I was laying in bed Thursday night not feeling very well looking for something to watch on TV and as usual not much interested me so I decided to re watch the last season of The Big C.. If you haven’t seen this show I highly recommend it. It was on Showtime and there were only 4 season. Anyhow, while watching this show I started thinking about my mom and the few deep conversations we had and the ones that stick out in my mind during her illness. If you don’t know, my mom had pancreatic cancer and she was diagnosed in March of 1999 and passed away in August of 1999. My mom was my best friend an until now it’s been too difficult for me to record the conversations we had but I have finally done so. I blog about this I guess for my own self. There will be no photos in this post just lots of writing. If you rather not read it I understand. If you read the whole thing I do thank you.. There are ten conversations in total.
Conversations With Mom – 1
The day we got the definite diagnosis my brother went to the hospital to tell my mom. I could not bring myself to do it. I couldn’t look her in the eyes and tell her she was going to die probably within six months.
Once I was pretty sure my brother was there for a while I called my mom. I remember us both crying on the phone but the only words that would come out of my mouth through my sobs were “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” Not sorry because I was not there, sorry because I knew what her diagnosis meant. Sorry because I knew that despite chemo therapy (her tumor was inoperable) she would die anyway. It was February.
Conversations With Mom – 2
A few days before mom was scheduled to go in to have scans run to see if the chemo had shrunk the tumor, we were in her bedroom and she was ironing because she loved to iron. She ironed everything, yes, including bed sheets. I said I knew the chemo had worked. I didn’t really know that but I wanted it to be true and I wanted my mom to be positive. Mom looked at me and said “no”..She knew it hadn’t worked. I asked her how she could know that and she said because she could feel it and she added that she also knew it had spread because she could feel that as well.
It was April..
Conversations With Mom -3
Mom came home from having her scans done. We sat in the living room together, across from each other. Me on the couch and she in her wheelchair. She told me that she was right, the chemo had not shrunk the tumor in her pancreas and it had in fact now spread to her liver. We sat in silence for a few moments staring at each other, tears streaming down my cheeks and unable to speak. When I finally did find my voice again, all I could muster was “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry mom”..not sorry because I couldn’t speak. Sorry because I was looking at my mom, my best friend knowing there was no treatment that would stop this monster from stealing her from me, from her own life. She was 55 almost 56 and there was nothing I could do to make it go away, make it better and nothing medicine could do either. Sorry because she wouldn’t get to see her grandchildren whom she loved more than life itself grow up and experience life.
Conversations With Mom – 4
That same day I said to my mom, “what now?” Mom was silent for a few moments and then she began to answer slowly. She looked down, then she looked at me. She could do another round of chemo in the hopes that the build up of the chemo would work the second time around and possibly prolong her life and then she said…..”No more. I don’t want it anymore. I don’t want to spend whatever time I have left sick from chemo.” Then she asked me if I was okay with that.
That was my mom, always worrying about how I was. Again, I sat in silence for a few moments, more tears. I needed my brain to stop feeling stunted before I could speak. When it finally did, I told my mom that I understood and if she was absolutely sure this was what she wanted then I would respect her decision and I was with her to the end.
Conversations With Mom – 5
One night while myself and my mom were lying on her bed watching a classic black and white movie I asked her if she would run her nails through my hair and rub my head like she used to when I was a little girl and we layed down to watch TV. I didn’t want to forget.
After the movie was over, I looked up at her and asked her if she was afraid. She said no. I then asked if she wanted me to sleep in her bed with her at night just incase she woke up during the night and didn’t feel well or found herself afraid. She wouldn’t be alone. I would be with her. Mom said no, that she would be fine. I didn’t push the issue but I believe she only said no because she didn’t want me to be afraid..
It was June…
Conversations With Mom – 6
Mom called me into her room one night and I sat in the pink, high backed, winged chair she had adjacent to her bed. She was going through her jewelry. She wanted me to pick out what I wanted. Instantly my tears began to fall and I told her I couldn’t do that, she’s still alive and those things belong to her. That was a turning point for me. As strong as I had been since the day of her diagnosis all fell in on me and I began to sob. I told her that I didn’t know what I was going to do without her. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to move on in life, how to live life without her. That I couldn’t do it. I know I couldn’t do it. What was I going to do without her.
Mom took my hand and with her other hand she wiped my tears and said “you are stronger than you think. I’ve always told you that. You will be fine and you will find your way.” These are things my mom has always told me. To this day I wish I had as much faith in myself as my mom always did. For the past 13 years life has moved on, life has changed but for me I feel as if I have been floating through life alone without any real direction and I don’t know if that will ever change..
It was July….
Conversations With Mom – 7
Again, one night while in moms bedroom with
her, she stated that when “it was time” she did not want any life sustaining measures. She also said she wanted to die at home. I said I understood but hoped that she would understand that if I had no other choice but to get her to the hospital. She said she did…
It was August
Conversations With Mom – 8
It was late August. The 19th of August. Mom was not well at all. Hospice had come in the early morning and the nurse told me it would only be a matter of hours before mom would leave us. I was asked if my mom had a DNR. I told the nurse of mine and my moms conversation about what she wanted and the nurse said I then needed to get my mom to sign a DNR for it to be legal and if she couldn’t sign I needed her verbal consent so I could sign it for her. I went to my moms bedroom and made sure she was fully co-hearent and understood what I was telling her which she did. I asked her if she was sure she didn’t want any life sustaining measures to which she replied yes she was sure. I then asked her again if she absolutely sure and again, she said she was So, with my heart being ripped out of my chest and a brain feeling like it would explode I signed the DNR.
Conversations With Mom – 9
It was still August 19th. The hospice nurse said my mom was fighting hard to hold onto life that she had never seen anyone fight so hard to live. A few minutes later when my mom needed to be moved I knew I was going to have to call an ambulance. I couldn’t lift her. Her body weight, even though she was only 4ft9 inches tall and now only about 73 pounds was as heavy as led and I could not move her. I knew I was going to need help. The hospice nurse called the hospital to make sure a room would be ready for her as soon as we arrived and then she called the ambulance.
Mom was in a lot of pain at this point and everytime the ambulance crew tried to move her she would yell in pain. My brother had arrived by this time and he couldn’t handle seeing his mother be in pain when someone touched her so now he started yelling at the ambulance crew, they started going back at him and it was slowly becoming a circus in my moms bedroom. At that point I yelled at the top of my lungs for everyone to shut up and get out! Just get out! and wait for me in the other room. I closed the door and sat down next to my mom on her bed who by this time was in and out of it mentally now. I explained to her why the ambulance was here, how sorry I was that I needed help because I knew she wanted to stay home. My mom replied “It’s okay Robyn, I understand. Don’t cry”..
I then said to my mom, I know you’re in pain but do you think you can handle the pain for only a few moments while they move you from the bed onto the stretcher? I know it hurts but I promise it will be quick and they will be as gentle as possible. She said that she could do it.. I called the crew back in and told them just how it was all going to go down and I was shocked but they listened to me and my mom was transferred from her bed to the stretcher gently, quickly and smoothly.
Conversations With Mom – 10
August 20th, 1999
In moms hospital room when I arrived she looked to be resting comfortably. After I called her name a few times, I asked her if she was comfortable. She replied “believe it or not, I am”.. My mom was in the midst of transitioning from this life to the next but, she still had her sense of humor.
At 4:10 pm after again calling her name a few times I told my mom that it was okay for her to let go if she needed too. I would be alright. She needed to do what she had to for herself now, I would be okay. Truth is, I lied but did so because I know my mom was hanging on for me. I knew I wasn’t okay but I wanted her to let go if she had to and be at peace doing it. I whispered in my moms ear “I love you” and kissed her on the forehead. Mom opened her eyes for the last time, looked at me and said
” I love you too”.
This was our last conversation.
It was August 20th 1999.
The last words my mom ever spoke to me were the same as the first words she ever spoke to me.
“I love you”