This month’s story was tough for me to write, but GOOD for me to write. If you don’t know what this Life Stories thing is all about, click here to read about it!
This is the story of two years of cancer. The story of hope. The story of faith and love.
This is the story of my mom.
Mom, you mean the world to me. I write this to you because I love you beyond words, and I feel that pictures will help me explain.
Here you are just 3 months before your life was rocked by cancer. I love this picture of you. Calm and poised. Wisdom hiding behind your eyes. Love shining brightly directly into my soul.
My ever present mom.
Two years ago, we got the devastating news that you had brain cancer. You had tumors in multiple areas of your brain. It happened so quickly. You had just been in Guatemala, helping others, nursing others back to health, and then, with a blink of an eye, you were on the receiving end of that nursing care. Days after you experienced your first symptoms in a remote village in Guatemala, you found your way back to California with so many people escorting you home. I am so thankful for them. I think you made it home just in time.
We had no idea what was to come. We didn’t know, quite frankly, if you were going to die. You could barely roll over in bed. You were scared. You tried your best to hide your fear and sadness, as only a mother could. But you were scared. All your kids jumped in planes and cars to be by your side. It was so wonderful to be together as a family, but that comfort was bittersweet.
I took these pictures while swallowing back tears. I didn’t know if this was it. I am crying as I type this, just thinking of how lost and helpless I felt. How lost and hopeless we all felt…. Cancer sucks. Just go away, Cancer. You are not welcome here.
We were all so scared that these could be our last moments.
All I could think is that I had to document you. I realized how few pictures I had of you, and it broke my heart. I had to document you: mother, grandmother, friend.
Look how little he is, Mom!
And, he was just a month old. A newborn that just weeks earlier, you had cared for.
Gosh, the kids just keep getting older, while we keep getting younger, huh?
You read to her, and she just soaked you in.
Pictures took on a new meaning for me when you got sick. No longer were they just to create a pretty picture.
Pictures preserve memories. Pictures are important. They put an image to a feeling. I can’t thank you enough, Mom, for letting me take pictures of you now. I remember how reluctant you were to let me take your picture before you were sick. When you were in the hospital, I remember asking “why are you letting me take pictures of you now?” And you said “because there’s no expectation for me to look good.” Ha!
The day after those pictures were taken, you were too tired and weak for visiting. It was a tough time.
But you responded so amazingly to the chemo, the love, and the prayers. You were soon walking again. You got better so quickly. By April 2010, you were home. How amazing! You were home!!! I remember walking through your house when you were first diagnosed and thinking you would never be back in your house. But there you were. It really was a miracle.
We gathered and finally got a decent family picture.
It was a happy time. A hopeful time.
And there you and dad are. The happiest divorced couple that ever lived. Dad, your help through mom’s illness…. Words cannot explain what an amazing man you are. Thank you…. I don’t think I have ever sat and thought about your heart’s generosity without getting choked up. And the fact that you brush it off so easily…. you shouldn’t do that. What you have done for mom and for us is nothing short of spectacular. Thank you.
Looking back at it now, Mom, I see things at this point, as starting to get back to manageable. You were living on your own. You were back to the YMCA and exercising. You were fighting and working. Every day.
And you were feeling well enough to start protesting having your picture taken. : )
But maybe you just know now how important pictures are. You rarely hide from my camera anymore.
In March 2011, your chemo port was removed. No more treatment. You were done!
And then in June 2011… three months after getting the “all clear” from the oncologist….
Another tumor. Just one this time. But a big one. At the base of your brain. This one affected your speech, your swallowing, your cognition, your mobility. This one… was a whopper. It was so difficult seeing you unable to say what you wanted. When you tried to cut your food with a menu, my heart just broke.
All us kids took turns spending the night with you in the hospital. The night that I stayed, you told me that you thought you were going to die.
I fought with all my strength to hide my tears from you. It was the first time since you had been diagnosed that I had heard you voice those concerns. You touched my face with your hand and looked so deeply into my eyes with concern and said “I don’t want you to be sad.”
Always the caregiver, Mom. Always concerned more about the ones you love than being concerned for yourself…. I understand that now that I am a mom.
I love you so much.
But you didn’t die. You fought. You fought with everything you had.
I love both of these pictures of you. On the left, you have just the hint of a crooked smile since that stupid tumor was messing with your mouth, but the look in your eyes…. Pure love. And the one on the right. You’re a goofball, Mom.
Back to acute rehab for intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
Then back to the hospital for more chemo… and complications. Pulmonary emboli made it difficult for you to keep your oxygen levels up. You were on 15 L of oxygen, but your fight was so clearly back. Twinkling eyes behind the mask.
These pictures are two of my favorite pictures of you and dad. I love the relationship you two have.
After what seemed forever, you were ready to be discharged. But not home. Your stairs made that impossible. So you moved in with dad and a 24 hour caregiver. And you continued to fight.
Hallway laps, anyone?
By November, you were getting ready to go home. I love this picture of you. Resting after climbing your stairs. Back in your home, after almost 6 months away. You’re just breathing it all in.
But those stairs still made it a difficult transition home. I’m so glad you got that stair lift.
And now you’re home. Still fighting. Still working.
Mom, these two years have been hard on all of us, but hardest on you. I want to take this time to tell you how amazed I am by you.
You are my best friend.
You have always been there to listen to me, offer advice, be a shoulder to cry on.
You have taught me how to love… and to do so unconditionally.
You have taught me to give…without wanting to receive anything back.
You have taught me strength. You have taught me this through example. You live your life deliberately, Mom. Your actions and words have meaning. I see you. I see all that you do, and I’m sitting here choking back tears that I am lucky enough to call you mom. I am so lucky to have you as an example of how to live my life with a loving heart and a giving hand. I am lucky that I have learned from you how to live my life deliberately. I am lucky that my children can call you “Bama.” I am lucky, and my kids are lucky, that you have taught me how to be a mom.
And Mom, I want you to know that I am so happy that you are still here on this earth. I continue to learn from you, to love you, to gain strength from you. And someday, I know, you will leave this earth. We all will. And pretending that we won’t is silly. No one can run from it, so we might as well just accept it and say and do the things we want to do now, while we’re still here to say and do those things, right?
And because I am now a mom, I know something. I know that beyond anything else in this world, I want my children to be happy. I worry about their well being. And I know you worry about your kids’ well beings.
So, Mom, I want you to know that when you die… I will be okay. I will miss you and grieve your loss immensely. I know that. But I will be okay… because I have you inside of me. And that flame is too bright to ever extinguish. The strength you have endowed to me will carry me through any storm. I have you with me. Always.
I love you, Mom. And my kids love their Bama.
Thank you for everything you are to me. I love you more than I could ever express to you.
And to any of my readers who made it through this post, I ask that you please send a healthy thought or prayer my mom’s way. She’s pretty dang awesome, wouldn’t you say?
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