Her Angel Wings – Battling Ovarian Cancer – Part 1
This post is about how my mom earned her angel wings battling ovarian cancer. But first, I’d like to tell you a little about my mom. Her name was Sandi, and she was born in Hawaii before Pearl Harbor was attacked, but was too young to remember that. Purple was her favorite color and she hated it when I’d pick flowers for her because the flowers would die before their natural deaths.
Mom was raised in Missouri and moved to Florida when she was about eighteen. She eloped with my father when she was nineteen. She stayed with my dad for nineteen years even though he was an alcoholic who sometimes abused her. She said she never regretted eloping with him because she wouldn’t have had the three of us if she hadn’t married him. She taught me to look for men who would treat me right, not how she was treated. Then she finally left my dad and married my step-father when I was fifteen. She had some good years with my step-dad. Twenty-one to be exact. He treated her like she should have been treated during the early parts of her life, but wasn’t. Of course, they had some issues, what couple doesn’t?
On Thanksgiving day, 1999, mom told us she thought she had ovarian cancer. During December, it was confirmed and her surgery was set for January 3, 2000. That makes it was fifteen years ago when I went back to my hometown to take care of my step-father while my mom went to the hospital to have surgery for ovarian cancer. My step-father had advanced emphysema and my mom was his primary caregiver. My mom’s doctor said he got most of the cancer during the surgery. There were small granules left, but with chemo she had a strong chance of beating it. At the time, there were 39 known types of ovarian cancer and my mom had one of the slower growing strains. Back then, only 40% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer survived more than five years after their treatments. Unfortunately, that has changed very little as the rate is about 44% now.
During the next several months, I learned how much my mom meant to many people. Former co-workers dropped by the hospital to see her. They brought food to us or insisted that we leave to take a break while they visited mom.
We’d planned for each of the siblings to be there when my mom had chemo so that we could care for both her and my step-dad. In the meantime, mom was recovering and doing what she could to take care of my step-dad. We also had people coming to their house to help both of them from a caregiving group somewhat like Granny Nannies, but I don’t remember its name.
Then about three months after her surgery, mom had a huge setback when her intestines split. The poisons filled her body and she blew up to probably twice her normal size and her skin stretched painfully to its limits. She was intubated and given more medications than I can remember. But we still had hope, because her doctor maintained that she could survive, even with the peritonitis.
Since we couldn’t be with mom all the time, we posted pictures of the family the walls of her hospital room. We got to know the nurses well. They were terrific, and we knew that she was in good hands. On a side note, make sure you take great care of nurses when you have a loved one in the hospital. They appreciate your thankfulness and being told how much you appreciate them, because they are often overlooked.
My siblings and I took turns caring for my step-dad while my mom was hospitalized. And my mom’s friends still came to the hospital even though she was in intensive care and they couldn’t visit her. At that point, they were coming to see and support us. Some were two generations removed, but we became friends through my mom’s illness. We all had my mom’s love and concern for her well being in common. Her friends were there for us in so many ways. They’d drive my step-dad to the doctor when he needed or bring groceries by the house. I learned how much a person can be loved by seeing how much love my mom’s friends gave her by supporting us. Not to mention the hugs, shoulders to cry on and wonderful stories that we hadn’t heard about their times together at work.
Eventually, a very strange turn of events happened. One might say “Jerry Springer” odd. We did. My step-dad’s ex-wife, Carolyn, ended up moving in with him to help take care of him. Of course, this was with my mom’s blessing, first. Carolyn helped all of us tremendously. We couldn’t believe what a big heart she had to offer such a thing. It was a mother’s love that brought her to do it. She wanted to help her children through this, as well.
To be continued…