Posts Tagged ‘mother’

I love participating in charitable walks. I love the idea of masses of people coming together, donating their time and money for a cause that is important to them. I have walked for Huntington’s Disease in honor of my oldest sister’s in-laws who are suffering with the neurological disease that is unfortunately hereditary. I have walked for childhood cancer in honor of one of my student’s baby sister who was diagnosed with kidney cancer at the age of one after an x-ray was looking for pneumonia. I have walked for lung cancer in memory of my mom.

The way I stumbled across the Free to Breathe walk was a Google search one late evening in bed. My mom had been diagnosed a couple of weeks and the idea hit me; I need to form a team in her honor and get people together for lung cancer research and awareness. In two hours, Clan Diane was born. We had our own webpage through Free to Breathe that people could donate and sign up for the team. I couldn’t wait to tell my mom because I knew she would be flattered. I wanted her to see the good out of the ugly cancer that had started to shave time off her life. Due to her illness, we were given an opportunity to raise awareness of lung cancer by telling my mom’s story.

My mom’s boyfriend was able to network with his company co-workers and friends to bring in a lot of money. It was thrilling to log in and check the donation page every day. I became addicted and started to get a little rush, sort of like gambling, every time the number went up. I was a little occupied with my mom’s situation, which took all of my concentration, so I couldn’t really focus on raising money. I was too worried about when her next doctor’s appointment was, where it was, who we were seeing, what floor of the hospital it was on, what time did we need to get there, whether or not she could eat. My mind became numb to everything else except my mom and her needs. It was kind of like a mind vacation from all of my personal needs and it actually felt nice to only focus on my mom, her needs, and our relationship as mother and daughter. Plus, I really loved seeing her every day. It had been seven years since we did that.

The walk was scheduled for end of September so I told myself not to worry about the walk until August. I just couldn’t donate any more of my energy; I was starting to run low. August quickly approached after a long tiresome July in the hospital involving my mom’s emergency surgery on her heart.

During the first week in August, my mom and I sat on the hunter green and maroon floral couch in the sunny living room, mom a little lethargic, I a little wore out. By that time, I quit working a 9-5 job and worked solely on my mom. I was also trying to mentally prepare myself for student teaching which would be starting mid-August. I had no idea how I was going to take care of her, student teach, and advocate for the walk all at the same time; but I knew it would all work out somehow. While we sat there on the couch, heads on each others’ shoulders, my mom picked her head up, looked at me with slatted eyes.
“Are you still doing the walk?”
“Oh yes” I said.
“When is it?”
“Hmm” was all she said. I knew she was wondering the same thing, would she make it?

She didn’t make it. My walking in honor of my mom turned into walking in memory of my mom. Now I am the chairman of the Free to Breathe event in Kansas City planning the race/walk for 2012, still in memory of my mom. And yes, Clan Diane will be there with bells on.


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I know I was not the easiest child growing up. I was very dramatic and emotional giving my parents and other care takers a very hard time. I suppose that’s pretty normal as I turned out just fine. (Cough) Even though my step-daughter is not my blood child, she sure acts like one.

I was battling strep-throat, bronchitis, and a sinus infection all at the same time and not feeling too hot. It was that time of the evening where my step-daughter needed to take a bath and clean her room. She was only 7 and in the first grade, but she was accustomed to this routine. That’s when it all started.

The screaming began and I tried my hardest to ignore it, hoping it would stop like it usually did when she finally realized she wasn’t getting her way. But it didn’t. The screaming kept on for 45 minutes. I had her sit in various places around the house, hoping it would discourage her from screaming if she had to sit somewhere random until she stopped. It didn’t work.

After an hour, I started to get upset. Despite my years of experience working with young children and my education background, I started screaming right back at her. It was more like muffled scratchy sounds from lack of a voice, but I screamed as hard as I could telling her to stop screaming or I was going to lose it. Not my proudest moment.

As the poor child started screaming more, I called my mom in between painful sobs. Upon answering the phone my mom could hear her screaming grandchild and her sobbing daughter on the phone. She rushed right over. My mom gave her a bath and helped her clean her room, while I cried myself to sleep on the couch.

What would the world be like without mothers?

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Having a pet is like having a child. I have latched on to my 100 lb dog Molly, as if she were my child. When someone I love is injured and in pain, I get really concerned. This includes my pets. After a long relaxing walk with Molly, I noticed blood on the floor and blanket. Molly had broken one of her back toenails very far back and it was bleeding everywhere.

After watching my mom groom for over 15 years, I picked up on a few things. For instance, when a dog’s toenail is bleeding it means their quick is exposed. It’s the equivalent of a person losing a fingernail and their bloody skin is showing. It’s very painful for humans and dogs.

I knew from experience that I needed to stop the bleeding by placing a powder like substance on it like my mom used to use when she accidentally clipped a dog’s toenail a little too far, which was not often. After a speedy search on the internet, I found a vet recommending flour. I doused Molly’s paw in the flour packing it on to her toenail. She really enjoyed licking the flour straight out of the bowl giving her a white face. I also knew that I needed to keep her from licking the wound. I placed one of my husband’s white socks over her leg, loosely taped it around her haunch, and sat with her for hours.

My husband chuckled at me because I kept talking to her and petting her. She was in a lot of pain and I felt like it was my fault.

“My mom would be disappointed in me,” I told my husband.

“Why do you say that? It’s not your fault Molly broke her toenail.”

“Yes it is. I should have had them trimmed a long time ago.”

It’s true. Her nails were too long. She slid all over the concrete floors in the basement. The long walk I thought was relaxing was actually causing pain to Molly’s feet as it fractured her toenail. I should have picked up on her slowing down at the end. She usually slows her pace a little about half way through, but she was much unmotivated this time.

My mom would have lectured me on the importance of keeping her nails trimmed. The problem is her nails are black and very thick. It requires a special tool called a drimal to file down her toenails. I always went to my mom’s grooming shop to borrow her tool while she groomed and caught up with my life. But, she isn’t here anymore, and I don’t have her drimal.

After a few hour stay at the animal hospital, she was all fixed up. They sedated her long enough to clean her wound and trim her nails. She slept most of the day while I lay beside her in the bed, wishing my mom was here to help me take care of her.

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It happened again. Another nightmare; only this time it involved my precious dog Molly. She is a 100lb Rhodesian ridgeback who is nothing but all baby with long muscular lanky arms and legs. In my dream I was trying to carry her up a tall wooden ladder. I was trying to pull her into a tree house when she slipped from my hands and fell to the leaf covered ground. I climbed down the ladder and found her okay, so I tried to carry her up the ladder again! This time, she slipped out of my hands, hit the ground with a thud, but didn’t move. By the time I got to her, she wasn’t breathing. I actually performed mouth to mouth and CPR on my 100lb dog. She never came back. I woke up in screams, called for my Molly, and let her sleep the rest of the morning with me.

I still can’t shake the dream, so I decided to look it up. Dreaming about a dead dog illustrates a loss of a close loved one. Interesting.

My emotions when my dog died in my dream were really my emotions from my mom’s death. I watched her body slowly stop working, but I did not watch her take her last breath. I wanted to be there, but it didn’t work out that way.

Monday, August 8th, 2011 I drove 30 minutes to the family home to visit my mom like I did every day. I hadn’t seen her since Friday, which was our best visit together. Towards the end, my mom didn’t interact with me the same as she had before. When she talked to me, she didn’t look in my eyes the same as she used to. When she listened, she seemed distracted, nor when she laughed, nor coughed; nothing was the same; except for that one day, her best day, and our last best day together. That’s the day we went through her life nestled away in a wooden trunk. The trunk was located right outside the bedroom door, along the wall, at the foot of the stairs. Mom opened the trunk and got out a plastic bag and envelope of pictures for us to look at. We crawled on top of her bed in the sunny bedroom, my mom lying on her side going through pictures and me sitting in the middle Indian style going through pictures. Every so often I would stop and say, “MOM! You look so beautiful! Look at your complexion! You’re not even wearing any make up! Your hair, your smile, this picture is gorgeous!”

“You’re making fun of me,” she said with a little pout in her voice and with her lips.

“No Mom, for real, you look amazing,” I’d say wondering if Mom was coming back. She for the first time interacted with me in a “normal” way.

“Normal” for my mom was that she always looked at you when she talked to you. She would normally shake her head in agreement and say, “Yea, I know what you mean.” When she was really trying to figure out what you were saying she would kind of squint her eyes like she was trying to see something far away. At that time she’d usually say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute.” Sometimes she would act really goofy and sigh as if to say, “I’m trying really hard to understand but I have no clue what you’re talking about!” My mom giggled a lot and always had fun with you when she engaged in conversation. She didn’t just sit there with any emotion; my mom wore her conversations on her face with dramatic eye brows, and other facial expressions.

When I got there on Monday, she had completely changed. She was walking around crying, saying she wanted cereal. My mom’s boyfriend, exhausted from staying up with her all weekend, apparently she wasn’t sleeping, went to bed while I made her a bowl of cookie crisp. One thing I noticed right away was that my mom’s eyes were closed. When she tried to open them, they were just slits. She attempted to eat her cereal and then I attempted to brush her teeth. I giggled at her because she was so helpless and cute. She told me to stop laughing at her and then started to cry. I gave her medicine and helped her to bed. I immediately got on the phone with her home health nurse and told her to come over right away, something was wrong.

While I waited for the nurse, who took a few hours, I read to my mom from the Bible. She cried and moaned while I read Psalms and Proverbs trying to help her find peace so she could rest. At this point she hadn’t slept since very early in the morning. Since the diagnosis mom always took naps throughout the day, so I knew something was wrong because she was so restless she couldn’t sleep. When the nurse finally arrived, mom had just dozed off.

The nurse listened to me describe my mom’s odd behavior giving me medical background on why she was exhibiting this behavior. She had entered the stages of dying. In my mind I thought this would last forever. Mom was so agitated and restless I just couldn’t picture her dying yet. While the nurse took her vitals and tried to calm my mom down again, I called everyone I could to let them know it was getting serious. My aunt from Texas got a plane ticket for the next morning, my great aunt showed up in 30 minutes, I woke my mom’s boyfriend up and had him talk to the nurse, and I called my husband.

My mom’s moans and cries from that day will never leave me. She sounded so miserable. The nurse told me that because her body was so young, 49, that it was going to put up a fight and try to hang on as long as possible. It’s called terminal restlessness. Mom couldn’t calm down no matter how much morphine they gave her. It took a few hours, but finally she did calm down and fell asleep. It was then decided that she needed round the clock care in order to help take some of the stress off the family. It was a welcomed relief. I had done really well taking care of her, making sure she ate, took her medicine, had water in the oxygen machine, and rested. When it came down to the very end, I was so numb I barely could take care of myself.

More family began to show up, so I stepped out to call my pastor. I had brought my mom to church a couple Sundays and she had a long conversation with my pastor about relying on God throughout the journey. She rededicated her life to God two months before she passed away. My pastor remembered her saying that she wanted to be re-baptized. I gave him the address and he told me he would be there in an hour.

While I waited, I paced back and forth in the living room, getting anything the nurse needed. Wet wash cloth, glass of water, schedule of her medication that had been given over the weekend was amongst the few items she needed; even the dreaded kit in the refrigerator. This kit was for emergencies and it housed various types of medication that my mom would need towards the end of her life. It sat in the refrigerator for two weeks before she needed it.

When my pastor arrived, he helped us get her hospital bed in the living room for closer monitoring. Once she was settled, my pastor started the baptism. Because he was unable to perform the baptism in a tub of water, for obvious reasons, he asked for a glass of water. I grabbed a yellow coffee cup that had a giant smiley face printed in black on one side. My pastor began with a prayer, quoted the appropriate scripture and then he dipped his finger in the smiley face water and made a cross on the back of her right hand. My mom moaned and turned her head towards the wall, away from us. Afterwards, we all shared in communion, taking the bread, and drinking the juice. My pastor then had us all make a circle holding hands; I held my mom’s hand and the circle wrapped around until my great aunt touched my mom’s foot. We prayed the most beautiful prayer, wiped our eyes, and rejoiced for what had just occurred. It was the most peaceful baptism I have ever witnessed.

Every couple of hours my mom would sit up on the edge of bed and ask for water. Her mouth was getting very dry. During these times we would try to talk to her, asking her if she recognized us. I knelt down looking up at her and asked, “Mom, do you know who I am?” She smiled and said, “My daughter.”

I stayed the night in the living room, while my grandma slept in the front bedroom, and my mom’s boyfriend slept in the back bedroom. I did not sleep. I sat on the couch, leaning against pillows propped up so I could watch her every breath. My mom’s best-friend is a hospice nurse and she told me to watch how many breaths she took in a minute. If it dipped below 12 it’s getting close. I watched the second hand on my watch click by as I counted her breaths, one… two… three… four… five… six… seven… eight… nine… ten… eleven… twelve, twelve breaths in 60 seconds.

For a solid hour I sat at my mom’s bedside, holding her hand, crying softly in my arms. I did finally manage to fall asleep for two hours only to be awoken by my mom moaning and moving to sit up. The night nurse had left and there would be a couple hours before the next nurse would arrive. Luckily my grandma was awake and was able to help me. My mom complained that her mouth hurt from being so dry, so I gave her wet wash cloth to suck on. With her eyes half open, she took the wash cloth and tried to take a bite out of it. She looked at it, tried to look at me, and then threw it on the floor. “What the hell you given me that for?” We giggled a little and gave her a sip of water.

It’s now Tuesday, August 9th, 2011.

Before everyone got there, I sat on the floor next to my mom and read a letter I wrote her on Friday that she never got the chance to read. At one point I stopped. “Don’t stop. I like to hear your voice,” my mom said. Fighting tears I read her a letter that spoke of my undying love for her and listed out all she had taught me in life. By the end of it my grandma was sobbing and told me that was a wonderful letter.

The new nurse arrived along with my mom’s best friend who happened to know our new nurse because they work together. I was relieved and jumped in the shower. When I got out, it was time to head to the airport over an hour away to pick up my aunt from Texas. I leaned in to my mom and kissed her forehead. “Hang on mom; I’m going to the airport to pick up your sister. I love you so much.” She moaned, moved her head a little; rattling with every breath.

We stopped for gas and smokes and headed towards the airport. The drive felt like an eternity as my mom’s best friend and I tried to laugh and reminisce of old times. She dropped me off at the terminal and circled around while I ran into to find my aunt. I’m so grateful for the experience I have in airports because I was able to locate my aunt’s plane on the big screen, find her gate, and wait patiently for the plane to arrive. I watched through the large glass windows as her plane landed and slowly drove up to the gate. She finally walked through the security doors and into my arms for a long hug. We quickly left.

The whole ride back my aunt kept saying over and over, “I hope she holds on. I want to see her one more time.”

“She was talking and moving around when I left, we will make it in plenty of time,” I reassured her. I truly believed this process was going to take a few days and that I had more time with her.

As we pulled in to the driveway I checked my watch: 3:15pm. I took a little longer getting out of the car; my aunt and my mom’s best friend were walking through the door by the time I got to the porch. I heard a lot of screams causing my heart to beat fast while I held my breath. I rushed through the door thinking my mom was sitting up on the bed hugging my aunt and the screams were joy from seeing each other. But that’s not what the screams were for. The screams were because my mom took her last breath at 3:15 pm.

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Middle school through sophomore year in high school, I went to church. I loved church and I really loved the people. It was always a safe place where I felt I could be myself and people liked me because of it.

When I first moved in with my mom, all I had ever known was small town life where people talked about God. My mom lived in a small city surrounded by other cities; you didn’t have to drive far to get what you needed and only a few kids at school talked about God. Instead of being open to my new life, I was closed minded and judgmental. I am ashamed to say that I even judged my own mom. But in all actuality, my mom judged me too. Because I went to church she judged me as a “goody two shoes.”

At the same time, I was trying to make her more of a stereotypical mother figure. I even started calling her mother, which she did not like. I bought her plain cotton shirts with pink flowers on them and asked her to cook cookies and things for me, because I thought that’s how a mother was supposed to act. Keep in mind that I only saw my mom every other weekend, which sometimes we didn’t because she was working or couldn’t afford the trip to small town, USA.

I really didn’t know her at all. In an effort to get to know her, I snooped through her room. From what I have heard from others, I’m not the only one who has ever snooped through their parents’ stuff. I still don’t feel right about it, partly because I found some very private materials, and partly because it’s just wrong. It was so disturbing; it shocked me and rocked me to my very core. So what did I do? I wrote about it in my journal.

After coming home from a weekend with dad, I walked in to a nervous woman pacing the living room floor. She was holding my journal. She had read everything. Apparently, I had written some pretty awful things about her and she was ready to confront me. My stomach hardened, my heart started beating quickly in my ears like drums, and I couldn’t catch my breath. I knew what I had done was wrong and I didn’t know what to do to fix it.

We yelled at each other for a very long time. She told me I was closed minded, judgmental, and a hypocrite. She also forbade me to go to church. Said I needed some time in the real world to soak it all in. This was a blow and it hurt. I didn’t know what to do so I yanked the journal out of her hands, fled the living room down the short hall to my tiny bedroom, and slammed the door. I heard the front door close. She left.

While she was gone, I started screaming and making horrible roaring sounds. I was overcome by emotion and panic. I frantically started searching for my new journal, the one I had just started. What she had found was a complete journal that I had had since I moved in with her. A whole year’s worth of crazy emotional teenage rants.

I couldn’t find my new journal; it wasn’t in my room. I immediately forced open the door, marched across the hall, and stood in my mom’s room. I don’t know how I knew, but I lifted up the mattress on my mom’s futon, and found my new journal, hiding beneath it.

Ugh! More roaring sounds; to rid myself of the pain and embarrassment, I ripped my old journal to shreds. Even the cardboard cover was no match for my rage. I ripped it too. But for my new journal, I ripped out the first few pages that I had written, but saved the journal. I still have it today. My small bedroom floor was crammed with shredded paper in a perfect mountain. I grabbed a white trash bag and filled it with my judgmental thoughts and closed minded feelings. By the time I was finished, my mom was home. I grabbed the bag and marched out of the apartment and through the front door, straight to the dumpster. When I returned, shaking, red faced, and exhausted; my mom hugged me.

By the end of our first year together, I started buying her halter tops, asked her to buy the cookies, and went back to calling her mom.
I stayed away from church for seven years. Even though she made me quit church, and I’m sure it’s frowned upon, but in a way I’m grateful. I really did see the world as a horrible crazy sinful place, which it is, but I didn’t understand it. Now I understand it, but have a Christian worldview instead. I’m no longer judgmental, closed minded, or a hypocrite. I’m a part of this horrible crazy sinful place.

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I feel guilty for eating peanut m&m’s that I have literally craved for several days. Not just crave, I mean I think about them before I fall asleep crave. Why am I dreaming about peanut m&m’s all of a sudden? I don’t get it. My dear husband brought home a ginormous bag of dark chocolate peanut m&m’s. I am painfully indulging; or am I binging? Can I really take the blame for these calories? Or blame it on the ridiculously delicious peanut m&m’s for throwing themselves at me before I fall asleep.

This is not the first time I have been attacked by a craving. During our “recession,” my mom and I craved nacho cheese chips and jalapeño cheddar cheese sauce. We could actually put down the whole bag and can of cheese sauce in no time at all. (Okay, I still do.)

Where did I learn this behavior? My mom. Of course. Even before I was born, my older sisters in their elementary and middle school years, bragged about how my mom could put a whole nacho cheese chip, with dip, in her mouth. Amazing. I eat, just like my mom. I don’t succumb to this behavior very often, because it would be deadly. I do not buy chips and dip, unless it is requested at a party, and if there is some left, I will bring it home and polish it off. I literally cannot help myself. I know it’s bad and physically unhealthy, but I am proud that my family now brags about how I can put a whole chip in my mouth.

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I have always been raised loving music. My dad is a well known musician in our community and surrounding communities. My maternal grandfather was also a well known musician. My dad’s family still owns a music store, repairing stringed instruments.

When the radio is on the car, I’m in control. I love every song on the dial and know every word; old and new.

“Ooh! This is my favorite song! Turn it up!” I yell every time I’m in the car.

“Every song is your favorite song,” my husband reminds me.

Although this may be true, there’s a great explanation for why.

My mom loved her radio and blasted it every time I was with her. We always had “favorite” songs. During one summer in middle school, my mom’s favorite song would come on and the very next song would be mine. It happened several times. We would giggle with joy, crank the volume, and sing our hearts out; windows down and all. The passion for music only grew as I got older.

Since mom has passed, I have been hearing nothing but her favorite songs on the radio. I tell myself its how she connects with me down on earth. I know she has no control over the radio stations and what they play, but it sure seems ironic that all her favorite songs are constantly being played on the radio; or she just had great taste in music.

The most recent song I heard in the car was called “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes.

Mom would always belt out, “Hey yea a yeaaa, hey yea a yeaaa, I said hey, what’s going on?!

This song made another appearance while I was driving my mom and my aunt from Texas to a nearby hospital to be with my maternal grandma as she underwent brain surgery to remove a 3.3 cm tumor behind her right eye. My mom was very advanced in her lung cancer at that time and her color was starting to change from an Indian tan to a pasty gray. All worries aside, we headed to the hospital, when “What’s Up” came on the radio. All three of us belted out, “Hey yea a yeaaa, hey yea a yeaaa, I said hey, what’s going on?!” Brought goosebumps to my arms; it was magical.

Although my grandma’s five hour surgery went perfect, my mom’s heart began to race half way through the day. Luckily we were at a hospital, so we just wheeled her down to the ER. It was there they discovered fluid around her heart. Little bits of her 9.9 cm tumor at the top of left lobe was moving and irritating the sac around her heart forming fluid. When she arrived at the ER, her heart rate was 174. The normal is 50-100. They dismissed her from ER after monitoring her for five hours. I put in a 14 hour day that day at the hospital. Head throbbing I brought my mom home to rest.

The next morning, her home health nurse stopped by to drain fluid from a catheter that stuck out in between her ribs on her left side, that drained the fluid from the sac around her lung. The nurse took one look at her and her vitals and called her oncologist. I drove my mom to the ER immediately. It was noon.

I left the ER at midnight when she was finally wheeled to a room. All I could think about was going to bed so I could get back there as soon as possible. I put in a 12 hour day at the hospital.

Due to the exhaustion, I over slept and made it to my mom around 11 am. I walked in, laid my bag down that housed books, magazines and snacks, and walked out straight to the nurses’ station. Something was wrong.

“Can I speak to the nurse for Diane Terry?” I asked the nurse at the desk.

A woman peeks her heard from around the counter, “I am, is there something I can help you with?”

I swallowed my tears and began to describe what I saw. “Is she on some new meds? She is acting really drugged and lethargic. She could barely open her eyes to talk to me. Her breakfast is still there, which shows me she is not eating. Can you just tell me what’s wrong?”

“Well, aside from a high heart rate, her vitals are steady. It may have been from the sleep aid that was given her early this morning.”

It may have been? “Okay, well I don’t think she should have that anymore, because she can’t even function as a person. Just last night she was sitting up in bed talking to me, now she can barely open her eyes.” I left in a flurry and headed back to her room, where I found her just the way I left her; asleep.

I curled up in the chaise lounge with a book and a blanket and tried to read. I read the same pages over and over again because my mind was with my mom, not in the story. I kept thinking about her behavior and how it was so much different than yesterday. Fed up with the nonsense in my mind, I called my dad’s sister-in-law who is a hospice nurse to ask for her advice on what I should do. I felt like the doctors didn’t understand my nervousness.

“Jessie, if it were my mom I wouldn’t leave her side. You need to talk to the nurse about staying the night with her.”

Settled; I was staying the night. I immediately called my mom’s boyfriend and her sister from Texas who was staying with them at the time, to tell them to come stay the night with me, it doesn’t look good.

Because it was the weekend, no one could do an EKG on her to get an idea of what was going on with my mom’s heart. They had received the images taken by the ER at the other hospital and were aware that there was some fluid around her heart.

I didn’t sleep a wink that night. I put together two chairs and some pillows to make me a comfy spot right next to my mom, my head at her feet and my feet at her head. My mom’s boyfriend and her sister from Texas each slept in a chaise lounge that pulled out in a bed. As they snored along with the humming fan, I sat there and stared at her, watching her breathe. Every once in a while she would open her eyes and reach out her hand to me; I would lean up a little to squeeze her cold, long skinny fingers. I swallowed large crocodile tears that tugged on my hangy-down-ball-thingy not wanting to give up the fight.

As she held on to my fingers, she would moan and gently move her head, still not opening her eyes. I felt that something was wrong. I leapt out of my cocoon of blankets and pillows and ran outside into the hall where her heart monitor was posted. Her heart rate had shot up to 161. I ran, not walked, to the nurses’ station to get help. She was already on her way down.

“I paged the on-call doctor, he will be down soon,” she said in a very calm smooth voice; she sensed my anxiety.

The on-call doctor stuck mini circles on her chest with tape, hooked up to a heart monitor that rested on the table next to her. Several times throughout the night, the monitor beeped loudly as her heart rate shot back up to the 160’s and then back down to low 100’s. Mom would moan gently, but never work up. I never slept.

The next day was the busiest and most stressful day I experienced at the hospital with my mom. Running on no sleep, I was beyond drained. I had managed to hold back any emotion in front of my mom. At that point my aunt from Texas called relatives in the surrounding areas to get to the hospital to see my mom, things were not looking good. As the room filled with family, I slipped out for some fresh air.

After the EKG, heart surgeons talked to us about conducting an emergency surgery sometime that day to put a catheter in the sack around her heart to drain the fluid. I was mortified.

“Can we talk in the hall?” I asked them. My mom was a nervous-nelly and did not want to know anything about her condition. I had to sneak around and speak to the doctors away from my mom so as not to worry her. As I listened to them explain the surgery and the severity of her condition, my mom simply covered her face and cried silently, agreeing that she should have the surgery. I sat there in silence fighting back fear and emotion. I was furioius.

When we got to the hall, it all came out. “I don’t think my mom can handle the surgery. She hasn’t eaten in four days and is very weak. Is this really necessary?” I sobbed and shook as they again told me how serious her condition was and that they needed to operate. The conversation got so intense that we had to find a break room where we could discuss the situation in private. I was convinced she would die in surgery. I knew she was getting close to death, and I just wanted her to pass peacefully at the family home in the country where she wanted to pass, and not during heart surgery. At the end of the conversation, I was unclear if they were going to conduct the surgery or not. So I left my mom with family and once again stepped out for fresh air.

While I was outside, my sisters arrived with my paternal grandma carrying pizza, sheet cake, cookies, and veggies. These are my half-sisters as I am my mom’s only child. We ate as I described what happened after the EKG. They agreed with me that this was a far too risky operation.

After I fueled up, I walked into my mom’s room to find her being prepped for surgery. I was beyond shocked.

“What? MOM! Really? You agreed to the surgery?!” I voiced my emotion for the first time in two months, since the doctors found the tumor.

“Well, Jessie! What do you want me to do?! Give up?! I’m not ready to die! I’m having the surgery!” My mom screamed at me the best she could, finally voicing her emotion since she arrived at the hospital four days ago. I sat in the chaise lounge, arms folded, tears rolling down my cheeks, and I pouted.

I followed her down as they wheeled her to the surgery floor. I sat in the waiting room choking back tears, imagining how pitiful I must look. Make-up cried off, bags the size of suitcases, hair a greasy disheveled mess. I was heart-broken and numb.

They finally called me back to sit with her as they prepped and got her ready for surgery. I just sat in silence in a chair so close to the head of the bed, my mom couldn’t see me. I cried silently, angry at her for doing the surgery. At that point I had been at the hospital for 28 hours and was not thinking clearly. I wasn’t taking into account that mom should at least attempt the surgery and have faith that she would pull through.

My mom tried to remain perky as they asked her questions and talked to her once again about the surgery.

“You don’t think I should do this do you?” She asked me in a hushed voice.

“No, mom I don’t. I have a bad feeling you won’t make it through. You already can’t breathe and they want to put you fully under for this surgery. It’s not like the other one for your catheter, this one you are fully under.” I started crying hysterically.

“Oh doodlebug.” My mom cooed as she held my hand.

The surgeon defended me and told my mom there were great risks and it was normal for me to have this fear. As they wheeled her out of the room and down the hall, we held hands and locked eyes until I couldn’t go any further. I don’t know who was crying harder, me or my mom.

The waiting room slowly emptied as I slept on a hard stained couch. When I awoke, my husband, pastor, and my mom’s boyfriend were with me. We tried to carry on conversations, but the effort wasn’t there. After a couple of hours, they came to get me; she had pulled through but was going straight to ICU for monitoring.

The nurse that led me to the ICU was the same nurse that had helped my mom through all her surgeries she had within the past month. She was a middle aged woman with short silver hair that was just coming back from her stint of breast cancer. She had won her battle, and worked everyday helping others fight theirs.

Before opening the door to ICU she took my hand, looked me dead in the eye and said, “Your mom is very sick sweet heart.”

“I know,” I mumbled, through wet lips, salty from tears. “I just don’t want anyone to sugar coat anything anymore. It seems all these doctors tell me what they think I want to hear. But I don’t want to hear sugar coated lies, I want to know the truth.” I told her trying to sound confident.

“She has a few weeks Hun, she’s very sick.”

“What about chemo?” I asked, alarmed that my mom would never be given the chance to even fight her cancer with chemo.

“She’s too weak for chemo. Her body won’t respond to it like it should. I’m sorry.” We hugged and she led me through to my mom.

Her bed was large and up high. The whole back of the bed was attached to tubes and monitors that were lined above her head, hanging from the ceiling. It was like an outer space sleigh. The ceiling was painted in an undersea scene. I felt like I was there because I kept her a bubbling sound, like a fish tank. I sat next to my sleeping mom and investigated what I saw. I had become a pro at looking at the medical equipment in order to get an idea at what the numbers meant. I had discovered what her normal numbers were for pulse, heart rate, oxygen level, and blood pressure. I watched those monitors like a soap opera memorizing every change and fluctuation. Her numbers were not the best. I also noticed a large, about the size of a quarter sea-green tube that ran out from under her gown and blanket, to a gentle vacuum at the foot of her bed. The water bubbled and made a gentle vacuum that drained the bloody red fluid from her heart. That’s where the undersea bubbles came from.

I grabbed her hand and she opened her eyes.

“You did it mom, you made it through!” I said calmly and full of tears.

“Mmmm,” was all she could say as she fell asleep.

I barreled out of there and allowed my other family members along with my pastor to come in and see her. She was more awake for them and was able to talk to them a little. My husband said she was adorable because she really didn’t make sense. She looked like a little girl in her dad’s big bed.

I asked her later if she remembered seeing pastor.

“I remember looking at his eyes, and I think I told him I loved him,” she laughed. She remained playful and cute throughout her journey with lung cancer.

That night ended just before the sunset, giving me a 32 hour stint at the hospital; my longest. My husband and I laid in bed and watched old black and white movies. Our drained minds couldn’t handle anything with a confusing plot or fast moving pictures; the simpler the better.

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