Tag Archives: brain cancer

You can change the world.

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You may or may not know that my mother died four years ago from a brain tumor. If you’re interested, you can read some of that journey here. This year, my father-in-law lost his battle with lung cancer. But whether or not you knew about those things… you probably know someone who has had cancer. You likely have lost a loved one or friend to cancer. You may, as I have, felt frustrated that there was nothing – not a single, damned thing – that you could do to make it better for that person, or for their family, or for yourself. Helplessness is a terrible, dark feeling.

I’m not talking about taking casseroles and watching the kids while they’re in chemo, or cleaning their house for them or helping them run errands. Those things are amazing and valued and necessary, and you are right and good to do them. I’m talking about the helplessness of not being able to stop the cancer. To kill it, to make it go away and stop the pain it causes. To help your friend or loved-one stay here with you, and their children, and their spouses… to live a full and glorious life. I couldn’t do that. And it pissed me off. It still does.

But this is your chance to tell helplessness to fuck off. (Sorry, I use that word a lot when talking about cancer.) You can spend a small amount of your time now, and small amounts in the future, to be a part of a HUGE effort by the American Cancer Society to change the world.

YOU CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.

Watch this video, and follow this link to find out where you can get enrolled. It’s such a small thing to do, and will make such a tremendous impact on the lives of your kids, and their kids, and grandkids. Stop feeling helpless and DO something. I did, and I hope you will too.

 

I’m doing it for this beautiful, brilliant girl. Who will you change the world for?

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Tell Me A Secret

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We all have secrets. Some of us keep secrets from our spouses – the fact that your credit card balances aren’t quite as low as you claimed, or maybe the fact that you were engaged to someone else before you met them. But what about secrets that would be appreciated, or even cherished, by someone else… but you decide to keep them to yourself. Have you ever been selfish with a memory?

As my husband has been receiving updates from his step-mother and watching his father suffer what is probably his last battle with a lifetime habit of cigarette-smoking, we have talked about his feelings and how I can support him through the child’s journey he’ll be taking as his dad goes through treatment. One evening we reflected on my mom’s cancer battle, and he suddenly said “There’s something I haven’t told you before.” Obviously, in other circumstances, I might worry about this statement, but in context I simply wondered what he could be referring to.

His tears welled up a little as he confided a secret he’s kept for over 3 years. The night before mom died, as my siblings and I wrapped up an evening spent laughing (loudly) and telling stories in her hospice room, we each said our good-nights to her and headed out the door. Rick was the last to bend over her and give her a kiss, and he told her he loved her. She was heavily medicated to relieve the seizures she was experiencing due to her brain tumor, and had not been responsive or able to communicate for a couple of days. We were hopeful that she was able to hear us, but unfortunately we didn’t get to hear what she may have wanted to say to us. But when my husband said goodbye, she responded to him. He doesn’t recall recognizing any words, but she mumbled. She recognized that he was communicating with her, and she let him know.

Mom was probably the closest thing to a real mother that my husband had, but they had only a short time together – almost exactly 6 years. She was never one to mince words, nor did she hold back when heaping praise. She took Rick in when he moved here, unemployed and broke, from Colorado to marry her daughter and be her grand-daughters’ step-dad. They had so much in common it was kind of funny. I used to joke that he married me for her. 🙂

We left my youngest brother with mom that night to spend the night in the room with her, and around 6 a.m. he let the rest of us know that she had died in the night. I suppose I could be upset that my husband never told me about that night. Some people would be, I’m sure. I mean, she was my mother, afterall. I certainly would have enjoyed knowing that she recognized him. But, I know she thought he was pretty great, and I’m so pleased that her effort to say something to him at least confirms that she knew we were there. I hope that she heard our laughter and knew that she had done her job in this lifetime… she raised four children who will care for each other and be there for each other in her absence. She taught us how to remain positive and move forward through difficult times with determination.

I think it’s better that she didn’t respond to me, because I probably would have wanted to make her say something… I would have asked the doctors if perhaps she wasn’t ready to go. I would have hung on, even when it was obvious there was no point. It was time to let go. She said what she needed to say to the person who needed to hear it. I’m glad he has that special memory… but I’m also glad he finally told me about it.

The After Times

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The After Times

When my mother died I was devastated for myself. I lost a business partner, a confidant, and the biggest cheerleader for me… for everything I did in my life… that I would ever have. I lost the person I went to with any frustration or life-question. I lost my best “girlfriend”… the person I went to when my spouse drove me nuts, when my children left me speechless, when I had a life-decision to make and wasn’t sure which road to take.

I have a wonderful husband who has picked up the slack in some areas. I have had to learn to go to him when I am frustrated or confused, and he does a great job, but he doesn’t fill the entire void. My sister covers a lot of ground in other areas, because she has become my road-trip partner and let me rant to her when I am going nuts at home and just need to feel sorry for myself.

But the biggest source of sadness I have is actually not about me. It’s about her. My sister. She was, in many ways, an only child from late elementary school through college. Even though my mom remarried, they were kind of a dynamic duo. Mom was able to share many experiences with my sister that she couldn’t with her older kids. When mom died, one of my first feelings of sadness was for the many, many experiences that my sister was still going to have that our mom wouldn’t share with her. My brothers and I had had weddings, children, career successes, and hobby successes that my sister had only started to set goals for when she died… I hated that my sister would not have our mother here to share these things as I and my brothers did.

Last week, my sister lost one of her close childhood friends to an untimely death. Mom knew the young man’s family (I say “young man”… he was 31, so I guess he was actually a Man) so her number should have been the first my sister called. They could have shared a common history as they discussed the news. They would have been able to remember some great moments together. Mom would have offered to go with my sister to Dallas for the funeral. Instead, I got the phone call. I am sympathetic, of course. I even cried as my sister told me what she knew about what happened. I remember her friend, and met him once or twice, but it’s not the same. Not even close.

I knew when mom died that I would be taking mom’s place for my sister in many ways. But it doesn’t mean it’s easy when it has to happen. I am happy to do it, of course! But I hate with every cell of my body that I have to.

Some things get easier with time, but I don’t think this will. Ever.

Remains of the day

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My mom died in August after an eleven month battle with brain cancer. As most children do when a parent dies, I’ve been considering how to go about dividing up things of hers  amongst myself and my siblings. It’s going to be a chore, and will probably be pretty emotional at times, but my sister and I will be working together, so I think we’ll manage. And there will likely be a LOT of laughs as well…

Then there are the moments when something “big” happens… my kids’ milestones, my own celebrations of new jobs or whatever. I thought those might be difficult, but I have a seriously cool bunch of sibs who are just as giving and supportive as mom was about accomplishments, big and small. So, not a big problem so far.

But let me tell you what’s been difficult:

Finding mom’s contact info in my email account.

Scrolling through my phone contacts and seeing her name.

Looking for an old email and coming across the last ones I received from her.

These things are so painful. SOOOOOO PAINFUL!!! I can deal with the single moments. I can deal with sorting and putting away her favorite books or her photographs. The thing that is impossible, and that causes my breath to catch in my throat as I try not to sob, is not wanting to delete her name. Closing her cable account or turning off her internet connection is nothing really… but not having her name on my phone seems like it would be the end of the world. I cried the other night because I just wanted to call and chat with her.

I know the number on my sim card is not HER. Of course I do, I’m not delusional. But somehow, it is.

When words fail…

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For the last 11 or so months I have written sporadically about the challenges I have faced as my mother struggleMom on the squared with a brain tumor. There have been some days that were better than others, and for the most part I kept a positive attitude and assumed that we would be fighting the good fight for a few years as mom met the recurrences and physical setbacks head-on.

Unfortunately, mom lost her fight on August 6. She never wore any of the clothes I put labels into for her.

We had a wonderful memorial celebration for mom on the 22nd, and it was a perfect day. Weather, flowers, music, pictures, friends, family. All the things mom loved were a part of the day. In place of hymns we had friends of mom’s play some country/bluegrass. In place of tears, we laughed and smiled about the slideshow and stories we shared. No one spoke, no eulogies were offered – we just visited, and hugged, and remembered what mom meant to us.

My favorite thing was the memorial card. I can’t stand those little things you get at funerals that have the date of birth and death listed, and the pallbearers and family members… blah. You feel like we should keep them, because the person is someone you cared about, but it’s such a piece of crap that’s so impersonal and has the little ad on the back for the funeral home… you don’t want to keep it… So what do you do??

We printed 4×6 cards with mom’s name and birth and death dates and a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that I thought was fitting. Also, a little note thanking people for their support over the last year and their love for our mom. On the back, we pasted 4×6 photos that mom took in her garden. We made 100 out of 10 different photos – so people could pick their favorites. It was perfect.

Success:  To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded!

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The quote was so fitting for the legacy my mom left. I hope it inspires you to be a success in your life as well.

Something besides cancer, please.

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Yeah, believe it or not I do have other things to think and write about… but first, I’ll just say that I am THRILLED to report that my mom is recovering very well. She is at home, with my youngest brother with her this month. She has gotten back on the radiation schedule this week, and has been taking chemo again since the week of Thanksgiving. Her physical therapist got her up on a walker, and she’s been getting herself up and around in the morning and ready for bed at night. This week the therapist led her around the house just using her arm as a guide, and says she’s probably ready for a cane. What a huge relief! I have believed that she would recover – but there were days and weeks there that I wondered if my 0ptimism was ill-placed. It was all I could do to look at her during one of her meltdowns and smile and tell her that she had to remain positive. I’m sure that if she had had the strength she would have punched me a few times.

But now, on to more mundane and boring daily-life stuff…

Little Boy
here we go
almost done
Big Boy

We gave the gorgeous boy a haircut recently. He has beautiful curly golden hair that gets a lot of attention when we are out in public. I’ve been cutting it myself and it had reached the point where it that fact was obvious by even the most casual observer. Since his daddy recently shaved his head in solidarity with my mom, we suggested to him that he could do the same, and to our surprise, he went for it.

He was a VERY patient boy, he just complained about the itchy hair on his neck. While I don’t have a problem with the cutting of the hair – it will grow back – I REALLY disliked watching my Little Boy disappear in front of me to be replaced by this kid who looks ten-years-old. It was horrible. *snif*

He has been very proud to show me whenever he discovers he can touch something now that he couldn’t in recent memory. Cabinet doors, mail boxes, shelves at the grocery store… “Look mommy! I can reach now! Because I’m BIGGER!”

Home again, home again…

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It was a long week, but a good one.

Mom had surgery Monday morning, was in recovery overnight, and by the end of the day Tuesday we already saw improvements! As the week went on she was able to do a little more each day and her color and attitude improved as well. She definitely was more like her old self by the time we were ready to head home.

Of course, being who she is, she worried about things she didn’t need to worry about… how she was going to get home, for example. I don’t think she believed us when we told her we were going to strap her wheelchair on the top of the van like Granny in the Beverly Hillbillies. Instead, the nurses gave her a little anxiety medicine so she dozed most of the way. We had to keep her left leg elevated, so we put her in the backseat with bags and pillows under her leg.

We went straight to HealthSouth when we got to Fayetteville, and got her settled there. The room is about three times the size of the one she had in the hospital, and there is a maple tree outside her window. The physical therapist was there to get a feel for her abilities, and thought she did a great job. I assured her that the groggy voice mom had was not typical – just a result of her medicine. Erin and I suggested she should just relax and take a nap, and we left when she went to sleep.

We’re looking forward to seeing the great things they are going to do for her over the next couple of weeks!

Please feel free to send cards and letters to her at HealthSouth – the address is:

HealthSouth Rehab Hospital, 153 E. Monte Painter Drive, Fayetteville, AR 72703