There are some of you who have not known me for very long or only know me through this blog so I am sharing this with you today. My mom passed away a month after I graduated high school. She had been sick with cancer for almost two years before she died and this is my story through those two long years.
(I copied this from a note that I wrote on FB a little over a year ago)
During my junior year of high school my mother developed a really bad cough. At first she thought it was just a cold, but it didn't go away and continued to get worse. She finally decided to go to the Dr and get it checked out. After different scans it was found that my mother had lung cancer. She had been a bartender for many years and this was most likely the result of all those years working around the smoke. She started chemo and it seemed to work good. She never really got sick like a lot of people do on chemo. She was really weak and tired for a few days after her treatments, but was her normal spunky self. Her hair fell out and we eventually just shaved all of her hair off. After the treatments she was rescanned and everything was clear. The cancer was gone.
Now onto my year of hell, my senior year of high school. It all started in September/October of 1998. (I honestly think it was Oct, but maybe as early as Sept I don't remember the day, but I remember EVERY detail of this night as if it was this morning)
One night I came home after going out with my boyfriend, the house was dark except for the kitchen light that was left on for me. I went in my room and went to bed because no one was up. Not too long after going to sleep my bedroom door opens and all I hear is "No, Leslie is in her bed. She is here! It is Joyce she isn't here" I got out of bed to find out what in the world was going on. I go out to the living room and there was a police officer at our house. He said that they picked up a lady walking down the side of the road with only one shoe on. The only thing she kept saying to them was my name. So they picked her up and brought her back to the police station. My grandfather and I left to go pick up my mother from the police station and my grandmother stayed at home. I can remember being terrified out of my mind! I didn't know what was going on or what had happened to her. We got to the station (by now it is about 3 something in the morning) and she was just sitting in a chair waiting for us to get her.
After we got there the police told us that they had received a call from a bar owner. As he was leaving he saw a car in the parking lot still running with the lights on but there was no one in it and there was a lady walking down the side of the street so he called the police. They figured that she was drunk.
Earlier that evening my mom had gone over to my aunts house to make Christmas ornaments and she left my aunts house at 10 something to come home. (which btw was only about 5 miles from where we lived) But something happened and she ended up at Bonita Beach Rd (which is a good 25 miles from our house) We had no clue what was going on. My mom was very confused. The police said they couldn't get her to say anything except for my name. We took her back home and she was tired and wanted to go to bed. But we told her she had to go to the hospital to see what was going on. When we got to the hospital they took her right back. They would only let one person stay with her at a time in the ER room. They had taken her to do a scan of her head, I can remember siting next to my mom after she got back from her scan and as she was sleeping and just dropping to my knees and praying that she was going to be ok. I had never dropped to my knees to pray about anything. I was so scared! Finally the Dr came in and said (again still remember this like it was 2 min ago) "Well, I think we found out why you got lost tonight. You have tumors in your brain." My mom says, " I guess that is a good reason." Dr said, "I don't know if it is a good reason, but it is a reason." I started balling my eyes out. My mom stayed strong and didn't get upset. I was the only one back in the room when the Dr came in and told her so I had to go out and tell the rest of my family who was waiting in the waiting room. I remember the walk out there seemed like it took forever. I opened the doors to the waiting room and I just lost it. I told my family and everyone just held me and cried. We all regained our composure and went up to see her. They transferred her to a room upstairs to stay in the hospital for a few days. The next morning the oncologist came in after looking at her scan and told us that she had less than 6 months to live. I didn't know what to do or what to think. I was in HS, I was still a kid. What was I going to do without my mother? Six months would have been April at the latest from what these Dr's were telling us. They started her on radiation treatments while she was in the hospital and they had planned out her treatments for the next few weeks and we went home.
My mother seemed to be getting better after the treatments. On my 18th bday in November we went up to Orlando for a couple of days. She was living life just as she always had. A scan after her last treatment showed that all of the tumors were gone! It was a miracle to me. She had gone from Dr's saying that she wouldn't make it 6 months to being tumor free. In the meantime I had applied to college, I was working at Sweet Tomatoes, and playing Varsity softball. In Jan of 1999 I got my acceptance letter to USF. She was so happy! Her dream was to see me graduate and go to college. She had gotten pregnant and had my brother at the age of 16 so she never finished school. She was so much more excited than I was. In Feb we went to check out the school and go to orientation.
While we were at orientation that weekend my mother was having trouble walking around. It was hard for her to climb the stairs. She just couldn't seem to lift her leg high enough. I helped her around that weekend and when we got back home she called the Dr and they scheduled another CT scan. The scan showed that the tumors had returned but this time in her back. One of them was pushing on her nerve and that is why she was having so many problems getting around. The oncologist told us then that the type of cancer that she had was just going to keep spreading through out her body. It was aggressive and just kept popping up in other places. They once again started her on radiation treatments. I really was fortunate that it didn't affect her much. We went shopping and she bought me ever thing that I was going to need to take to college the next year and acted as she normally did. She was always so strong and didn't let this cancer get her down much.
Well, after those couple of weeks things took a turn and got bad quick. Because of the tumor in her back she would sit a lot because it was so hard to walk. Well, she started to have a lot of pain in her butt and as it turned out she had bed sores from sitting all of the time. We had to get Hope Hospice help after that. We got a hospital bed so she could lay down and relieve the pressure and hopefully the sores would heal. They had a nurse that came over everyday to check on her and change her dressings. It was very difficult and painful for her to get out of bed all of the time so someone would always have to help her in and out of bed, in and out of the car, in and out of the shower, toilet, dinner table, pretty much everything! I didn't really like having the nurse come over everyday and I asked if she could show me how to take care of the dressings and things with my mom so she didn't have to come everyday. They agreed and showed me what to do. After that they only came by 3 times a week to check up on her. During this time I quit my job, and playing softball so I could be around more. I was also able to drop my first class of the day in school so I could come in later so I could be there with her in the mornings. When I was at school my dad would help her around the house or take her to her Dr apt if I couldn't take her. Well, one day when he was helping her out of the car he accidentally dropped her and that terrified her. After that she was very scared to get around. I would literally have to put my arms around her and use my legs to help her up and out of the bed and into her wheelchair. Then do the same thing in the car, chairs, toilet, etc. It got to where she wouldn't let anyone do it but me.
Then June came. My graduation day :) There was NOTHING that was going to keep my mom from going to my graduation. She let my dad get her dressed and in and out of the car to go to my graduation. This was the happiest I have ever seen her. She was SO proud of me! I graduated and we went back home and celebrated, ate cake and took pictures. After this day things started turning for the worse. As time went on she got weaker, she didn't want to eat, because she didn't want to get out of bed. She decided that she wanted the nurse to put in a catheter so she wouldn't have to get up as much. She would only eat egg drop soup. Either my dad or myself would go to the Chinese place everyday and get her some and that is what she lived off of.
By now the tumors had returned to her brain and she was confused a lot of the time. She would tell me everyday how we needed to go and buy stuff for me to go off to college and other things we had already done. It was so hard to see her like that. She could remember thing from a long time ago, but things that were in recent memories she would usually forget. She still never lost her good attitude. I do although remember her asking me many times to let her go live in the hospice center, because she didn't want me to have to take care of her, but I couldn't do that!
We went for another CT scan and discovered that the cancer had spread like crazy. It was in her brain, her lungs, her back, and her kidneys (or liver something like that) So we decided to stop the chemo and radiation treatments. They were not helping and it was just too difficult to get her in and out of the house as many times as she needed to go. Over the next month she stayed the same. Never sick, never complained. We celebrated her 52nd birthday in June. In the beginning of July most of my family had come to see her. All of her brothers and sisters and a few cousins, and nieces. She enjoyed seeing them and spending time with everyone around. People came and went for about 2 weeks in the beginning of July. Then one night when we were making dinner my mom said she wanted to sit at the table and eat dinner with us. This was very strange, as I said earlier she didn't eat real food anymore. I helped her out of bed and put her in her wheelchair and we all sat at the table and ate chicken and mashed potatoes.
Two days later my world came crashing down all around me. My mom was saying how much her stomach hurt. I called the hospice nurse and she came over to check on her. She wasn't sure what was going on and gave her some meds to help her feel better. She also gave us a pamphlet about stages of death and how to tell when the time was getting close. As the day went on she kept getting worse, the nurse came back and checked on her again. She was able to conclude that the reason my mom was in so much pain was because her body was shutting down and releasing toxins into her body that were causing her so much pain. They told me that I had to go over and tell her that it was ok to go and that she was hanging on because of me. I balled my eyes out and told them that I could not tell my mom that it was ok to die. They all stood around her and told her it was ok to leave and that I would be ok. She kept hanging on. Her breathing was getting shallow and hard for her. They again told me to tell her she could go. Finally, I held on to her hand and kissed her and told her that she could go and that I was going to be alright and that I loved her so much. I don't know the exact length of time after that happened that she died (it seemed like an eternity, but was probably only like 30 seconds later) I didn't know what to do. I had to call the nurse and tell her, my step dad, and my boyfriend. I can remember calling my dad and telling him to hurry up and come over because I think my mom just died. The nurse came over and confirmed she was dead and ordered for someone to come and get her. The people came and asked all of us to go into our rooms so that they could put her body in a bag and take her away. My boyfriend stayed with me all night as I cried and cried. I looked through pictures and watched videos. My heart had never felt so much pain before in my life, I was dead inside.
This year of my life was the hardest I have ever had to endure. I wouldn't wish this kind of pain on my worst enemy. I know a lot of you are going through your own hard times. I really hope that sharing my story with you will help you in some way. It wasn't easy, but I know I am who I am today for what I went through. I honestly was only a kid when my mom died and was forced to grow up. I wish more than anything that my mom was still here and could have seen any of my wonderful kids, but I know what God is able to use my pain to help reach out to others. There are hard days every once in a while, but time does heal. I also want those of you who are going through some of these things to know that you will get through this. There were so many hard days that I didn't think I was going to make it through, but I did! And so will you! For those of you reading this who were friends with me in HS I doubt you knew all of this because I did pretty much keep it to myself, but now you know why I was so "distant" as I was told. This isn't something I talk about often because the pain is still there of seeing my mom suffer, but if I am able to give hope to anyone then sharing my story is worth it.
I try to live my life to the fullest because I don't know what tomorrow holds. I try not to re-live this experience very much. I do think of my mom, but I think of the good times. I know of a few people who really let themselves get depressed over the loss of a loved one (I am talking about years later, not right after it happens) to where it affects their life now. I have 6 kids and a husband who love and need me everyday! I can't live in the past of I wish....... My mom is gone and all I have now is what is in front of me and I CHOOSE to be happy and focus on those who need me :)