Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Mom’s Cancer Story

moms story

My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 58, just days before my 40th birthday. My mom had a huge bash planned for my birthday, because she was the type of person that made every special occasion, extra special. We debated on whether or not to go through with the party then finally decided that we needed the distraction. It was a great party that is now an extra special memory.

She had a lumpectomy, chemo and radiation. All of that went so smoothly. Aside from her loosing her hair and being tired, she had no horrible side effects from the chemo. Her initial check up after all of that was cancer free, but we had to wait the allotted amount of time to say that with complete certainty. We were all very hopeful.

Our hope was soon shattered when they discovered that the cancer had already metastasized to her liver and bones. We were heartbroken, but up for the fight. Knowing how well she handled the chemo the first time we were confident that she would be active through the fight.

For the next 2 and a 1/2 years she was on and off chemo with little to no side effects. Her tumor marker numbers would be good after one round of chemo, then by the next one they would spike. We just couldn’t seem to get a handle on it. It was getting harder and harder for my mom to stay positive and focused on beating the cancer because every step forward she took, there were 2 steps backward.

During the 2 1/2 years we enjoyed life, did everything we could because we just didn’t know what was going to happen. Then, last October, she took a turn for the worse. Within a matter of days she went from coherent conversations, to mentally being gone. We got her to the hospital where they finally informed us that it had metastasized to her brain. It was so sudden, so unexpected and so wrong!

My beautiful, 61 year old mom was not supposed to die yet.

Within the week we got her home and on hospice care. We invited our immediate family over to say their last goodbyes because we knew it was going to be soon. We kept telling my mom that my brother was on his way, so she needed to hold out till he got there. She did not acknowledge this in any way except for the fact that she held on till he got there. He arrived Sunday afternoon and she took her last breath Monday afternoon, about 5 minutes after I walked in the door from work.

We had a celebration of life party for her a couple weeks later when my brother could come back out with his family. We had all of my mom’s favorite things at the party. A words with friends table set up for everyone to add a word that described my mom, a martini bar, a little gambling with the LCR game (all proceeds were donated to a breast cancer organization), a guess how many tea cups she collected with of course a prize, and of course the friends and family that loved her. It was a party my mom definitely would have loved.

This past year was a year of many firsts. The first Thanksgiving without my mom, the first Christmas, the first time her birthday came and went without a celebration, the first time my youngest daughter (who was the closest person to my mom) graduated from high school. The first time we went motorcycle riding in the desert without her organizing and planning all the food and the first time I had a breast cancer scare.

Not 4 months after my mom died I discovered a large lump. It was determined that it was a complicated cyst and needed to come out right away. I knew it would be okay but I was angry and questioned why I was having to deal with this right now, without my mom to talk to and support me? 2 weeks later I was in surgery and had the lump removed. To my relief my 3cm cyst was not cancer.

I cannot stress enough how important self examinations are and regular mammograms. Early detection is the key, had my mom gotten to the doctor sooner than she did, the cancer would not have been stage 4.

In 16 days it will be the one year anniversary of my mom’s death. My heart aches at how much I miss her. This year Thanksgiving and Christmas will be especially hard, last year we were all so numb and on autopilot that I don’t think we fully comprehended the holidays without her. This year we will be figuring out what our new normal is going to be.

My friend Vicky from Teaching and Much Moore  has shared her cancer story and has teamed up with Katie Knight from Teacher to the Core to have an awesome giveaway. Be sure to head over and enter to win the Go Pink Goody Bag, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

12 comments :

  1. Shawna - Wow, that certainly touched my heart. I feel so many of the same things you do even 7 years later. Thank you for sharing from your heart. Your mom was absolutely beautiful - like you!
    xoxo,
    Vicky

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    1. Thank you Vicky! We once again have a connection, and as always you inspire me.
      Shawna

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  2. Vicky,
    I am so sorry for your loss! My own mom got breast cancer at age 51 and fought bravely through metastisis to her lungs and bones. She died 17 years ago and I still miss her. I am now a 5 year breast cancer survivor and I have her wonderful example of love and bravery to help me through this journey.

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    1. Kathy,
      Thank you for sharing your story with me. I am sorry for the loss of you mom, but I am so happy to hear that you are 5 years cancer free, that is so awesome. Keep up the good fight, you are making your mom proud!
      Shawna

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  3. Shawna, your mom would be so proud of all of you. You are doing a great job. I'm so happy that I knew your mom and see so much of her in you and the girls. Hang in there and use us, your friends, to lean on if you need it. Hugs.

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    1. Thank you Shelley! I am glad you knew her too :) and I am counting on you all being there on those days I am feeling lost and alone. I am thankful everyday that I have all of you. I can always feel your arms holding me up whenever I am down.

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  4. Thinking of you and your family. xo

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    1. Thank you so much Ronnie, it really means so much that your reached out.
      Shawna

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  5. Praying for you and your family!

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    1. Thank you so much, I am comforted by your kind comment!
      Shawna

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  6. Your story touched my heart and is one I very much identify with. My mom passed away 5 1/2 years ago from ovarian cancer. My daughter (who was very close with my mom) will be graduating from high school this year. My sisters and I continue to find our new normal. Things will never be the same without my mom. But we "just keep swimming". Sending good thoughts and prayers to you and your family.

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    1. Hi Sue,
      I am so sorry to hear about your mom. As hard as it is for me to loose my mom, it breaks my heart to see my daughter missing her grandma so much. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers and sharing your story with me. I truly appreciate it.
      Shawna

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Thoughts and comments are always welcome!

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