The last few months with mom
“I feel like I’ve broken a rib and I think I may go to the emergency room”. Those were the words spoken to me by my mother one bright September morning. I told her “Ok, do you want me to go with you?” She said she wasn’t sure if she was going to go just yet but would call if she decided to.
Several hours later I called to see how she was doing, she informed me then that she had been at the hospital for more than 6 hours. I was appalled, we live in a small town and the hospital isn’t too busy so why would they take so long? And why didn’t she call me to go? I would have lit a fire under those folks to get her out of there.
I was sure there was more to it than what she was telling me.
Several days later her and my Dad came to the house to talk to me. Mom had received a phone call earlier that day, her Doctor told her over the phone “You have a mass on your lung that is probably cancer”. WHAT??? What kind of Doctor does that? I mean don’t they usually have you come into the office to talk? He had to be wrong.
It was set up that she would have a biopsy done. More tests were ordered. They came back that she not only had cancer in her lungs but also in her liver. I was in denial. No way! This can’t happen to my mom, she has been through enough in her life for this. She had quit smoking for 10 years, it had to be something else.
It came back that she was in stage 4 cancer. This was the first time I had to deal with issues of cancer, so I hit the internet. Looked everything up that I could find.
Treatments and Living
“Ok, so what happens next?” Was my question to my folks. She had gotten an Oncology Doctor who was going to treat her. We were on the road to recovery! She received the recommended treatment for her cancer. Quite rapidly she lost her hair due to these treatments, this was probably the hardest thing for Mom, her hair loss, she had always felt her hair was her "Crowning Glory". I had decided I was going to convince Mom that we needed to shave her head, rather than watch in horror of it all falling out. In her mind, she had already decided that was the best thing. She tried on a few wigs and decided which ones looked best, put on her lipstick and she was ready for the world. Over time the treatments were complete, things looked good.
came and we celebrated with Mom and Dad, as was our custom. Mom and
Dad's presence just seemed to make the holiday's for us. I don't know
if we put Mom's cancer out of our minds, but at least it was in the
very back, this was a time for celebrating.
My parents took a vacation to Florida and had a fantastic time. They returned home and because my Dad is a Shriner, were attending the Shrine Circus and helping out as was their usual custom. I had a ‘feeling’ that something wasn’t right, so I called their cell phone, I had to call repeatedly until my Dad answered. They were on the way to the hospital, Mom had a seizure.
I headed straight to the hospital. She looked bad,
she didn’t remember what had happened. I stayed there until someone had
some answers. Apparently the cancer had come back with a vengeance. Not
only did she have lung and liver cancer, it had attacked her bones as
well as her brain. Appointments were set up for her to have radiation
treatments, she would have a special skull cap made and something that
fit on her right shoulder, where the bone cancer was most prominent. I
went with her and Dad on one of these appointments. After the treatment
she would be all red, like a serious burn. Sometimes it hurt, sometimes
it didn't. Whatever it took, I wanted Mom better. There were more
treatments, this time causing pneumonia.
She ended up with pneumonia and had a week long hospital stay. It was bad. On one visit I took some crocheting for her to do, while she spent her time there. It was too difficult for her to comprehend. It was a simple pattern for a prayer shawl. I didn't say anything to her or my Dad, but for Mom not to remember simple stitches such as 'double crochet' and chains? I went home and cried. Then I took up the yarn and made the prayer shawl, I felt if she couldn't do it, I would do it for her. It helped immeasurably, I spoke with God as I worked, and I felt peace within. Just prior to finishing it, the news came that a young girl that my daughter went to school with, had died. I talked to God and he helped me decide that the best thing I could do was finish the shawl and with a note of explanation, give it to the Mother of the girl. So that is what I did, I knew how much it helped me, I only prayed that it would help her.
After the pneumonia, her Doctor explained that the
treatment wasn't doing her any good, it was in fact killing her. He
that told her there really wasn’t any more they could do for her, any
treatments they could find wouldn’t prolong her life, just make her
miserable while she was still here. The Doctor asked if she wanted to
know how long she had, she said she did. He told them Mom should get
her affairs in order, because she didn’t have long, 2 to 4 months at
the most. On the way home Mom said she wished that she hadn't asked,
she really didn't want to know.
As much as I loved my mother I had to respect her decision of no more treatment. She had spent almost all of her adult life in pain, due to an auto accident when I was 2. One leg was shorter than the other, she had to wear special shoes with a lift and could never walk barefoot. She had to use a walker to get around now, and her back was misshapen due to her uneven walking. The pain sometimes became intolerable for her. If I wanted to keep her alive it would be for my own selfish reasons. At times, because of the pain, she said she wanted to go.
She and my Dad were worried how I would handle her passing. I did a lot of soul searching, I had to tell her my thoughts. She had her good days and bad, somehow I managed to get her on a good day. I called my Dad and asked if I could kidnap her for the day. I knew he needed a break and he thought it would be a great idea.
I had some running around to do so she went with me. We talked and talked all the while I drove. We decided together that if she couldn't take any more medicine then we would let laughter be her medicine. We wouldn’t cry, we would laugh over the good times. This is how we decided to spend her last days. It would be harder than I ever imagined, trying to keep up a brave face.
Mom and Dad did
some running around of their own, from time to time they would stop
over and see me, telling me what they had been up to. One of these
times had me crying and laughing, sending me into an emotional
tailspin. This time they informed me they had been 'Funeral Home'
shopping. I thought this was some sort of sick joke, but no, Mom
informed me that she even looked at caskets. Ewwww, that was the
creepiest thing I'd ever heard! She even wrote her own obituary.
"Mom!!" I exclaimed, "that is just too weird!" She said "Well Honey,
these are just the things that you need to do sometimes." After they
left, I went in my house and cried.
The whole family
pitched in to help, my grown sons and my younger daughters would come
and sit with Mom. My brother came over often to help her, as did I. At
times it was just the four of us Mom, Dad, my brother and I. It took us
back to the days when we were all happy. We would cut up and tell
jokes, just to keep a smile on Mom’s face. Mom would have me doing
things, she knew exactly where everything was, and if she needed it, I
got it. She had one of those electric carts that she'd drive around the
yard, telling my brother which weeds to pull and which bushes to trim.
From time to time people would come over for a visit, she always had a
smile for them. She made it easy for everyone to be around her, just by
smiling, never showing her pain.
Death is Inevitable
On July 1, 2006 at 11:42 pm, my
Dad called with the news. Mom had taken her last breath. Because it was
her wish to remain at home, we hurried over to their house. It was too
soon!! Her time wasn’t up yet! I didn’t get to say goodbye!
I couldn’t believe it, I thought maybe my Dad was mistaken. She was just sleeping.
It was not to be. I finally had to admit the truth, my Mom was gone.
My Dad had called the Nurse from Hospice, so she would be coming soon. She was a very kind lady that I am sorry to say I cannot remember her name. She told me that she needed to clean up my Mother before the funeral home came to get her and told me that if I wanted to I could leave the room. I asked her if I could stay and help. My mother had spent all of my life caring for me, I wanted to be able to do this one last thing for her. It was a very healing time for me, I was able to reconcile her to God, as was her wish. I knew that she would be running barefoot thru the daisy’s very soon.