This is what I’ve been doing for the last 3 months, crying. I lost my mother, who was the kindest, most selfless, understanding and giving person. She was my confidant, my friend, my housemate and my anchor. While I can’t say her illness came on suddenly, her death was pretty quick and while I had 2 months to prepare for it, you can never fully prepare for it.
7 years ago, at the age of 82 my mom was diagnosed with stage 2/3 breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy and went through radiation. We closely monitored her situation and every 3 months went to another doctor, whether it was her oncologist or breast surgeon or radiologist. She went for annual mammograms and sonograms and always got the green light. We thought we were one of the lucky families, but then our luck ran out.
In 2015, my mom took a terrible fall and was taken to the ER. They did a body scan and that’s when we found out she had suspicious lumps on her lungs, although she didn’t have any symptoms. My mom had said many times that if the Cancer comes back, she is doing nothing. Her tag line was “whatever will be, will be”. So that’s what she chose to do, nothing. We didn’t biopsy the lumps, so there was no way to determine if this was a new cancer or if it was metastatic breast cancer.
The fall had left her with a broken wrist, broken nose and bruised legs and arms. She was not able to live by herself anymore, so I moved in. At first it was temporary, but then after living there for 3 months, I convinced her to let me move in permanently.
My mom loved her independence, even though she didn’t drive, she had lived alone for the past 3 years since my dad past. Living with her was going to be an adjustment for both of us. She lived in a very small 2 bedroom garden apartment, that was smaller than where I currently lived. But there was no other choice and so that’s what we did. I broke my lease and moved in.
I have many stories to tell about how we spent the final 3 years together, but let me fast forward to the end for now because that’s the emotion I’m currently dealing with. The unrelenting GRIEF that I feel for her. Yes, she past in December. The cancer by this point had spread to her bones, liver, lung and brain. From the time we found out to the time she past was 10 weeks. We only found out that it spread because she was in unrelenting pain down her curved spine. I attributed that to old age and disc problems because by now she was 89. But unfortunately, it was the CANCER eating away her spine.
The loss I feel can not be put into words, but those that have felt it know what I mean. The hole in your heart, the loss of hearing her voice, the empty chair at the diner table. I have a sister who is also suffering with the loss of our mom, but her grief is different than my grief. I see the bed she died in everyday. I look at the chair she used to sit in by the window and knit for hours on end. I see the jumbo crossword puzzles books she loved and the mah jong card that provided her with endless hours of joy.
I am slowly starting to make some changes around the house, so that I am not haunted by the bad memories at the end, but rather embraced by the good ones we had during the last 3 years.