Wow. This seven-day journey has turned into something, well something I just didn’t expect. But I guess that’s what happens when one doesn’t have expectations to begin with, right? And I must say that I feel conflicted. It’s like when you find a really good book that you just can’t stop reading but you don’t want to get to the end because then it will be over. I don’t want to post day seven. Because then it will be over. I don’t want it to be over. I want to keep talking to my mom as if she is still here – you know – as if she was just “lost” under the cushions of my couch. But as we know, she is not. And so on day seven, here is thing seven, that I would tell her if I could…
#7 I didn’t know what brave looked like until I watched you live the last five months of your life. I remember the moment very clearly. We were standing in my kitchen one afternoon. Late afternoon. My favorite time of day really – when the sun is starting to soften from blazing, bright yellow to a gentler, golden hue. “I have lung cancer,” you said. I don’t think I believed you at first. I thought you were making it up. I don’t know why, but I did. I have lung cancer. I have lung cancer. I.have.lung.cancer. What? How is that even possible? You didn’t smoke. Well, maybe a bit when you were younger, but certainly not an amount that would cause cancer. You began to walk me through the sequence of events. Of how you woke that one morning and the right side of your neck was swollen, which prompted you to go to your doctor. And how after several scans and whatever else – your doctor, who had been treating you for years, told you why your neck was swollen. It was a tumor. But it wasn’t the only one. It was the second tumor, which was caused from the first tumor spreading to your lymph nodes. The first tumor sat in your lung, in the middle of your chest. The cancer was stage 3B. Inoperable. And do you remember what you said to me after that? “Don’t worry, I am going to fight this. I will have chemotherapy and radiation and it will shrink and maybe they will be able to take it out then.” Inoperable is what you were told, but that’s not what you heard.
So we met with doctors at two different hospitals and you decided which one felt best and that’s where we went. And I have to say you made the right choice; the team that treated you was incredible. So incredible in fact, that your oncologist wrote me a letter after you passed apologizing that he was not able to do more for you. I watched you start with radiation. It made you tired and you had some skin burns, but you were always excited to go because you had a crush on your doctor. Which, we had many a good laughs about in the waiting room (especially when your pain meds would kick in). So radiation did it’s job – shrunken tumors – check. But then it was time for chemo and that was a challenge. The first round or two wasn’t bad because the medicine was just making its way through your body, but I think by round three things started to get tough. You started to get sick and you started to lose your hair (something that was very difficult for you as you did spend your life as a hairdresser). But I never heard you complain. I don’t even think I saw you cry. You just bought a couple of kick-ass wigs and wore bandanas. Then there was the one treatment when afterwards you got really sick. That was scary. You had just finished, you met me in the waiting room and as we started to leave you said you didn’t feel well. So I got a nurse. Your white blood cell count was practically nonexistent. We had to go to the ER for you to be admitted because it was the end of the day and a Friday. But you didn’t complain. In fact, you told me to leave to get back home because we had been there all day. You insisted that I leave. That you would be ok for the night. And you were. You bounced back from that pretty well. You finished chemo some weeks later with great results. Do you remember your oncologist telling us that he was truly surprised because he didn’t expect the results we received? Super! Follow up appointment scheduled – let’s go home.
Thinking back, I can’t remember if we even made it to that follow-up appointment. Unfortunately, once the chemo was out of your body the cancer spread quickly. And I knew when I got the call that Thursday morning that you didn’t have much time. I had just walked into work. I turned around and walked right out. I drove 3 hours to the hospital and when I arrived I learned that the cancer had spread to your liver and your spine and that your doctors felt the best thing to do was to keep you comfortable. I also learned that I was about to assume a new identity, power of attorney. You were really sick and heavily drugged (which, have I mentioned the comedy show that ensued when the pain meds kicked in?) so I had to be prepared to make decisions about your medical care. I went to you in your hospital room and asked, “Mom, what would you like to do?” “I want to go home,” you said. “Ok,” I replied. So two or three days later you were home. And then hospice moved in. And two or three days after that you moved on.
During those last months of her life, I only remember my mom as brave. I don’t remember her being afraid or scared. Perhaps she had “moments” when she was alone, but I truly doubt that. I think she had a peace and calm in her soul that only comes from faith – faith in something more. And that faith gave her the courage she needed to be brave. Brave for her family. Brave for herself. For what it’s worth.
Director of some corporate stuff who happens to like writing a lot and other creative outlets - like karaoke - even though she is quite certain those in the room with her while she sings wished she didn't like it so much... Runner of all distances, but prefers longer distances as God gave her the gift of endurance not speed... Mother of two boys and two dogs, who on most days, are perfectly sweet and good...mostly.