FOOD FOR THE SOUL
“Her cancer has returned and it’s peppered throughout both of her lungs. I’m sorry.” Those were the words that my sisters, dad and I heard from the surgeon that beautiful July afternoon in the family conference room. We knew that there was a slim chance that the cough that had been racking my mothers body for months was not cancer, but we always held hope. Five years earlier we stood at the foot of her bed and heard her family doctor proclaim to us that she had a mass in her colon, and it looked to be cancerous. My mom was still very sleepy from the colonoscopy so we were not sure she heard his proclamation. In complete and utter shock, my youngest sister, dad and I bolted out of different doors, leaving my other sister, Kelly, at her bedside. It was a horrible and selfish thing to do, but we needed to compose ourselves before we relayed the news to her. She went through surgery to remove the mass, had chemotherapy and the cancer was in remission within 6 months. We really didn’t discuss it much, because in our family you remain stoic and you “do what you have to do” in order to get the job done. I had so much respect for this woman who gave me birth. She went to her chemo treatments in the morning, and then went to work in the afternoon. If there were any side effects we were unaware of it, for she never complained. This was her private journey, and we respected that. Her only fear was that she was going to lose her hair. I smile as I type this because she was such a beautiful and proud lady, and we were pleased that the poison coursing through her veins to kill the cancer cells, did not take her hair. Five years had passed, with each check up bringing good news, and at the five-year mark she had won the fight.
The cough began early spring of 2001. My sister and I are both nurses, and we tried in vain to talk her into getting a chest x-ray. She was being treated for asthma and bronchitis by the same family doctor that had diagnosed the colon cancer years earlier. What was he thinking? Could he not make the connection between the cough and a possible reoccurrence of the cancer? Why would he not refer her for a chest x=ray? She was in charge and while we made our concerns clear to her, I think her feeling was that if he didn’t mention it, then it wasn’t necessary. To this day my sister still carries the guilt of not making her go for an x-ray. I tell her repeatedly that you were not going to make her do anything, and I think she knew in her heart that her cancer had returned. The thinking is “If they don’t tell me I have it, then I don’t!” She is finally hospitalized with “bronchitis” which leads to a collapsed lung. Her doctor attempts to put in a chest tube at her bedside as we rush to the hospital. It is apparent as I enter the room that there is a problem with the chest tube placement, as her face, neck and upper chest were swollen, and her the tissue under her skin felt like rice krispies. We then literally bully her doctors associate to release her so we can transport her to Springfield where her care will be taken over by Dr. Hazelrigg, who had previously performed chest surgery on my dad. We had total faith in him, and at this point we would move heaven and earth to save this wonderful woman. She is admitted and many tests, CT scans, MRI’s and consultations are completed. It was decided that exploratory surgery would be completed and a date is set. I can remember so clearly sitting in that waiting room, watching families go into the consultation room, only to exit the room in tears. I said to my sister, “I pray the nurse doesn’t come out and tell us to wait for the doctor in that room!” Shortly after the words left my mouth, the nurse came out and we were herded into that room. The door was quietly closed leaving us in stunned silence wating for the confirmation of our fears that had plagued us all spring and summer. Dr. Hazelrigg enters the room and the rest is a blur….”There was too much cancer to remove….” “We just closed her up…” “Take her home and make her comfortable….” “I’m sorry…” My mom was 63 years old, she was my rock, how could I live without my mom? We put on our brave faces and go to take her place at her bedside as she slowly wakes up from surgery…..not knowing there would only be 6 weeks left ♥
My aunt Lois, her sister, next to her.