I share this story on behalf of my Mother. Her Stage 3 Astrocytoma was discovered in December 2005, but disregarded as a tumor. Early MRI’s showed that it was a cyst, and had no signs of being cancerous. Her surgery in January 2006 determined otherwise. A tennis ball-sized tumor occupied a portion of my mom’s head. It was fully removed and our family moved on through a series of chemo and radiation therapy. She was doing beautifully, back to work, and just having small issues such as short-term memory loss, shaky hands, and forgetfulness – all of which we were warned about. Our worries and fears had just about dissipated, until small finger-like cells of the tumor showed up again during a routine MRI in November 2006. At this point doing more chemo or radiation would do more harm than good, and doctors had warned that when it comes back – it comes back with a vengeance.
We chose a “pin-point” radiation therapy (is how it was described to me) that “significantly shrunk” the new tumor, but of course couldn’t reach the tiny ones. In December 2007, Dad told me we had to pick out the perfect Christmas tree, because this would be Mom’s last Christmas. The doctors had given her 4 to 6 months to live. As a result, I spent every day of that 4 to 6 months wondering if “today” would be the day. I tried to live life normally, all the while feeling guilty for what my mother was suffering and what my father was dealing with. Approximately one year later, again in December, my mother’s doctors, astonished by her will to live, again decided to give her a life expectancy and told us she was deteriorating quickly; 4 to 6 weeks was all we had with her. Hospice nurses, social workers, friends, and family alike were all astonished by my mother’s will to live. Mom couldn’t understand 75% of the things we told her, could no longer function even to the point of lifting her hand up, couldn’t eat, drink or sleep, but definitely could dream. She would mutter words like “cruise” to tell us she couldn’t wait to go on a cruise this summer. She told me that my father had painted a picture for her on the ceiling. She told us that the lady in blue was coming to take her home and that she couldn’t wait to see her mother, my grandmother. We gently told her to go with this mysterious lady in blue and that her mom couldn’t wait to see her either. We agreed that the fictional picture on the ceiling was beautiful and that the cruise was going to be fun. She didn’t know either way, and we didn’t feel guilty for letting her believe these that these little dreams were real. It was her world now and we were just living in it.
We never told her that she wouldn’t ever take that cruise and most certainly did not let her know that her life would be short-lived. Whether some agreed with us or not, we felt that this was the right thing to do. How could we possibly take away her dreams? How could we, being her family and support system, ever shatter everything she was looking forward to? Instead, we let her believe. It made her happy to believe. It made us happy that she was happy. Her smile was beautiful and it’s all we wanted to see. Mom suffered for 4 years. Through all the heartache and the pain, however, this becomes somewhat of a love story. I believe my father kept his oath – “In sickness and in health.” He held her hand so she wouldn’t walk in the wrong direction. He picked her up when she couldn’t stand for herself, fed her when she couldn’t feed herself, cleaned her when she couldn’t bathe, and at times he even did the thinking for her, to ease her frustrations and calm her nerves. He put her in the car and buckled her seatbelt before driving her to every doctor’s appointment. Ultimately, I believe he stopped living his own life – because she was his life. He even heard her last heartbeat on June 19, 2009. My dad was her hero and they both are mine.
In loving memory of Diane Martha Nudy