread to my mother's bone marrow, lungs, and lymph nodes, which means many of its effects will be similar to leukemia. The only bright spot there is that it could have progressed into her optic nerves, which would have rendered her blind. It has so far not done so.

Most of my free time is spent visiting her now. She takes her medication through a central line, similar to the one my brother used when he had a tumor at the age of two. Then, as now, a single air bubble could kill instantly. There are no takebacks with the heart. When my siblings and my father are away, I help my mom with the infusion. It's pretty nerve-wracking for her. There's a machine that monitors the feed and checks for air bubbles, but it requires vigilance on the part of the operator. For two hours every day, my mom sits next to the device as it pumps chemicals into her; they are killing her almost as efficiently as the disease, but they offer the hope of a reduced regimen of the other, less harsh drugs, if her body can hold out.

I don't know what to say here. I want to thank evryone who took the time to read or comment on the column, even if it was a criticism or an insult; I have always enjoyed reading your comments, even if I wasn't sure exactly how to respond. I certainly never expected that this is what would end the column a little over a year ago, when I first started, but now I find, that after a year, I have nothing else to say.

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