My mom died from cancer on September 7th, 2007. She was just 51-years-old. She left behind a husband of 34 years, 10 children, sons and daughters in law, and many grandchildren.
In the years leading up to her death, she went from a strong, active, and hardworking wife and mom, to a crippled and weak woman.
Her fight started in 1988, just after giving birth to her eighth child. Symptoms brought her to the doctor and they searched for a diagnosis… was it just her nerves, was she under too much stress, or was it something else? MS was suspected and then ruled out, because it was actually a brain tumor causing the seizures and other symptoms. She had brain surgery in June of 1988 and it was confirmed as cancer. Nothing more was done. No chemo, no radiation. I’m not even sure those were considered options back then. They had removed the large tumor, but left the little “fingers” of cancer there. The doctor told her to expect that cancer to spread within ten years.
She came home different… less patient, more emotional. But, she was still our mama. At almost 3-years-old I simply didn’t care that she had half of her hair shaved off or that there were staples in her head. I just knew she was my mama. I have vague memories of that time. I think that is when my family started making more time for family vacations… camping and trips to the beach every year. She also gave birth to two more children in the years following (pictured above).
|Joey & I, my parents, and all of my siblings minus 1.|
Fast forward about 15 years to 2003. I was newly married at the age of 17. My mom and I went shopping and to eat at the local burger drive-thru. In the middle of our jabbering, my mom suddenly stopped… she sat there dazed and confused for a few minutes in silence. I kept asking her what was wrong and she would just shrug. When she was able to talk, she said, “sometimes I forget what I’m saying…”… but really, it was that she was unable to talk at all. Her brain wouldn’t let her form words or speak words. At some point, during that same day, she brought up her annual brain MRI… she said that she didn’t want to get it done that year because she had a feeling something would be wrong. I remember telling her, “Mooom… you better get it done! Better to find out sooner than later!”.
In February of 2003, she suffered a major seizure and was rendered speechless for several hours. 911 was called and she was brought to the hospital. The paramedics suspected a stroke, but I knew. It was her cancer. Tests revealed that the brain cancer had started spreading throughout her brain. Conventional and natural treatments were started and she fought hard for over 4 years. During that time, her brain cancer actually shrunk… but she was diagnosed with breast cancer separately! Chemo and radiation again to treat it… she suffered massive strokes as a side effect of the treatment. She was left in a wheelchair and then bedridden. The breast cancer is what took her in the end, having spread throughout her body and then to her brain. She died quite peacefully at her home of 34 years, around 5pm on a hot Friday afternoon.
|My mama’s hands in mine the day of her death.|
A piece of my heart was ripped out that day. Actually, it starting ripping out in February of 2003 and it slowly ripped more and more as we lost more and more of mom until her death, when the last threads were cut. I didn’t get to know her in my adult years. I didn’t get to see her be a grandma to my kids. I miss her.