time passages, yelapa
It was April 23rd of last year that we learned Mom's cancer had spread to her liver. Her life now felt like a very big, loud, ticking clock. After three years of fighting this disease, she got the final blow. One we knew was coming, but not one we could ever prepare for.
How does the mind of a daughter or a son grasp that their Mom is going to die, especially a Mom who seemed so, alive....It's impossible.
It bothers me that I am forgetting things, I cannot even remember that phone call from Mom. I just know I got on a plane to go be with her, but I remember nothing else of that time. A couple weeks later Mom and I flew to Colorado to spend Mother's Day with my sister and niece. It was excruciating in terms of sadness. We all knew this would be her last Mother's Day, and that knowing was heart wrenching. Please don't tell me "it's easier if you know your loved one is going to die because you can make each and every day really special.." My experience is that this idea is horse shit. To watch my mom suffer, to see everything as "the last time", to manage all the emotions surrounding the fact that she was dying ~ there was nothing special or easy about that.
Back to Mother's Day ~ There was one night specifically which stands out in my heart. We were staying at a hotel and Mom was at her door watching to make sure I got to my room safely (something she did every evening). She said she loved me, waved, blew me a kiss, and then shut her door. I'm sure it wasn't as loud as I imagined, but that door closing felt like a explosion in my head. That scene was like watching a preview of a movie of days to come, and having full knowledge of how that sad story would end.
In one split moment whatever was left in my life that hadn't changed,
had suddenly just done so. Nothing would be the same ever again. Ever, ever, ever again.
My Mom was dying, and this time, (even with the small hope of a clinical trial) it was for certain.
The next several months were a fast moving blur of getting things "in order." My Mom was the most organized person I have ever met, right down to a color coded closet, and perfectly ironed bed sheets. She needed to feel some sense of control, so we began preparing for her death. All the details: who, what, where, and when...what to do with her house and her car and her journals etc. More importantly, we spoke about her end of life care, and her final wishes etc. Looking back, I am so grateful for those very direct conversations we had. We knew what Mom wanted every step of the way and having everything written down was like holding the most precious map. These are conversations I think everyone should have their families, whether or not you are sick.
In addition to getting things "in order" there were also countless doctor visits, tests, and endless stretches of waiting ~ for the results of tests, or to hear if her name would be picked from the national lottery for the only clinical trial showing hope for her diagnosis. Yes, a lottery. The drug cocktail that showed promise for Triple Negative Breast Cancer patients was very limited, so each week thousands of people have to wait for that phone call, to see if their name would be picked for the one spot available during that time. It is an awful process. I know many of you know this circus act.
Mom was still getting chemo and radiation because it was the only way she could qualify for the clinical trial she was waiting for, and it was the only way to slow the growth of the tumors. Mom was comforted by the chemo. She felt she was being given more time with us with each treatment she received. She never complained about having to go, and followed doctor's orders like a straight-A student. Many thought this effort was a waste of time, but Mom needed hope. Mom needed to remain proactive. And she did so, right up until the last week of her life.
*Mom's name was eventually picked for the trial, but by then, it was too late..
I have so much hate surrounding the suffering my Mom had to endure.
I hated the chemo, I hated the scans, I hated the radiation, the hospital and doctor visits. I hated folks who didn't cover their mouths when they coughed if my mom was close by. I hated those who didn't get how serious her condition was. I hated people complaining about their silly little mishaps or their hectic days of "running errands."
I hated the words: tumor, lesion, triple negative, mastectomy, pathologist, platelets, tamoxifen, invasive, abnormal, growth, prognosis, clinical trial, and the big one: metastatic breast cancer~ which of course immediately opened the door for liver, brain, lung, and bone cancer words.
I felt sick to my stomach every time I saw a pink ribbon.
Even hearing someone say the word "Mom" sent my heart gasping for air.
Everything was a trigger..
But I tried to pretend I was brave and managing everything okay, at least when I was around Mom. I knew my fear and sadness only added to hers, so I tried to keep it together.
Truth ~ I was a nervous wreck every second of every minute of every hour of the day.
Truth ~ She was the brave one.
Fast forward, a year later from that final diagnosis. My Mom is gone. Mother's Day is approaching, and I am bombarded with memories. I wish this holiday landed on February 29th, so it would be a leap day, and I could skip it for years. I am trying to focus on all the amazing women in my life who are Moms and how their lives should be celebrated... I am trying to focus on every single beautiful thing about my mother, and plan a lovely ritual I can do in honor of her on this day.
But the reality is, this is one of those "firsts" I have been dreading. And it is quickly followed by Mom's birthday, another first without her here. It's these special days that make "the missing" doubly hard. (And oh how I miss my Mom, and still have really rough days around her being gone. )
I know I will get through this holiday. I really have no choice because I know my Mom would clobber me if I let grief steal away all the goodness in my life.
I will greet the day and do whatever feels best for my heart, I will talk with my family and friends who have been a part of my journey and some who are struggling as well. I will have brunch with my Mother-In-Law who is a steady source of love and support, and I will ride my new orange bike until my mind is empty. And when I need to sob, I will find a quiet place to do so.
It's that thing you have to do, the "keep on keeping on" thing. It's what my Mom did every step of the way.
I am thinking of you who are only left with the memories of your Mom,
I am thinking of you who are in the process of losing your Mom,
I am thinking of you who are feeling loss around this holiday for whatever reason...
I can only say that I understand in my own way, and I wish I could say more...
But I will wish that the warmest kind of love and support finds you and surrounds you
helping you through to the next day.
and the day after that
and the day after that....
Posted by jen
at 12:02 PM | link