November 4, 2018
My mom, Maggie, came up to visit me. She arrived and went out to lunch, did a little shopping, and then went out to dinner. We watched a movie at home that evening.
The reason for her visit was to go to the doctor’s on Monday for her annual oncologist visit . Fifteen years ago, Maggie was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy. It was a grueling and heart-wrenching process.
She said she would never go through it again.
November 5, 2018
When Maggie arrived at the doctor’s office, after a brief period of time, the oncologist decided he didn’t like what he was seeing. Her potassium was very high, she had a swollen belly, and she was complaining of general fatigue. She had had a “sick stomach” for months and was in pain that she had never told me about.
Based on that, he sent her next door to the emergency room/hospital to get some more tests. In the end, the doctors did a CT scan and discovered that she had tumors on her liver and lungs, as well as blood clots.
While she did make it out of the hospital that day, she stayed in a motel that evening because she was exhausted, upset, hungry, and doesn’t like to drive at night.
Maggie called me that evening and told me she had a tumor in her liver, felt like she might die that night, and that she loved me. She also told me that she was planning to refuse all treatment.
November 6, 2018
Maggie returned home. She asked me to not post anything on social media because she wanted to tell her friends in person.
November 9, 2018
I was able to go down to the beach to see Maggie. I got there an she was called back to the Lincoln City hospital to do another CT scan with contrast to take a look at her veins.
It was an all afternoon event and she ended up with horrible bruising because they couldn’t find a vein and kept sticking her.
She told some of her friends when she went out to her weekly coffee group in the morning.
November 10-11, 2018
Me and Maggie spent the remainder of the weekend making plans and going over some emergency things. She also made it clear that she would refuse all treatment and wanted to die at home. Preferably quickly.
Saturday she told me one of her legs was more swollen than the other, leading me to be concerned about a blood clot. When she finally spoke to the doctor, he said it probably was a blood clot, but that there wasn’t much they could do that they weren’t already doing (i.e. blood thinners.)
November 14-19, 2018
I stupidly listened to Maggie’s words and not my gut and went on a painting workshop. It was fun, but it ended up costing a lot of emotional comfort.
November 19, 2018
Maggie went into the Meridian Park Medical Center (Legacy Hospital in Tualatin) for a “routine” biopsy. She had neighbors take her as this was the day I was returning from my painting workshop.
She did not make it home that day because the doctors didn’t like her blood sugar levels, the fact she had a temperature, or her blood cell count. It was like they realized she was sick. Apparently the oncologist had just put in the order and hadn’t filled anyone in on what to expect.
They decided to keep her in the hospital and treat her with antibiotics for infection and insulin for the high blood sugar (yes, she’s a diabetic.)
November 20, 2018
I was able to drive up to see Maggie. She was in obvious pain, not entirely coherent, and very groggy. Toward midday, she seemed to wake up a little and we were able to talk.
Based on that, I talked to the nurses about that her being in the hospital was the complete opposite of what she wanted. They told me that they would talk to the hospitalist on duty; the hospitalist consulted with the oncologist and see what the situation was.
November 21, 2018
I returned as early as possible on Wednesday. Maggie was noticeably more awake and looking better, though still drifted into sleep without warning.
We hoped to meet with the fully informed doctor. But it was the oncologist who showed up.
He told us that the he was expecting the pathology report (from the biopsy) to reveal that she had lung cancer that had metastasized to her liver. In other words, a completely new cancer. He told us that there were some newer treatments, such as immunotherapy, that were sometimes was effective when combined with chemotherapy. He pointed out that not all treatments were as horrible as was she had originally gone through.
Maggie shook her head throughout and said she just wanted to die without pain.
At the end of the day, the oncologist returned to confirm stage 4 lung cancer with metastasis in the liver and possibly elsewhere.
Maggie and I confirmed that we were just interested in getting her home at that point. The various personnel thought we could leave the next day, so I went home and packed, thinking that we’d be heading back to Maggie’s house the next day.
We had a plan to use a local agency called Aging Wisely in conjunction with hospice to get through the next stages. However, various people were telling me that 24-hour staffing was not available near Maggie and that it would be a big challenge to get that in place.
November 22, 2018
I arrived expecting to collect Maggie and hit the road. It didn’t happen.
While Maggie seemed more awake than even the day before, she was agitated about the time, the traffic, and weather. I finally was able to establish that she was concerned that we wouldn’t get out of the hospital early enough to get home before dark and that when we got home there would be a lot to do and she’d be too tired and in too much pain and wouldn’t have anyplace safe to be.
I also talked to the hospitalist about her pain medication because Maggie told me she had had a terrible night before and felt like she had overdosed on pain medication. The hospitalist suggested a tweak to her pain meds.
Based on this information, I offered to drive down to the beach and set up the house, then return for her very early the next day (Friday). We arranged everything with the hospital personnel and I left.
Once I got to Maggie house, I set up the various chairs and beds for her comfort.
I also posted this message on Facebook because enough people were aware of the situation that I was feeling overwhelmed with phone calls and visits.
Hello all. This is Tara Choate (Maggie’s daughter) writing.
As some of you know, Maggie Choate went to see her oncologist a few weeks ago; he ran some tests and determined that she had cancer in her liver and lungs.
On Monday (Nov. 19), she went into the hospital for a routine biopsy. Though the biopsy went well, her health stats weren’t as good as the various physicians thought they should be, so she has been in the hospital ever since. Tara has been with her, and today (Thursday, Nov. 22) drove down to the beach after visiting with her to set up the house for her to return home on Friday (Nov. 23).
So many people have expressed love and support, and it is very much appreciated by Maggie and Tara. There has also been a lot of offers of food and “anything I can do to help.” Those are also appreciated, but for right now, we’re just trying to get onto stable footing and the quieter the better.
For right now, please hold your calls, visits, and food offers. If you wish to send flowers, please consider making a donation to a charity. Cards are enjoyable, but it may be a while before a response.
Thank you all!!!
November 23, 2018
I woke up extremely early and hit the road, expecting to take Maggie home. I got to the hospital and was relatively unsurprised to find very little had been done to start her release process. Maggie was still eating, was not dressed, and the hospitalist was nowhere around.
As I was trying to move things along, my phone rang. It was the hospice agency down at the coast that Maggie and I had picked out. I went through the initial screening questions. They informed me that based on what I was describing and her general condition, she needed 24-hour care which was not available.
I told them we just wanted to get home and then we’d figure it out. They told me that moving her twice would be VERY hard. Based on how difficult just getting her out of the hospital had been, I could see that moving her again, from her home to a facility, would be hard.
I went in and told Maggie this new information. In the end, we decided that there wasn’t much of a choice; if she had to move into a facility, she might as well move to Salem so it would be easier for me to help with her.
We selected a new hospice agency in the Salem area, and I began searching for “a place” for her in the area.
I left the hospital without Maggie, returned to the beach, cleared the house of my stuff and anything that would cause a problem if left for a few months, and returned to my home in Salem.
That night I left this message on Facebook.
Hello all. This is Tara Choate (Maggie Choate’s daughter) writing again.
Our best laid plans today (Friday) crumbled and Maggie is still at the hospital. After some phone calls this morning, it was determined that we couldn’t get the correct resources in place to make leaving a safe option.
At this time, we are thinking Maggie Choate will be in the hospital until at least Monday at which time we hope to move her to a 24-hour facility.
It breaks Tara Choate’s heart not to have her return to her home, but with current information, it does not look like that will work out.
Thank you all for your kind words, thoughts, and prayers. It’s so amazing to know so many people care.
November 23, 2018
Knowing nothing was going to happen until Monday, when things were open and we could hopefully make some progress on the situation, I did not head up to the hospital early. Instead, I took the dogs for a walk and fooled around a little before taking off.
Just before I was left, Maggie called and asked me to contact a friend of her that she thought might be able to provide some resources. Mary Wallace was amazing, giving me lots of ideas and even going up to visit Maggie.
When I got to the hospital, I was surprised the hospitalist had not made his rounds yet. Today it was a different doctor and this one took the time to explain the not just the diagnosis, but also how we could use this time in the hospital to adjust her medications, removing the unnecessary ones and adjusting the others so she was in the least amount of pain/discomfort/nausea with the least side effects and general poking. I liked this doctor better than any others I had seen, though I still think it’s ridiculous they can’t spend more than a few minutes with the patients.
Based on this conversation, Maggie is deciding whether or not to stop testing her blood sugar, stop taking blood thinners, and
At the end of the day, I had made lots of phone calls, contacted a placement agency, and put Maggie on several waiting lists. We are hoping to find either a place in a hospice home or an adult foster care facility.
I also went grocery shopping and did laundry.
It’s hard to know what is the biggest accomplishment there… the phone calls or laundry!
Whatever feelings you think I am having right now… you are right.
Whatever feelings you think Maggie is having right now… you are right.
Your prayers and well wishes are SOOOOO appreciated.
I would like to encourage family and friends to be patient about contacting us. There is A LOT happening right now, and it feel very exhausting to have to keep going over the same things again and again.
If you want to send something like flowers or other tokens, please make a donation to charity instead. Maggie says any charity will do, but donations to the following are our choice:
Oregon City United Methodist Church
18955 South End Rd.
Oregon City, OR 97045
Stevensville United Methodist Church
216 College St.
Stevensville, MT 59870
United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)
Thank you again for all your love and support.