My mother passed away from pancreatic cancer two and a half years ago. I’m pretty sure if you are reading this, then you know me, so you already know this fact:) From time to time, I have well earned “pity me” moments, and I’ve found that I tend to weave my mom into most of my blog posts. Well, I promise this won’t be a pity me moment; however, this is a blog post about my mom, which means it may be sad, or I may get sappy, so be forewarned.
Most likely this story will come in parts. It may take me all week or it may take me all year to finish. We will just have to see.
My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the summer I was twenty five. I had just started my first real job as a teacher, and was teaching a four hour a day summer school course. I started on a Monday, and the kids came on the following Tuesday. My first day was memorable. I felt like a fish out of water. I was very sure that anyone seeing me trounce my way through the school could tell this was my first teaching job. It didn’t help that on my first day (a staff day), there were multiple meetings being held around the school. I walked into what I thought was the staff meeting I was supposed to attend, only to find out I wasn’t in the right room. I had to get up 15 minutes into the meeting and crawl my way out to the door, only to then arrive late for my actual meeting. Once the meeting was through and I made it up to my classroom, class roster in hand, I called my mom.
I remember her answering, the first words out of my mouth being, “30 kids Mom! 30 high school students! That’s how many students I have in my summer school class!”
I was terrified,
but she laughed, and I was reassured.
This memory has absolutely nothing to do with my mom’s diagnoses; however, I felt free that day. I was starting my first teaching job, something I had waited a while to do. All my years of college had paid off. I was ecstatic and scared to death at the same time. And, I shared all of those feelings with my mom, in fact, I’m pretty sure she felt them too.
The Friday of that week, my mom went to the doctor. She thought she had a UTI.
She took a urine analysis test at he Primary Health by my house. They were able to determine that it wasn’t a UTI immediately. Her urine was dark (if this is too much info, I apologize). In fact, it was brown. I didn’t know it was that dark until she was in the hospital. Had I known, I would have encouraged her to go sooner than what she did. Because of the color, they were fairy certain she had hepatitis.
I was completely lost in my own world at this time. I didn’t have much time to plan for summer school, so I was planning as I went. I spent most of my time at the school that week, or working at St. Lukes.
My sister called that night after my mom talked to the doctor to tell me they thought it was hepatitis-the “bad” kind as she had said.
In fact, I called Ken and made him come home because I was worried.
Then, I called Sharlee and left her an incomprehensible message about my mother possibly having hepatitis.
(I was dramatic to say the least. I have always been a bit hyper sensitive to the idea of losing people. I’m not sure where it comes from. If you are a psychology student, or a psychologist, or just into that sort of thing, feel free to analyze away. When I was in kindergarten, somewhere around the time my parents divorced, I went through this phase where I didn’t want to be away from my mom AT ALL! We lived kitty corner from my school, and one day, in the middle of class, I just snuck off and walked home. I very specifically remember knocking on our door, and my mother answering it and looking down at me with her jaw dropped. I held up a bow of mine I had found at school, and told her I came home to show her that I had found it. The weeks following this were painful for me, as I’m sure they were for her. I remember crying my little kindergarten eyes out in class and the teacher telling the other studenst to just “let me cry”. It’s all very comical now. But, I imagine at the time that I just didn’t want to be away from my mother. I had this similar feeling when I moved out for the first time, and the second, and the third:) Or, anytime I went out of town. In fact, any trip out of town was accompanied by me going over to my mom’s and crying because I was afraid I might die. I was never afraid of the actual dying part. I was upset by the idea of being away from her.)
Nonetheless, when my melodramatic charade was done,
I called my mom.
I had actually called her multiple times during this process, but wasn’t able to get a hold of her. Really this should have been my first clue, that the possible diagnoses wasn’t that bad. And it wasn’t.
They did think it was hepatitis, but that it was easily treatable. They wanted her to basically quarantine herself until Monday when the full lab report came back.
That night I shopped for my mom. I picked up her favorites: cheese its, and chicken patty sandwiches, coffee and Keebler Elf Graham cookies; and then I dropped her groceries off to her for a weekend in. I hugged her, then left.
Monday came around.
It wasn’t hepatitis.
That was good, right? I thought for sure it was something small and treatable.
Cancer had not even occur ed to me.
They scheduled her to come in the following day for a MRI.
My mom arrived her for her MRI at nine the next morning.
I was teaching.
She stood, half way naked, while a nurse conducted the MRI, and then she drove home.
They called her as she walked in the door to her house and asked her to come back in.
She sat in a doctor’s office, alone, when the doctor gave her what she thought to be her diagnoses:
Pancreatic Cancer: Stage 3.
It appeared as though the tumor was wrapped around a major artery, but they couldn’t be sure.