Hey y’all. It’s been a really long, long time. So, the title sums it up. She is gone. My mom passed away. I have written and re-written this blog post 100 times, struggling with what to say and how much to share. I decided to just speak my truth and speak from my heart.
For those of you that have been following me for some time, you know that my mom had cancer. She was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2013. It spread to her lungs in 2014. She fought long and hard to live and by 2015, she was in remission, or so we thought.
Last Christmas, my mom came to visit me for the holidays. Her plan was to stay for just one month and return to her home in NYC in late January. Since she was only supposed to stay for a short while, I immediately starting the holiday fun. We went to plays, the movies, ballet shows, dinner, church, every where that I knew she would enjoy. She was full of joy and so energetic. I also got engaged within the first week of her visit. She was actually in the house with me when my fiance proposed. We hugged, jumped for joy, and we both cried. She was very happy.
Two weeks into her visit, right before bed, she had a mild seizure and my fiancé and I rushed her to the hospital. We received horrific news. She had a seizure because THE. CANCER. SPREAD. TO. HER. BRAIN. You read that right. I almost lost my footing in the hospital. I screamed, cried and told the doctors they had made a terrible mistake. I asked them to run more tests. Well, they did and again, the diagnosis was the same. Cancer to the brain. Multiple lesions (spots) to be exact. My world slowed down and I was in complete disbelief. I told my mom that I didn’t want her to go back to NYC, instead I wanted her to stay with me long-term so that I could be with her and take care of her. She agreed and our lives changed instantly. Mom left her life behind in NY and my home was her new home.
The doctors told us that all they could do to try to stop the growth of the cancer was aggressive radiation to the brain for 10 days. That was it. Because of the number of spots on the brain, they could not do surgery to remove the spots. There were just too many of them. Also, Chemo therapy would not help because Chemo cannot penetrate the brain due to a protective shield. Have you ever heard of that? I sure didn’t.
After radiation was complete, she was given medication to try to help prevent further seizures. The medication helped for a very short while. Within weeks, mom had more seizures, was hospitalized a few times, became weaker, confused and was no longer the mom I had known all of my life. She was slow in her movement and processing skills, childlike, quiet, helpless and her overall health declined. I loved on her as hard as I could. I prepared all of her meals, made sure she ate, gave her her medicine around the clock, took her back and forth to the bathroom throughout the day and helped with everything she needed. She just couldn’t manage her own life anymore. It was traumatic to witness this decline in her health. It all happened so fast. It hurt like hell because no matter how comfortable I had made her for the day, she still had brain cancer and I could not change that. I could not help her, or save her.
She was getting weaker and weaker by the day, eating less, moving less, talking less and comprehending less. The decline was rapid. I was terrified because I witnessed this on a daily basis and there was nothing that I could do to help her. I was in denial of how bad things were getting. I kept thinking, hoping, praying that she would get better and fully recover, just like she did the last time the cancer spread. But aggressive cancer to the brain is very different. On one of our hospital visits, several doctors pulled me aside and told me that my mom did not have long to live. They predicted that she would not live longer than 4-6 months, if that. I didn’t believe them, but they were right, she didn’t have long at all.
Despite my constant prayers for healing, despite my mom reading her bible everyday and saying her own prayers for healing, she became more ill. The confusion and helplessness was a constant and she started to experience terrible back pain and headaches. One night, she had what I thought was just another seizure, but it was her last seizure. Just like with the other seizures, the ambulance came, took her to the hospital for treatment, but this time she didn’t wake up. She never woke up. She was completely unresponsive.
I wanted her to come back home with me like she always did, but the doctors sat me down and told me that was not possible this time. The very next day, she was taken from the hospital to a hospice facility near my home. I still thought she would wake up, get better and come home with me. But she did not. For 9 long days, she laid in the hospice bed, completely unresponsive with no food and water.
Her organs began shutting down and each day was worse than the previous day. She experienced kidney failure, her heart started to beat slower and slower, her skin became bruised in certain areas due to poor blood circulation, her ability to take in oxygen decreased and she just laid there day after day, dying slowly. I was so numb during those 9 days. I was by her side each day, still hoping for a miracle, crying, praying and in complete disbelief. The hospice nurse told me that I needed to say goodbye to her and tell her to let go…. I was thinking, heck no! I’m not saying goodbye to my mother! But I eventually did because I knew the end was near. My son, fiancé and I all took turns talking to her privately and telling her how much we cared for her. It was the most awful experience I have ever had to endure.
A few more days went by and 3 days before my birthday, she took her last breath at 3am, Saturday May 20th, 2017.
I have been riddled with pain and sorrow. My precious mother, who was so gentle and kind is no longer here with me. She was the first person I ever loved, deeply and truly. I no longer have a mother in the flesh. No more birthdays to celebrate with her. No more mother’s days with her. No more talking to her on the phone every single night. No more listening to her stories about what she did and ate for the day. No more. All I have now are pictures and memories. I miss her. I miss her voice and her smile.
Cancer is scary and brutal. My mom fought to survive uterine cancer, and when it spread to the lungs, she did the same. But the cancer on the brain was different, violent, swift and wicked.
I took care of her for 5 months and I cherish all of the moments she was with me. The sound of her voice as she laughed while watching her favorite shows, her playing with my dog, talking with my fiancé about sports, being overjoyed to speak with my son when he got home from school, talking to me about all the celebrity gossip she heard on Wendy Williams and TMZ- those were the last and fondest memories before she passed. Oh, I am going to counseling, and it has helped.
This will be my very first holiday ever in life without my mom. We have spent them all together. She was with me last Christmas, right in my living room, opening gifts. This Christmas, she is no longer here.
I encourage you all to take a hard long look at your lives. At any moment, things can change. Try to live your best life NOW, right now. Be good to yourself and love those around you. Each day that we are here and able to wake up, get out of bed disease free is an absolute blessing. I know it will be a long road ahead of healing and dealing with this heavy loss, but I have no other choice but to try to live and continue to make my mom proud.
Before my mom passed, she told me she admired me because I was brave. Me, the girl who is anxious, sometimes insecure and often afraid, my mom saw me as a brave soul. Hearing that really igniting something in me. It made me want to live the rest of my life that way- being brave, continuing to take risks, and pushing through the hard times. I will continue to make my mom proud. She made me the woman that I am today and I am forever grateful that God chose her to be my mom.
Miss Jenn as she was affectionately called- you will be eternally loved and missed. Rest in peace my love. .