Thursday, July 9, 2009


I have yet to see any good that comes from cancer. It is such an awful disease that can sneak up on any unsuspecting victim. My siblings and I are fairly certain that we will be battling this disease at some time in our own lives. How could we not? Both of our parents have had it; Dad had colon cancer and Mom had breast and then brain cancer. Not to mention the nasty history of it on both sides of their families. I am so much like my mother that it scares me and I have the added "jinx" of being her namesake. Her mother, also named Martha, died of cancer too. I am not looking forward to what is ahead of me.

Mom's cancer came out of nowhere. She was a young 58. Seemingly healthy, incredibly energetic, slender and settling into her new roles as an empty-nester and a grandmother. I remember the day that she told me of her diagnosis. We were working in my garden (where else would we be?) and she was acting strangely. She would not meet my eye and there was an uneasiness about her. I couldn't figure it out. I don't really remember what happened next. I don't know if we were inside or outside, sitting or standing when she finally broke the news. I do remember that my life shattered. How could this be? I need my mother! Who is doing this to ME. Yeah, it was all about me. Stupid, young, selfish. I'm sorry for that now. She was so scared. I have never seen her that way and it scared me too. Mothers aren't supposed to be scared, are they? This is not fair. It seemed like we just got through Dad's battle with cancer. Mom had to handle that all on her own. My siblings were all gone, married or working and I was in college when that hit. She was all alone with that battle. She managed. Dad, although it was a horrible ordeal, survived!

They operated and it was not good. They removed one of her breasts along with 30 lymph nodes. 15 were cancerous. They said that it was very aggressive and they were going to treat it aggressively. And they did. The treatment alone nearly killed her. I went with her for all of her treatments. My mother usually only cries over things about which she is passionate. She doesn't cry over things that cause physical pain. She cried every time they put that awful needle in her hand to administer that awful drug that kills that awful cancer. It kills everything else too. Horrible.

She survived! Until it hit again. Good God it's only been 18 months since the last one! This time it was in her brain. By all rights, she should not have survived this one, but my mother is tough and she is a fighter. They operated and pulled out a golf ball sized tumor from the right side of her brain and then they told us that her personality may be altered. It was. They told us that her balance and fine motor skills would not be the same. They weren't. She's in a wheel chair now. Although these alterations were not visible right away, she slowly deteriorated right before our eyes. There are glimpses of the same Mom that I remember every now and then. She knows and understands us and can sometimes speak fluently but she just can't be a mom in the sense that I selfishly want her to be.

Mom always, always was an optimist. So much so that it could be irritating. Trying to be optimistic myself, I say that I am glad that she is alive today because she never would have known her grandchildren. This is so true, but what I really want is for her grandchildren to know her. They never will know her the way she used to be and that saddens me and my siblings terribly. It is up to us to relay those memories of her. We are trying!

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