Simply ordinary observations from an ordinary person - sometimes having to do with health care issues, sometimes not. Topics will change as my attention wanders. Yours probably will too....

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

For My Mom

I was 28 and my mother was 57 when she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. That was 29 years ago and I am now 57. It's odd to try and visualize the two of us in 1979. I can easily picture myself - young, slender, long hair, not too many years away from my hippie days and still trying to figure out what I wanted to actually do with my life. It's more difficult to picture her - not because my memory has faded but because she seems ageless, like most moms do to most kids. And it's very strange to think that if I live to 60, which I fully intend to do, I will be older than my mother. Her life stopped at 59 - much too young, much too early.

Because of her, I am very conscientious about my annual check ups. I also have access to screening tools and tests which were not available to her. If cancer ever does develop in my body, my doctors and I will know about it in time to start early treatment. By the time hers was discovered, "treatment" was just a way to slow down the relentless death march of her own cells. The surgery and agonizing chemo gave her two extra years but, of course, that wasn't long enough for her or her family. I'm still surprised when I talk with some of my nieces and nephews and realize that they were born after her death. It's wrong that she didn't get to meet all her grandchildren.

I don't dwell on the bad memories from that period of time, but I do still harbor many questions: why didn't her GYN detect a major problem when she went to him complaining of weight loss, fatigue and a general feeling that something wasn't right? Was she treated as just another menopausal woman with vague complaints? How did he feel when she ended up in the ER 6 weeks later with cancer cells crowding the bladder and stopping urine flow? Why did the surgeons/doctors meet with us in the hallway to give news that would change our family forever? Weren't there any private waiting areas in the hospital? Would she have had better medical care or optimal treatment if she had lived in an urban area, rather than our small, isolated home town? Would her death have been easier and more peaceful if hospice had been available? Why wasn't I a better daughter, more present, more supportive, more caring, more aware?

I don't have answers to any of those questions and I can't go back and change anything now. But I can do things in her memory and so I will be walking in a 24 hour Relay for Life on July 26th, for the American Cancer Society. It seems like the perfect thing to do for the woman who taught me how to walk and who bought me my first shoes. Maybe the funds I raise will make a difference in someone elses' life, maybe not. But if you are reading this and want to make a pledge towards my goal, click here! It's not for me, it's for my mom.

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