I’ve contemplated for days if I should write this post and if my mother knew I was about to post all about her, she’d have my head. But this is a blog about my life and my family and it doesn’t get more real life than the last month. It’s literally been a living hell.
On March 2nd my mom gave us the news that she had been diagnosed with cancer. I was shocked, and yet in a way, I wasn’t. Cancer has certainly made its rounds in our family and my grandma and great grandma both passed away from breast cancer. My mom had it on her left kidney but her doctor was hopeful that with surgery they could get rid of it. I was devastated for my mom, I spent most of the weekend crying or trying NOT to cry in front of people.
The following week my mom went for another scan and it had spread to her back. Surgery was still an option but more tests were needed.
The week after that (2 weeks after we got the initial news) my mom went for a bone scan, her legs were weak, she could barely walk and she had fallen the night before. Her neighbor and good friend who was driving her, decided to take her to the hospital in the next town over. The hospital admitted her and she spent the night until she was sent to a bigger hospital in the city for an MRI where they found more cancer in her spine which was causing her not to walk properly. She was immediately admitted into that hospital.
Within days the cancer had compressed her spine so badly it had pinched a nerve and caused total paralysis in her legs. It had also spread to her lungs and was in her bones. She was sent 2 hours away to another hospital to see a spinal surgeon but after being told there really wasn’t much they could do, she was sent back to her regular hospital.
Our family was in utter turmoil. I am an only child and my mom was a single parent for a lot of my life. Her and her 3 brothers have always been very close and we are a very tight knit group. Watching someone as strong as my mom get weaker and weaker was so unbelievably hard on all of us. We did the best we could to spend as much time as we could with her so she wasn’t scared or lonely. She eventually was given an epideral to localize the pain so she was alert and could actually have conversations without falling asleep and it seemed like she took a turn for the better after this.
A family meeting was held the following Sunday with one of her doctors, and she was told the damage to her spine was irreversible and she would never walk again. This was totally devestating news. My mom was the most independent person I’ve ever met, the idea of having to rely on others was horrifying to her.
She was doing daily radiation and there were talks of chemo and moving her to a different care facility, we knew we didn’t have years left with her but we were keeping hope our hopes up for atleast one.
During all this, Brad and I were trying to decide what to do about our upcoming trip. We didn’t want to throw away thousands of dollars but we sure didn’t want to be out of the country if things turned for the worse. It was extra stress on an already stressful situation.
On Good Friday I took the kids up to visit and they decorated her room for Easter. She seemed to be a little worse for the wear that day and slept the whole time we were there except for a few minutes she woke up to look at the decorations and tell me to take pictures.
A nurse pulled me into the hallway and told me not to go on the trip as my mom only had hours left. I held myself together as much as I could with the kids but I was completely distraught by the time I got home to Brad. He took action and called the hospital demanding to talk to the dr. The dr told us completely opposite information! She told us it was more than reasonable to go on our trip and worst case scenario, my mom had MONTHS left. I felt a little better but I wasn’t totally at ease. Something was different about my mom that day and I knew it.
The next morning a nurse called me at 5am wondering if we were coming in that day, I told her yes we had planned on coming in around lunch time, she told me my mom was asking for us but she would let her know we would be there in a few hours. As I was getting ready later that morning, the dr called and said she was worried about my mom as there had been a drastic change in her and scheduled a meeting time with us. We left our kids at home (as we had for pretty much 2 weeks) and when I got into her room, I could see an obvious change in her. She wasn’t very awake, her speech was slurred and she was very flemmy. My mom called me over to the bed and told me to call her brothers because she was done. That was far more than my already breaking heart could handle. The dr then came in and told us not to leave on our trip as my mom definitely did only have hours left, days if we were lucky, and to start calling in anyone that should be there. My moms neighbor/friend was there with us and the 2 of us immediately started making phone calls while Brad ran home to get our kids. The next 24 hours were spent with family members and loved ones crowded in a tiny hospital room saying their goodbyes and bawling their eyes out. Some had to leave at different times and I sent Brad home at 3am because the next morning was Easter so I didn’t want the kids to wake up alone, Me and 2 of my uncles (David and Rick) spent the night with my mom. We tried to get as much sleep as we could in the uncomfortable chairs until I got fed up and made myself a bed on the concrete floor out of heated blankets. It was the worst night of my life.
The sun came up, David went and got us breakfast because none of us had eaten in 2 days and the visitors started rolling in again. It went like this until about 2:30 in the afternoon when my my aunt noticed moms breathing was really slowing down and we new this was the end. We once again made emergency calls and my mom passed away peacefully with her family and friends around her.
I didn’t even know my heart could hurt so hard. I knew she wasn’t suffering anymore and I was relieved for that but my heart tore in 2. It broke not just for me who lost a mother, but for my grandpa who lost his only daughter, my uncles who lost their only sister, my kids who were robbed of so much time with the best Gran around and for her friends who lost a life long partnership.
We didnt always see eye eye to eye but my mom was my rock. It was just the 2 of us for so many years of my life and no matter what I did I knew she was there if I needed help. I feel like we barely had time to accept the fact that she was sick and now we have to accept that she is gone. One short month from beginning to end and we are now left with a pain and sorrow I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. She decided at the beginning that she wasn’t going through what she watched her mom go through and she sure followed through. In true Shirley fashion, she made up her mind and she did it on her own terms.