“There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept,
Things we don’t want to know but have to learn
and people we can’t live without but have to let go”
-author unknown to me
So, here I am, months after my first blog ever and my entire life has changed. When I first began blogging, I was four years sober and still needing to find myself and who I truly was. I’d started a journey that was exploring all the creative outlets available to me.
Well, I am still doing those things, but something happened the day after Thanksgiving that took over my life. Let me explain. During the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving Day, my mother had been going to the doctor for a series of tests. She hadn’t been feeling well for some time, but doctors offices being what they are (busy), it took a while for her to get in to her initial appointment. Once she was in, though, it seemed like she was always having tests run. The major test was a colonoscopy and we seemed to always be waiting for the results. The reason for the was because the first time they tried to do it, the doctor was unsuccessful and now we had to wait for a special pediatric machine from a popular nearby university’s teaching hospital.
I know, CRAZY, right? An unsuccessful colonoscopy on an adult woman and now the need for a pediatric machine? Well, after I thought about it, it all made sense. Back in 1981, my mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She lived decades longer than the initial four months she had been given, because that same university’s teaching hospital used her to experiment cancer treatments on. The hospital’s head of surgery performed a full hysterectomy and then, putting her in a lead room, zapped her with all the radiation they could. What’s the worst that could happen, right? Here was a 26 year old woman with a toddler (me) and four months to live! But, a reason that colonoscopy was so difficult all these years later was because of what a surgeon does during surgeries like a hysterectomy. To get to the organ, the intestines are basically taken out and set aside. Once the doctor has completed his/her goal, the intestines are returned the best they can be. But, let’s be honest, they are basically left to fit where they can and that’s never going to be in a natural way. There’s the possibility of folds and twists that are just not good.
So, fast forward now to 2014. We are (im)patiently waiting for results to machines to come and results to be figured out. Life is continuing on for everyone. I seemed to be always calming my father down because he swore Mom’s symptoms were just like before. That was crazy, I thought. First, she’d need a cervix for that. I was giving him every possible gastric disease that had similar symptoms. Crohn’s disease. Diverticulitis. Anything. Then came Thanksgiving. We celebrated at my parent’s house. There was six of us: my husband, kids, myself, and my parents. That’s a MUCH smaller group than usual, but it was great. The six of us do a lot of things just us. I am an only child and my mother ALWAYS wanted grandkids. We spend all of the other major holidays (my parents included) with my in-laws, but Thanksgiving? That one’s ours.
The day after Thanksgiving things were going as usual. Chores around the house, prepping for the week long process of putting up Christmas decorations. That’s also the day my life took a drastic turn. I received a phone call from my father at about 5:30pm. He was frantic. Mom was about to go in for an emergency surgery and, I would later learn, it was questionable if she would survive. I was there and by my Dad’s side as they wheeled Mom away. The reason for this emergency surgery? There was a mass the size of a grapefruit connected to her liver and her intestines that created a rip and her bowel was leaking. There were also spots showing on her lungs that they needed to get a biopsy on. When the surgeon came out after about four hours of surgery, we were just grateful she was alive. We listened as the doctor explained all that he saw (intestines a matted mess, issues with sutures securing due to all the radiation she’d received decades ago) and all that he did (she now had an ileostomy.
We found out later the following week that, yes, she did have cancer. A very rare form of cancer named leiomyosarcoma. To make horrible news even worse, it doesn’t respond well to chemo and it’s a fast, aggressive cancer. I’ve come to tell people that my family is a go big or go home type when it comes to cancer because even those that begin as a known cancer, turn into something rare. I was already familiar with rare, fast, and aggressive because my grandmother passed from a cancer called clear cell cancer. My first response was to research. Come to find out, this leiomyosarcoma can grow a few cells and then lay dormant in your body for 20 years and then just take off. But, research also said that it’s typically found in the female reproductive organs. Now, how the heck does that happen, you ask? Well, the infectious disease specialist says this is obviously the same cancer she had in 1981!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! That just made a very rare form of cancer even more rare because it’s been well over 30 years since she had cancer!
Now, life was just being cruel. She did everything she was supposed to. She remained with her oncologist for 10 years. Five years is the remission mark and 10 years is cured. Up until a few years ago when she stopped taking hormones, she went to the gynecologist regularly. As any woman would think, she didn’t have anything s/he could check so why go anymore.
Well, Mom died on December 27th. One day shy of exactly one month after her first surgery. There was another due to complications with the ileostomy and after effects of all that radiation. Her funeral was this past Saturday, January 3rd. January 4th would have been her 35th wedding anniversary with my Dad.
This is the main reason why I am sitting here at the computer blogging. What began as a way to find myself now grew to include dealing with the loss of a parent and how I’m coping. The reason I chose to be public about this as opposed to writing in a journal and such is because this keeps me from isolating when times are hard as that is what I tend to do. I am very glad I saw the invite to join Blogging 101 because it gives me a starting point. Through the next year I know there are going to be some very rough times emotionally. By being honest with you and continuing to explore my creativity, I maintain my sobriety and successfully make it through any other struggles I meet.