Lung Cancer and My Mother
The Strongest Woman I Have Ever Known
Her name was Debbie Heart, and she was my mother. My whole life, I always looked up to her. She worked at the Village of Skokie, helping senior citizens on a daily basis. She was dedicated to happiness, in others’ lives, and in the purest form of the word. Ever since I was a little baby, my mother was always there for me. She always made sure I was the happiest a child could be, all the while showing a smile that could light up anyone’s heart. She never raised her voice, or appeared rude to anyone. We made cookies together, did crafts (one of her favorites hobbies) and I even joined her at work some days after school because I just loved spending time with her. Her only vice was that she had started smoking cigarettes at a young age, and like my father, could never find the will power to stop.
My family and I would go on vacations together to where my mom used to live, which is a quiet town in Upper Michigan. Everyone always looked forward to this time, because to this day it is still the most peaceful way to escape whatever is going on in our lives. In the summer of 2006, we unknowingly took our last vacation together. It was the same as any previous one; we all enjoyed ourselves and relaxed. My mom and I would go swimming together, visit "Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore" (see picture at top of hub) and go shopping at the local malls. It was another great vacation.Then, in the months that followed us coming home, things took a turn for the worse. My mother started having more coughing fits, and it developed into bronchitis. Needless to say, she went to the doctor to try and get some medicine for the problem. She didn't think much of it, she just knew that her coughing was always more severe because of how much she smoked. It was October, there was a shrill coldness in the air, but beneath that there was an utter feeling of dread. I was home from school one night when my mom came downstairs to talk to me. She revealed that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer.
She went on to say that everything would be alright, but I was having troubles focusing. I could not hear her words after ‘cancer’, for that word kept echoing inside my mind. The next month she began radiation therapy, in an attempt to 'zap away' the tumors that had been created. She also stopped smoking, but it was apparent to everyone that the damage had already been done. I kept going to school; it was my final year of junior high. Though my thoughts would be distracted, and instead of keeping up with homework, I would be using class time to call my mom after doctor appointments and make sure she was okay. She was the only member of my family I was close to, how could I not be petrified? Winter came around and she began chemotherapy. She started wearing a little hat so that she would not feel as self conscious. One morning I went into her bedroom to wake her up and I saw how much hair she had actually lost. There were only a few tufts left of her gorgeous blonde hair. I stood there and tried to hold in my tears, mourning a part of my mother I knew she missed as well. Christmas came around and she got terminated from her job where everyone loved her so much. She was just not expected to get better.
I could not believe that. New Years came around, and things seemed to be getting even more troublesome. I was having issues handling everything and had to enter the hospital and stay as an in-patient for mental stability. While I was there, my mothers’ doctors came to a prognosis. I was taken into a conference room at the hospital and told by my father that my mom would only have six months to a year to live. I was broken, and all I can remember is walking back into my room and bawling into a blanket. I tried calling my mother a couple nights later from the hospital, only to find out that she had gotten worse in the two weeks I had been away. She could hardly even speak now, and the tumors had meta-sized to her brain, giving her massive migraines. The next day, I was discharged and I went home to find the couch in the living room gone. In its place, was a hospital bed, with my mother laying on it. Her hospice had begun.
I tried to stay by her side as much as I could. I read her a note I had written whilst in the hospital about how much I loved her, and how much I wish I had not taken her for granted. I thought she would be around to see me turn sixteen, start driving, and get married. It was three months from my graduation of junior high; I had hoped she would have been better by then. It was just the opposite. Contrary to the prognosis we received, my mother died just two weeks after I came home. I was fourteen years old, and my mother was only fifty-one. We had a lot more time to spend together. My world shook like never before. About three weeks later, we held the funeral. It was open, and we were expecting our family and friends to show up, and they did. Along with them, many, many more people who were effected by my mother showed up. When we expected around 25-50 people, more than two hundred showed up in honor. The church was filled, with people standing in the back. It was beautiful, and I gave my eulogy to all those people with love in my heart. I cried, and they cried with me, and I felt one of the strongest human connections I had ever experienced in that room.
With my mother's passing, I can truly say that it really opened my eyes to how the world works. Nothing is ever guaranteed, and I really believe now in cherishing everything that you’ve got while you can. I never want to let a person come into my life and let them leave without knowing how great it was to know them. My mother was my best friend, and I know she is still my guardian angel. Her will to help people has been passed down to me, and I keep that state of mind wherever I go. I just want people to be happy as well.
I believe that awareness, at least in this case, can really make a difference. My mother died from cigarettes, from the addiction, and from the horrible chemicals put into them. If you ever have a chance to stop someone from starting to smoke, please do. You could end up being a true life-saver. Cancer is a horrible disease. My aunt had been diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after this happened, but thankfully the cancer is in remission and she is doing quite well. I send my regards to anyone who has ever lost someone to this illness, my thoughts and praises for strength to the people who are currently dealing with cancer themselves (or acting as a caregiver). Let's work together to continue raising awareness and finally finding a cure.
Thank you for reading.
- A Poem For My Mother
It's been too long since I've seen your smile, and all the while I've been falling apart, it seems I'm tearing apart at the seams, my eyes gleam and I'm crying out for you. You were my best...