People have the ability to remember the exact details of where they were when they have heard tragic news. It’s like a shock to the system that goes straight to the brain, leaving an imprint.
I had just returned home from work and answered the phone in my bedroom. My sister was on the other end of the line and as I looked out the double windows over my dresser she gave me the news, “Mom has cancer.” I quickly sat on my bed trying not to let anything she said be comprehended. Mom had a small tumor on the back of her neck that only she knew how long was there. The biopsy result- malignant. She had had a mammogram only two months prior that she passed with flying colors, yet now her doctor was telling her that he felt the original site of the cancer was the breast and that the cancer had metastasized. How can that be? It makes no sense.
I could hear the hesitation in my sister’s voice and knew there was more. “The doctor says she only has six months….”
All of the begging, pleading, and praying to my God was to no avail. Rather than 6 months, Mom was given three difficult years of chemo, radiation, and surgeries. I selfishly thought, “at least she is still with us.”
As the end neared, we were all in denial and after a particularly rough day for her, I called her oncologist to ask if he would see her. He transformed from a doctor to a coward and refused to get on the phone, instead having his secretary give me the message of, “I think it’s time to call Hospice.” How do I now hang up the phone and have this conversation with Mom? With Dad? With my family? Throughout Mom’s illness, one of my brothers would visit often and always say to her, “Don’t give up.” On one of his final visits, she responded to him, “I’m not giving up, I’m giving in.”
With her family surrounding her, Mom passed away on Monday, October 14, 1996.