Soundtrack in my head: Steve Goodman “I’ll Fly Away”
My sister broke the silence on her blog a couple of days ago and I’ll be breaking the silence today. We’re both flying back to Albuquerque this week to see our mother who is now in hospice care with late-stage ovarian cancer.
Neither my sister nor I had chosen to write in our blogs about our mother’s battle with ovarian cancer. We talked about this when we were in Albuquerque over Christmas and both of us felt the same way—it was a too private a family matter to blog. As far as I was concerned, I would rather express my feelings about it in private rather than in a public blog.
My mother was diagnosed with cancer a year and a half ago. When I first heard the news, it felt like the floor was falling out from below my feet. Then I came to a place where I accepted of the situation. Then as her condition grew worse the cycle of freaking out and acceptance would repeat itself, and has done so more often recently.
Her condition turned sharply worse right before Christmas. I arrived by train two days before and my father gave me the tour of their new house. My mother was waiting for me in the family room and as I walked in, she had this look on her face that immediately told me something serious was up. She was much more exhausted and sleeping 16-18 hours per day.
If that weren’t bad enough, I had to deal with my parents’ cats, which I’ve always been deathly allergic to. I’ve always muddled through when I’ve stayed with them before. But this time I had real problems breathing—perhaps because my allergies combined with the mile-high altitude, and, who knows, maybe stress also. While I was not having a full-blown asthma attack, it was serious enough to warrant an emergency room visit right as Christmas Eve gave way to Christmas day.
It turned out that I had a mild case of pneumonia–not enough to hospitalize me, but enough to set me back a bit. This concerned me because I knew my mother’s condition would likely make her susceptible to any bugs we might catch. I asked the doctor if pneumonia was contagious, and she said yes. I told her about my mother’s condition, and she said that I would have to wear a mask at my parents’ house. I was like, “What???!!!” and asked a couple of other doctors attending to me if this was really the case, but they confirmed that I would have to do so for 72 hours. I knew they were serious when they came back with thirteen tight-fitting respirator-grade surgical masks so that nary a germ would escape into the open air. A difficult Christmas was now turning rather bizarre, but I endured it. I wore the masks, but I also got out of my parents’ house as much as I could by sleeping at my aunt’s house and making a few trips out and about to explore the city.
My mom knew that this might be her last Christmas with us, and, to her credit, would not let us pretend this wasn’t happening. She spoke with us individually and as a group about the things that we needed to talk about. She wanted us to have closure right there and then. It was painful, but she was right.
That made it hard to leave Albuquerque, and it’s going to be harder to come back this week, but that’s part of the process of parting with a loved one. Pretty much all of us gotta go through it. Mahikari talks about acceptance of the will of God, whatever it might be. My mom has already accepted it, I think. I think I’m kind of there, too. I still go back and forth sometimes, but I know that eventually I’ll get there, too.
Meanwhile your prayers and positive thoughts would be welcome…