Nearly three months have passed since my mom died. I think about her multiple times a day and have began being able to smile when looking at photographs of her. My children remember their grandma as I work her into the conversation sometimes. My children are still small and my mom was afraid they would not remember her when they grew up. They will know her.
I was warned during the six months we expected my mom would lose the battle to her cancer of various things. Someone told me to spend more time with her because I would regret it later if I did not. I spent time with her when I could but the most insane thoughts came to mind while near her. At one point I was convinced my being around with such a good prognosis and being alive more than a decade after cancer treatment was a bad thing for her.
I think regret is a part of the process when losing anyone. I regret returning home the afternoon of her death before knowing what was causing her breathing problem. I regret not printing the article I wrote about her last Mother’s Day and allowing her to read it even though I know the tumor on her brain caused her to have problems reading. I regret many situations, circumstances, and have an unexplainable ache to see her again. What I realize that others may not is she was the driving force in my own battle with cancer. She made me go through treatment and never let me doubt I would become an adult and fulfill my dreams. I feel guilt for not being able to be the same for her and help her realize she might live to be elderly and meet her first great-grandchildren.
When a parent dies, it isn’t just the loss of a physical shell to us. The world has been very cold the past few months.
What I did not expect was the level of guilt I have due to continuing to be alive in spite of three cancer diagnoses myself. My mom absorbed herself in being certain my health was fine. During a time period where we did not know the name Cowden Syndrome-only the cancer scares and had no real game plan she was my advocate. When I had signs of a cancer relapse four years before the cancer was found as returned she had me scanned during a visit to the emergency room. I was hospitalized for infection over New Year’s Day 1993 and was so convinced I was dying that I told her “goodbye.” She told me I was not dying and wasn’t going to until I became an adult so don’t tell her “goodbye.” Her prescence was so calming. It was years before I realized she was torn apart inside. Even as a child I begged her to say everything was going to be fine repeatedly. Until she became ill, I believed it.
No one told me to expect to feel guilt. In life every situation is different I guess. Sometimes I feel she exhausted herself in my cancer battles to such an extent she forgot her own self. I dream of going back to around 2001 and forcing her to have a colonoscopy so she could catch the cancer before it went too far. I am almost 34 years old and dreaming of time travel, how pathetic.
No, time travel isn’t possible and she is gone. My mom who worked so hard and helped so many people had her life cut off only one month before her first retirement check. I remember realizing her father and paternal grandfather each died at age 62 and telling her several years ago to be careful when she gets there. I never thought she wouldn’t be 62. She was so healthy until several months before her diagnosis.
Living life means going forward no matter how painful it is. I have such guilt-if I hadn’t exhausted her in battling cancer, would she have realized the pain she felt was unusual before she did? How can I continue to be here when I never wanted to live as much as she did (not until I had children)? I’m certain these questions will always be with me to some degree and it is an unexplainable hurt.
There wasn’t a lot of time between my learning of Owen and Hannah having Cowden Syndrome and my mom’s diagnosis. A part of what I comforted myself with during their diagnosis was knowing mom had been through next to the worst with me-not my death but the diagnosis, the return of the diagnosis, the treatment for the diagnosis, the fear of death, etc. I thought to myself, “at least I have her to ask advice of if the worst happens and my children do get seriously ill.” Now she is gone and I find myself in similar shoes. No, my children haven’t been diagnosed with cancer but neither had I until age 9 and they are 7 and 5 1/2. I recognize they are at extreme risk-especially with Cowden Syndrome being so strong in me.
Now I realize the one I could turn to who understands is gone.
So we switch places. I become my own advocate along with being the advocate for my children’s health.
Some situations in life are simply painful circles.
I wish she had been her own health advocate or that I had been hers for her.