It has been a while, ok a long, LONG while, since I have posted anything new or anything of any substance here. It’s not that nothing has been going on, it’s simply that I haven’t been sure how or if I wanted to talk about in this forum.
But now I do. I think. Maybe.
My mother is dying. There, I’ve said it. And it is the hardest and suckiest and most terribly heart-breaking thing I, and the rest of my family, have ever been through.
Last March my mother had a tumor removed from her bladder. A pretty routine surgery, they biopsied it and it was malignant but they weren’t too worried, confident that they got it all. She proceeded to her holiday in Florida with my dad as scheduled. All seemed ok.
That June she broke her elbow playing tennis.
In July my sister had her baby, the amazing Lola, my mother at her side, broken elbow and all.
August came and there was another tumor to be removed. This time the results from the biopsy were more serious and the cancer deemed “aggressive” so it was decided that the best course of action would be to remove her bladder altogether.
This news was delivered to my mother on September 7, 2008 – her 65th birthday.
That surgery took place over Thanksgiving week (October) and we all breathed a sigh of relief because even though it was major surgery and would require a HUGE life adjustment, the cancer was GONE. Or so we thought.
In December she was given the “all clear” and came out to Vancouver for Christmas. It was wonderful.
By the end of January, however, she was experiencing debilitating pain. I was back in Montreal for a few days to attend the memorial service of a good friend of mine who had lost his battle with cancer at the young age of 45. We went as a family and it was one of mum’s first “pubic outings” since her surgery. Everyone remarked how well she looked.
A week later she was given the news that the cancer was back and that chemotherapy was going to be needed. She started treatment in March 2009 and it didn’t do much for her other than putting her in ICU a couple of times due to an infection caused by a weakened immune system.
After an extended stay in hospital to get her pain under control, she began an intense course of radiation treatments. At the beginning we were hopeful as she seemed to respond well to the radiation. In the end, however, it had no effect other than once again sending her to the ICU.
Still, we held out hope, thinking maybe the worst was over and that her tumor would have shrunk and that all the pain and suffering had been worth it.
Two weeks or so ago we got the results from the latest scans – not only had her tumor not shrunk, but the cancer was now in her blood and had spread to her liver. I don’t think I need to explain what that means.
There is no further treatment.
We brought mum home from the hospital on Friday and she is now in “palliative care” here at home. Home with her family and her dog and her gardens.
The support of family, friends and community has been amazing. My mother is a truly wonderful woman who has touched many and is loved by all. My sister and I came home Thursday afternoon to get the house ready for mum’s return and found a group of her friends busy at work in her gardens. Daily cards, flowers, food, treats, etc arrive on the doorstep. My parents’ dog, Tully, gets picked up on a regular basis by whomever is going out that day. The calls and emails of support are endless.
None of us can quite believe that this is happening. She is too young and too vibrant to leave us. None of us is ready; not that you ever can be.
My parents will have been married for 43 years come September; together for 44. My heart is breaking for my father as theirs is truly a love affair and they are absolutely each other’s best friend.
My heart also breaks for my niece, Lola, who will never really know her grandmother.
I am being told over and over how brave I am, how strong. How wonderful it is that we (my sister and I) are here, having left our own lives behind in Toronto and Vancouver to be here. Where else would we be? How else could we be??
So here we will stay indefinitely with everything else “on hold”. If what we have already gone through has been tough, the road ahead I suspect will be excruciating. But we are not alone and I take some comfort, cold though it may be, in the knwoledge that we will get through it.