Coping with Loss of a Parent to Cancer by Elena B.

It was the new year of 2014. Mom had been experiencing severe back pain for some time now. She called my sister and I into the living room one afternoon. She didn’t seem heavily concerned, so when she said she took an MRI and had been diagnosed with stage 4 adenocarcinoma, cancer, I wasn’t sure how to act.

I avoided eye contact as she explained it’s in her lymph node by her left kidney and three spots on her liver. Mom explained she was going to start chemo soon and that should get her to remission and she will be just fine.

I was five months away from turning 15, just a freshmen in high school when my mother was diagnosed. She was on her first chemotherapy cocktail from January to about March.

During that time she lost all of her hair which was very hard for her. Support from us all helped but I could tell she felt awful. Chemo wasn’t working so the doctors gave her the rest of March to relax before starting her on a new chemo-radiation cocktail in April.

During these first six months my mom would feel sick after a chemo session, but her energy was still there for the most part.

In June, chemo still was not working, the cancer was spreading. Having the summer off of chemo and radiation, my mothers mental state would be tested with a tragic loss of our family cat whom, consequently had the same cancer as my mother, being diagnosed and lost within 3 weeks.

My mom then married her boyfriend of the time in July and was then accepted into MD Anderson to pretty much become a chemo cocktail guinea pig since nothing else seemed to work.

August of 2014, the cancer had spread to her breastbone, spine, the spots on her liver had grown, and more that I am not even fully aware of. She kept my sister and I in the dark especially when things got worse, she thought she was protecting us and my mom who loved my sister and I over anything else, refused to believe she was dying.

As close family friends would years later tell me it was always, “No I’m going to get better and get back to my girls.” The main reason in the first half of this journey I never seemed truly phased by my mother being sick was due to her incredible energy levels, still giving my sister and I a birthday celebration and going shopping, although her appetite did dip. But once she started at MD Anderson, she was mentally being broken down by the loss of a cousin who survived her cancer but died with pneumonia, the loss of a close friend she made during chemotherapy, and her own hospitalizations.

She was hospitalized twice, once in late September for about a week and again the ending of October for two weeks. In those times I’ve learned she had surgeries done on her liver, the cancer spreading to her pancreas was always a large fear for us. 

In November 2014 on a Friday evening Mom came home in an ambulance, very weak, in extreme pain. Our living room had been turned into a hospital room. With the hospital bed by the fireplace where the couches used to be, a 24 hour nurse always around and always a new face.

The entire time Mom was home, she slept. When she was awake the few times, I wasn't able to speak with her as she was in lots of pain and morphine just did not seem to help enough.

Exactly a week of her being home Friday, November 21st, my aunt and step father woke my sister and I up at 3 a.m., called the doctor, and said our goodbyes.

Mom passed that early morning and it was the hardest thing my sister and I had to face.

My life would be forever changed, my life uprooted, and everything after my mothers passing could’ve never happened if I never lost her. My family, mom’s side and especially my sister and I, would never be the same.

What got me through it was being a sophomore in high school, surrounded by friends and support on a daily basis for the next two and half years, but I also never got to truly grieve the loss of my mother.

It’s been almost 7 years and I still cry on her birthday, on the day she passed, and on random days when I need her most. But as time goes on, I can say the great pain of losing her does not decrease, but the overbearing daily pain does. Time does and will help but on those days and moments you miss them most and cry out for them, they’re here.

I know my mom is with me everyday guiding me. The constant support I had helped with the weight of the overwhelming ache in my chest. It is extremely hard in the matter of 11 months my entire life fell apart but it didn’t feel that way until the last moments.

During the treatment process I focused on being busy to distract myself from the possibility of losing my mom. The thought, other than the first mention of her diagnoses, of losing her never ever seemed to be a possibility that crossed my mind.

The loss of my mother brought me to my relationship with God, a terribly dreadful loss but a blessing as well, for my life would not be what it has and is if I never lost her. I went to therapy for many many years and even still now I do, it’s good to talk things through.

We all have different ways of coping through different things, but if someone you love has cancer, support them, love them, and cherish the time you have with them.

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