I never really knew what to say when my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer. It was accompanied with a wave of emotions and indescribable feelings. I was in denial, to be honest. My mom was the most healthy person in our family. She traveled far and wide to take care of everyone else. Her love was indescribable and honestly, the most close I’ve ever felt to the love of God outside of Him. But, like all things here on earth, her time was but for a season and she had to make her transition home. And what a beautiful transition it was.
Dating back over 5 years ago, my mother had a spot on her lungs that was detected in a precautionary CT Scan that raised some concerns. Her primary care doctor, who was also a dear friend of the family, prompted her to get that spot checked. It was tested for cancer and came back benign. Though small, she was told to get annual CT Scans and checks on that spot to make sure it didn’t continue to grow. A couple years and scans later, it was ruled out as scar tissue seeing that it had not progressed…and the subsequent scan was foregone.
In 2015, my aunt began to have problems with her leg. She was losing an insane amount of weight. They diagnosed her with bursitis. She continued to go about her day to day activities in loads of pain and without resolve. The doctors ran some additional tests and right before Thanksgiving that year, she was given a grim outlook. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer that had metastasized to her bones. A non smoker and non drinker, this was alarming news, not only to my mother and our family, but to everyone in our immediate surrounding. With the advances of cancer research, her cancer qualified for a targeted treatment that would allow for no chemotherapy and no stress. She saw reasonable improvements in her status and was able to continue normal activities. My mother went to see about her often and made sure that she was okay. She had no idea of her own sickness, nor did any one of us.
Fast forward to 2016, my mother began to go see about our cousin, who became very ill after their annual class reunion and was admitted to the hospital. She was comatose for a long time. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was going on with her and did strenuous testing. September of that same year, my mother began to have issues with her legs. Her legs would hurt so badly that she could barely walk up the stairs. She went to the doctor and they found fracture in her inner pelvic bone and told her the best way to heal it was rest. So, she rested it and it seemingly got better.
By November, they realized that her cousin had Stage IV lung cancer that had metastasized to her brain. Her fate was in limbo and they kept hope. My mother was still there for her, even with a hurt leg and even with my transitional situation, she was adamant about giving to those she loved. That’s just who she was. One morning that same month, she woke up and could barely breathe. I had to work that day, so she drove herself to the minute clinic and was diagnosed with pneumonia. They gave her the obligatory meds and sent her home. After a week on the meds, the symptoms got no better. We took her to her primary care doctor where he ordered more CT Scans.
After her CT Scan, she was asked to come straight to the doctor’s office. He had some news for us. There was a fist sized growth in her lung and small growths on her liver. She told her doctor not to “be my friend, but my doctor.” He told her it was most likely cancer and she had to be admitted into the hospital ASAP. We went home, packed a bag and brought her straight to the hospital. There, she was met with a team of specialists who could help through the grueling process. The first thing was to do additional tests to see what else was going on. Come to find out, she had a blood clot that had traveled from her leg to her lungs, so they came up with a course of action. The first was get some of the fluid off her lungs, for her comfort and for testing. They next had to place an IVC Filter in her stomach to stop the blood clot from traveling further. It was a lot to do in not so much time.
Then the diagnosis came..and it was Stage IV lung cancer.
In all of this, she was a champ. She never complained, she never wavered in her faith in God and that was such a beautiful thing. She was trusting God for her healing and chose to opt for treatment. With a confident spirit and head held high, she was the epitome of a strong woman. Her body was deteriorating, but her spirit was emerging as something greater than anyone could have ever imagined.
She fought through Chemotherapy like no other. She was not really sick, just tired but maintained a great appetite and love for life. With the help of family and friends, we made sure that she was comfortable and positive. I went with her to the many doctor’s visits and appointments and the reports were always great. They soon found new treatment for her to take, Keytruda, which was supposed to be less harsh than the Chemo. She was happy about that. We delightfully accepted and she began those treatments as soon as she was cleared. She seemed to respond well. She was driving again and out and about with church.
By June, she was ready to travel to Illinois while Jay and I moved into our new home with my now fiance, Derek. She went to Illinois to be with family and close friends for two weeks. We talked while she was there. She seemed happy and content. Come to find out, she had experienced nosebleeds (out of the normal for her) and some tiredness that had not been there previously. When she got back from Illinois, we noticed a BIG difference.
Her once full appetite was replaced with a weakened appetite and she would only walk from her bed to the restroom and back. Her energy had depleted to almost nothing and she had lost a great deal of weight, but her stomach was protruding. We expressed our concerns at her next doctor’s appointment and after examination, they ordered more scans.
This is where it gets really tough.
We were called back a day after the scans to come back to the doctor’s office to see her Oncologist. I was working that day, but left early to meet my mom at the doctor’s office. My aunt was bringing my mom to the office. When I walked in the doctor’s office and saw my mom, my heart dropped. I couldn’t take it. Her head was laying to the side and she could barely keep her eyes opened. I knew what the prognosis was and I didn’t want to accept it. The cancer had spread everywhere. It was an end of life conversation and my heart sunk down to my ankles (or so it felt.)
The beautiful thing about her journey was that she never once (and I was there the entire time) felt like this was an unfair path in her life. She was confident about what she did for others and most importantly, how she served. She held her head high and she knew that this was written in her journey. Her life and her legacy would be the story she would tell even after transcendence to be with the Lord.
She passed away with such beautiful grace.
I miss her daily. I think about the times we shared together daily. I spent 32 years with her side by side…good, bad, and ugly. We held each other up in times of need, she was my rock. The closest love to God’s I felt was hers and I can’t say that enough. It was truly unconditional. Somehow, even in that, I knew the continuance of her journey became the beginning of mine. I don’t believe she would have had it any other way. This was a life changing experience for me. I now appreciate things beyond what I can see and I see all situations as pieces of a greater whole. I don’t know how to explain it, but the grief I had was not for her. It was, in turn, for the world because only few people can have that much serenity in times of seeming despair.
We all have things that we take for granted, but it is important to remember that our time here is limited. What legacy do you want to leave for the world to carry even after you ascend beyond? I know what I want. That is to carry the Legend of Zelda.