New Way to be Human

Nov. 18 2004, my Mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer. I started this blog to chronicle her journey. July 19, 2005 she gave her life in the battle. This blog is my place to process through the journey I walked along with her, and now my journey through grief. It's also a place to discuss the effects cancer has on the lives it touches--survivors and caregivers alike. I'm a Navy wife, a Mom, and my mother's daughter now and forever.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Last Days

I have a lot of thoughts banging around about our Last Days with Mom. It was a difficult, beautiful, grotesque, horrible, exhausting, stressful, miraculous experience to be there with her as she centered into herself, and let go of this life.

I was suprised at how unbeautiful parts of it undignified. Mom was unresponsive for most of the last 4 days and all of the last two. She started having to fight for air. She had apnea and snored constantly and would go a long time between breaths. She stopped being able to focus. She lost her words and her ability to communicate. She moaned. At times I think she fought to hold on even though it was obvious that while she wasn't perhaps in pain, she was far from peaceful or comfortable.

When she stopped eating, I got a little worried. I thought we might see her eat a little bit more at some point. Then I remember getting to the end of the day and looking at the water glass we'd filled for her that morning. I had been comforting myself all day that she was still taking in water, if only by us squirting it in her mouth with a syringe. Then I looked at the mostly full glass and realized she'd had about 5 teaspoons of water the whole day. Then I knew we were at the end.

Death seemed to come gradually and like a huge freight train bearing down on us all at the same time. I say that because we really thought we had more time. We thought we had a month or maybe more of Mom still being Mom... Of pain control and maybe some time to make beautiful memories. Instead three days into her being on hospice I knew we were at the end. And six days after she signed on, she was gone.

There were moments where Mom gave us tremendous gifts. Three days before she left, I woke up and was with her, and she asked for Daddy. He came in and the look in her eyes was still just so loving... It was the look that I know she had when they were first married and she would gaze at him without him knowing it. It was still there.

It was brutal and ugly when only a few hours later she didn't know who Daddy was and only referred to him as "That Man."

Mom's last attempt at saying something TO ME she told me that she loved me. I was sponging her mouth off, and said as casually and commonplace as we always have, "I love you, Mom." And she said it back. It seemed an automatic response at the time, but now I know it was an amazing gift.

It was hard. Incredibly hard. It was hard when she saw me and thought I was someone else. I felt humiliated for her at some of the things we had to do. It was exhausing. It was slow and yet so fast.

And when I came in after Daddy came to get me after she'd died, the beauty was there again.

Mom was at peace.

Mom is at peace.

And I miss her and it hurts all the time. The feeling of her laughing and smiling has faded a bit. I know she needs to go on and not cling even to reassure us. I know she still is laughing and smiling... She just can't be constantly letting me know, now.

I know that she still is. And that makes me happy. But I miss her.


Well, we leave tomorrow for Washington. Carolyn and I will be there for a month. We're driving out, but trying to take it nice and slow so as not to overwhelm Carolyn, and not to make it another horrendous trip of pushing too hard.

It was a hard decision, but when you lose someone to cancer, or to anything really, your perspective changes. The questions with the most weight stopped being, "What about the money? What about the logisitcs?" and started being, "How can we spend the most time together?" I know that sounds cliche.

I kept hearing Mom's voice in my head saying, "It's only money. I've never seen a Brinks truck in a funeral procession." I kept hearing her tell my Aunt Dar to "Get your priorities straight, woman!"

Searching for places to live was kind of interesting. We've settled on a vacation rental in a town not far from the base. It looks really pretty. Everything is furnished, and it says it has a view of the water. It sounds like a good place to find a bit of rest.

I feel sort of guilty. Dad is helping us quite a bit financially, and this place looks really nice. He said Mom would want this, and that he wants it too. I feel like a spoiled only child.

But I also feel that maybe this is the 'break' that I've been hoping to catch. I feel like this is a time to recoup and regroup before focus shifts from the big C of cancer to the big D of deployment. I think this will give me time to greive. I don't think this is something that I 'deserve,' or a return of goodness for the difficulty I've been thorugh. Instead I feel it's a serindipitous gift that should be enjoyed and fully lived. I hope that's what it is anyway.

So... off we go.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Constant Deciding

I haven't been in one place for more than a year since... well since High School if you count the back and forthing between college and my folks' house.

Now I face another location decision.

I came back to my parents' house to be with Mom and to help care for her.

Now Mom is gone.

Andy is on land for another month and a half. He is back from this last detachment and they're gearing up for the actual deployment now. I want to be with him while I can.

But... our apartment is gone and in storage. Staying in a hotel for a month would be REALLY expensive.

I think it would be worth it for C and I to be with my husband. Especially since this is our last opportunity to be with him before he is gone for a long time. It would be a comfort to be with him as I start getting serious about this grief stuff. It hurts to know that Mom is gone and that DH will be away soon too. Being with him while I can just seems like the right thing to do.

But can we justify spending that much when we have a pretty modest income as is? All the travelling we've had to do this year has strapped us a bit already.

Mom would tell me that it's only money. I know she would.

I just long for a boring year with no moves, no deaths, no catastrophes, and no drastic decisions needing to be made every month or so.

I miss Mom. A lot.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


It's a suprise to me, but the feeling I feel most strongly since Mom left us yesterday is joy.

My Mom is free now. She had her first good day in 9 months yesterday. She doesn't hurt any more. She isn't stuck in a body that can't keep up with her mind and spirit. Being by her side as she went through her final days as such an amazing blessing, and it was the hardest thing I've ever done. The person who lay in the hopsital bed in her room those last few days seemed just a shell of the wonderful woman I knew as "Mom."

And yet... MOM was in there. That was what was excruciating. She was in there... Locked in a body that was non-responsive and suffering.

The look on Mom's face when I saw her after she passed yesterday morning was one of complete peace. I can only imagine that those first moments of heaven were full of such amazing joy and peace and release and relief for her. I can feel her smiling. I can feel her laughing. And it makes me want to laugh and smile too.

I grieve for what we will not have, and for the brilliant colors that left the world yesterday... But I am so very happy for my Mommy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Mom's Birthday

Today is Mom's new birthday.

She was born into eternal life this morning.

She is free now.

She died this morning, after Andy arrived, I believe, because she needed to see him again and know that he would be here to take care of me.

Carolyn knew immediately.

I miss her so much already.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The 'H word'

So we're there. We're to 'The H Word.'

Hospice came today. The Doctor determined that Mom was not a good candidate for the clinical trial, that she was, in fact, no longer a good candidate for any sort of treatment to fight the cancer.

Comfort and Pain Management is the order of the day now.

As I said, In-home hospice came this morning. They seem very nice. They will take care of things like giving Mom baths and washing her hair, as well as providing her pain meds, and spiffy things like a hospital bed. The help is so appreciated.

The thing that scares us all is that when you sign on the dotted line for Hospice you no longer do blood transfusions. Mom's blood counts suck... All the time they suck. Without transfusions, I think things will go very quickly.

This hurts worse than anything I've ever experienced. I'm still 'marching on' with large quantities of sugar. You know what they say about a spoonful of sugar... Obviously, bucketloads are necessary now.

The doctor said Maybe three months, definitely not six. With the blood situation as it is, I'm not sure we'll even have that long. I am praying she makes it for her brothers to visit and until Andy's leave time.

I get the sense that in a lot of ways, each day is going to be harder than the last. There are moments that I'm not sure how I'm going to survive this.... but I know somehow I will.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Still Marching

I had a good old meltdown yesterday. I guess I knew that was coming, but I so didn't want it to. I was tired from traveling to Kansas and back for Andy's grandfather's 90th birthday, and trying to get ready for my aunt to come in... And then I found out Mom was not liking the meals I've been fixing... Plus, I was so busy I didn't get a shower until almost 5 pm.

And let me tell you... There was major crumblage. I cried and cried and cried and yelled... The worst part was, I yelled while Mom was in the room. I didn't Yell at her. I yelled Near her. (There really is a distinction), but I still felt just horrible for doing it...

I wanted a hug from Andy so very badly. I'd have settled for one from anyone that I feel ok being a wreck around, but... those people are few and far between these days... So I mostly just bawled everywhere. I shared my woes with Carolyn, who is a very sympathetic listener. She also tends to think it's kind of funny when Mommy's face is all wet.

I'm better today. It's amazing what a little sleep will do.

We're still waiting on pins and needles to find out if Mom is approved for the Perifosine.... Mom says she cries every time the phone rings. I get antsy myself.

In other news, Carolyn rolled from her front to her back today!!! How fun! She's even putting all of her rolling techniques together to get places. She turns four months today... Gosh time moves fast with a baby!