Five years ago I lost my mom to a very brave fight with cancer.
I remember the day she told me she had cancer. I was pregnant and we had just finished an ultrasound for my youngest.
At his first ultrasound, the doctor said it looked like he had cysts on his brain, which could be a fatal thing for him and he wouldn’t live past birth. At the time, we rescheduled for a follow up ultrasound and I remember telling my mom the news.
She was going to the doctor’s office the next day for some news of her own. Her iron had been low for years and her energy was lagging in the last few months.
When the results were in, she told me she had been in her car, on the way to see her GP, making a deal with God, Allah, Buddha, whoever you want to pray to.
She said let it be her. And not the baby.
She got her wish.
Linda’s doctor told her they found some problems with her blood work and that they were going to send her for a colonoscopy.
They then found polyps in her colon. And a tumour.
One of the ugliest words I know.
By the way – the same day my mom was told about her blood tests by her GP, I went for my follow up ultrasound.
The baby was fine.
So they booked my mom in for an operation on her colon. At the time they didn’t know for sure what they would find and they didn’t know how much colon they would have to remove. They were worried she could end up with a colostomy bag for the rest of her life.
There are worse things. We just wanted her healthy again.
After the operation (in the same hospital where all my boys were delivered), we were told it was a success! They didn’t have to remove as much tissue as they originally thought. And then right after those words, they hit us with more news.
They found two tumours on her liver.
They operated on those.
I remember visiting her in the hospital after that operation. It was Christmas time. And we all said the things everyone wants to hear, ‘oh just think, next Christmas will be better, you won’t be eating hospital food again, that’s for sure, haha!’…
She went through chemo the following spring.
My baby was born in April. I have a picture of Mom in the hospital holding her youngest grandson. She looks frail. The poisons they were shooting into her were ravaging her body. But you could still see that fight. That pride.
My mom was always a very glamorous person. Not in a Zsa Zsa Gabor way. But a classy, understated way. She always took great care of herself and always tried to look good whether she was going out for the evening or heading out for groceries. She was beautiful.
Even when she was being a dork. She had a twisted sense of humour, which is one of the best kinds to have, I think. She had a great laugh.
And she loved a good time.
And a ‘drinky poo’ (rum & diet coke which evolved to vodka caffeine free diet coke if I recall correctly)…
And I could tell her anything. She was my best friend. We called each other every morning.
If I didn’t hear from my mom by 8:30 am, I’d call her and vice versa. We usually didn’t have much to say and would talk about nothing for an hour or so.
Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t want to over-romanticize my relationship with my mom. She drove me crazy as a teen and I’m sure I drove her up the wall.
“If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother” – Wynona Judd. Best quote ever.
When I moved back home after university and started working at the same office she got me a job in… sparks flew! We probably fought just as much then as we did when I was a teen! It was horrible!
And then I moved out. And we got along great!
Then I had kids. And she was the smartest woman EVER!
So I had my youngest son. And mom had her health back.
Things were on the up and up! We had put all our trust in the doctors, and yes we had a few scares along the way, but everything was fine. Why worry? Why second guess anything any professional is saying or recommending?
I found out later my mom had been looking into other treatment options. Alternative medicine.
I wish we had used every option possible, looking back. By the time we got on the alt. med. bandwagon, it was too late.
But I digress. We’re talking about summertime here. Everyone is happy happy. My nightmare of a pregnancy was over!
I remember I cried just about everyday while I was pregnant with my youngest. I had hurt myself and couldn’t care for my other two boys. I couldn’t pick up my middle child, who was about 6 months at the time.
We tried a nanny, we tried a dayhome. I still feel guilt about that time.
And the pressure on hubby. Ohmygod, what a nightmare for him. Working all day, coming home and having to take care of the boys all night because his pregnant wife can barely walk around the house.
And then with my mom going through everything too… I remember I would have a shower just so I could cry in there without anyone having to see or hear me.
And then at one of my mom’s surgeries, my dad mentioned the day she found out she had cancer. He was in the house and heard the garage door open. But she didn’t come into the house. He waited a while longer, and nothing. He went into the garage and saw my mom, sitting in her car, unable to move or speak. He asked what was wrong and that’s when she said she had cancer. After that story, I bawled. I couldn’t get control of my emotions and I snapped. Right there in the waiting room. My dad had my sister in law drive me home. I felt so bad I couldn’t be there with the rest of my family and be strong for them.
So needless to say, it was a relief finally to have a healthy baby boy and to have my mom there to share it.
Near the end of summer, mom started having neck and upper back pain. She went for massage and it was painful. She tried chiropractic and nearly jumped through a wall, she was in so much pain.
She went to her doctor and they put her through some tests. They kept reassuring us that it wasn’t anything serious. Probably a pulled muscle. Because cancer doesn’t hurt.
I’ve heard that phrase a few times over the years. My own doctor has said it to me. Pain you have in your body isn’t cancer. Cancer doesn’t hurt.
There’s a loaded sentence if there ever was one!
The test results came back. Cancer had spread to her spine. To her vertebrae.
She decided to fight it. She was hesitant. It was a big procedure – two operations. They had to go in through the front of her throat, bypass vocal chords to get to the tumour, and then the next day, flip her over and go in through her neck to get the rest of it.
Seeing her after that first surgery was so heart-wrenching.
She couldn’t talk. I just saw her eyes. I can’t forget her eyes. The fear, the pain. And I was actually surprised with my own strength in that I was able to finally be there for the one woman who has been so strong for me my entire life. I took her hand, I stared right back at her and told her she was okay. How much I loved her. How well she was doing. I explained the operation to her, what the doctors said, how pleased they were…
Yep, they were happy with the operation. Apparently mom was good now!
They just couldn’t understand why she couldn’t talk above a whisper.
And why she couldn’t walk.
From then on, it’s a blur.
They moved her to a wing of the hospital where she could recuperate and get some physical therapy, etc.
I can’t remember how long she was there for, but I do remember getting ‘THE call’ from my mom. I was sitting on the couch in my living room and she said they had met with the doctors that day after an MRI was done on my mom.
She was going to die. And do you know what my mom did, being a mom to the very end? She apologized.
That kills me to think of it even now. How do you have the strength to tell your child you are dying, and then say you’re sorry?
Cancer had gone to her lungs and to her brain and I think they found another tumour in her liver.
My brother and I drove that night to the hospital. The three of us sat in the hospital room, joking, talking and sharing everything. We got everything off our chests and said what needed to be said to our mom.
Linda was sent home. Those wonderful doctors we put so much trust in hadn’t cured her. They were playing catch up. Everytime something happened to Linda, they fixed it, like putting a Band Aid on a scrape. But they didn’t cure her.
How do you explain that to your three year old son? We tried our best at the time, but I still don’t know the right answer.
Mom’s ordeal makes me think of my Uncle Dave. He battled throat cancer in the ’80’s. And do you want to know how they treated cancer back then? Cut it, burn it, poison it.
That’s all they can do for cancer. That’s what they did for my mom. Those are the only options we have to fight this. Operate, radiation and chemotherapy.
30 years later and that’s the best we can do?
Cut it, burn it or poison it.
That didn’t help Linda. She came home. My dad took it all on himself to help her and be there for her.
My dad put in a ramp on their front steps. He ordered a hospital bed in their room. He lifted my mom into the car, out of the car, into bed, out of bed, onto the couch, into the bathroom.
And then her sisters came.
Now this you need to know. My aunts are angels. They seriously are. There is not a better group of people than my family (except maybe one or two cousins – and you know who you are! Haha!). I truly believe they saved what was left of my dad’s sanity.
On a little side note to describe the amount of stress my dad was under – my brother was battling a brain tumour at that time. He was operated on and my mom came all the way to the hospital (with my dad lifting her into the car, packing the wheelchair, etc., etc) to check on her only son. She wanted to make sure her baby was okay. And she did exactly that.
Shortly after my brother was released from the hospital, my mom slipped into a coma.
She hung on so fiercely for that two-year battle. Family was everything to her. I know she couldn’t let us go.
We’ll never let her go.
Mom died April 14, 2006.
The day before my youngest son’s first birthday.
My kids still talk about Grandma. We have a lovely gravesite for her ashes. And a gorgeous tombstone that I don’t visit nearly enough. But you know what? My kids talk about her every couple of days. Sometimes more. And we laugh and we cry. And I tell them the tears are because we love her so much because she loved us so much.
I’ll hear a song on the radio and I’ll tell the kids that Grandma liked that song.
We were playing a game of ‘Would You Rather’ the other day. There was some stupid question on there – I can’t even think of it now, but I couldn’t stop laughing after reading it because mom would have loooooved it. It was so dumb and simple – she would have giggled her butt off over it!
If I remember what it was, I’ll let you know.
We were at a kids’ museum and the boys spotted a sewing machine. Living in this house, they didn’t really have a clue what it was. So I explained it to them and I told them Grandma used to have one and make clothes for me. Even for my Barbies!
And when my kids are sad and missing their Grandma, we cuddle and I give them extra hugs and kisses.
Linda would have wanted it that way.
So now it is five years since I lost my mom. I miss her so much still and always will.
But I see her in my kids. I know she’s there.
I hear her in my laugh.
I see her in my aunts.
I think of her often and with love and will always remember her.
Cheers, Linda. I love you Mom.
Now let’s all have a drinky poo!