No one wants to get that phone call. My mom had gone to the doctor. They said to bring support. That’s never a good sign. My sister drove her to the appointment and back. Then, they called me with the results: Cancer. It was breast cancer, but it wasn’t only in her breasts, it was everywhere – lungs, kidneys, liver, bones and possibly her brain.
Who can forget that moment when life changes on a dime. And nothing is ever the same once cancer enters your life. Cancer did that for my family. Even the word “cancer,” seems to divide uncontrollably and spread as it starts showing up everywhere. Suddenly your close friend has it too. Your neighbor’s sibling. The cashier at your grocery store. There are so many people fighting the good fight against a bad illness that is as sneaky and deft as it can be life-changing and deadly.
Sadly, that phone call marked the beginning of the end for my mom. I knew it then. I just didn’t know how much time we had. My mother passed away 21 months later. She lived far longer than her diagnosis suggested and far shorter than we wished. We being the concentric circles of loved ones that my mom’s life touched.
Before she died cancer had reduced her in size, strength, and ability. I’ll never forget the fear in her eyes when the pain surged. The way she aged decades in months. Her beautiful stubbornness of aiming herself towards life even as death tiptoed nearer. Those last breaths she took. Long with long spaces in between. Me knowing I was saying goodbye. The unsettling combination of relief and panic because she didn’t deserve to suffer a second longer.
Many of us have watched a loved one deteriorate. We’re haunted by that version of our loved one. I know I am in some ways. And it is taking me time to reach back further in memories than those last months, and instead remember my mother during the many strong, healthy and happy years we spend together. So, the end of her life was the end in some ways. And it wasn’t. I’m still here. Many of us who have been touched by cancer are still here. Cancer still changed everything.
~ Robynne Boyd, Co-founder Goodgrief app