It happened 2 weeks ago today. It was so fast I don’t even know how it started. To see the signs now makes me regret even more not acting faster. It is inevitable to retrace my steps and scream while I realize that I could have done things differently.
Mom was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer in April of 2017. It was obvious she’d had it for a while and it went undetected. The Oncologic surgeon who performed the biopsy and confirmed cancer, Ismael, said her chances weren’t high, but she was a candidate for chemo. We were referred to the oncologist who denied mom chemo. Twice. My awesome mother in law passed me a phone call to a friend, whose father in law had cancer, and went through an alternative treatment. It sounded too good to be true, but my husband insisted we go for it. And on May 9 at midnight, she started taking it. I went to a nutritionist, asked for guidance in a diet for mom. All meals were prepared by me, with ingredients bought on a daily basis. After a month, she was accepted for chemo. But I do admit, in that one-month lapse, I remember crying so much, thinking that was the end. Adrian insisted I be positive, and with time, I was.
Her first day of chemo she was a freaking superstar, I wish I had taken pictures but I tried so hard to make this private, and not invade her intimacy. But she walked out as if she’d just stepped out to the restroom. It was heaven, every time she had bloodwork done, to see the tumor marker go down. Leave it to me, the analytical accountant that I am, I tried to control the cancer. I tried to fit it into a mathematical equation I could find an answer to. I had all her bloodwork and test results, everything neatly organized in a 3 ring mead zipper binder, everything in each own sheet protector. That binder was my life. Every time I zipped it closed I felt I was closing another cycle, getting closer to the finish line. Every time I opened it to take out a document any doctor asked me for, I felt like a proud child, that wanted a pat on the back. Instead of wanting a gold star on my forehead or hand for doing my work so neatly, I wanted the doctor’s approval for my mother to live. And she did.
She lived. And things got back to normal again. We’d go grocery shopping together; we’d still do errands together. We’d look for organic food shops together. I’d make food, sometimes she liked it, sometimes she didn’t. But I tried my best, God knows I tried my best. As far as I knew, things were good, that tumor marker kept going down. But in April, a year after she was diagnosed, she started to get weak. On my birthday we hospitalized her, she needed an IV drip.
This is where we started to argue. I truly believed if she avoided certain foods, she’d be cancer free. If she ate what I prepared, the cancer would be eliminated but she started to eat out more and I was very mad at her, maybe mean or cold. It distanced us at times, because I felt like she didn’t appreciate what I was doing, and I felt she was giving up.
Chelsea graduated 6th grade. Mom loved my baby, she loved taking care of her as a baby and a toddler, and Chelsea was so close to mom. To see mom, present at this milestone, filled my heart with joy. And it was how I started to take things for granted, maybe. The summer went by fast. I spent as much time as I could at mom’s, maybe I could have spent more. But every time she called me and asked for something, I literally ran over, because we live 3 blocks away. Every time she wanted to go out, my husband pleased her. Mom was spoiled and she knew it.
But I’ve never been good at expressing myself. I can have all these things to say, all these feelings bottled up, and good intentions, but the words don’t come out. All those times mom and I were together in her car, errands, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, anything, I never took the time to tell her that I loved her. I regret that so much now. It was too cheesy for me to say, and I assumed she knew.
A month ago she really started to have difficulty eating. Her heartburn of years was making it impossible to eat without pain and discomfort. She vomited practically after every meal. But something didn’t’ seem right, so I booked an appointment with a gastroenterologist on Monday august 27th. the doctor said mom’s gastritis and colitis ere so bad, food could not pass through her large intestine, that’s why she was ‘returning’ everything. Her temporary solution was to install a feeding tube, so mom could eat properly without throwing up, and gains some weight back. Then they’d look into surgery. Frist she scheduled an endoscopy on Wednesday the 29th, just to see how much damage there was.
That day I didn’t accompany her. I backed out, because I thought everything was fine. We finally found the problem, and it was going to be fixed. Meanwhile, I hadn’t had a pap smear in 3 years, and the results came back that I had ovarian cysts. My gyne knows me and my mom from years back, and she urged me to attend my health so that I could be good for mom. Wednesday I had bedrest. Thursday, the gastroenterologist texted me and asked to see me privately. My father and I went to the appointment.
The feeding tube was necessary, and she’d install it for free with our insurance the following week once we booked the appointment, after running it by mom. Leaving the hospital, my father and I talked about mom’s years of dealing with heartburn, but not doing anything about it. She didn’t change her eating habits, and she didn’t avoid the food she knew she wasn’t supposed to eat. Mom always did whatever she wanted. And now we were at this point. Went to see her at home. She wasn’t crazy about it, but she was so strong, and said yes to the feeding tube.
Friday morning, the 31st, I went to the clinic where she gets chemo, ran it by her oncologist, she hoped mom got belter soon. The gastroenterologist scheduled us in for Tuesday September 4th, that’s the best she could do. Mom was upset when I got home and told her. She was so desperate to eat without discomfort. Eating was no longer enjoyable. The catch was, I had to purchase the feeding tube myself. Easy as cake, right? No
I made phone calls all over the city, posted on Facebook, couldn’t find it here. One supplier offered to order it and would have it a week later. I needed it right away. Called over the state. All over the country. Mom suggested a few suppliers or people I could ask that would know. My phone is not something I dominate, so I came home to my PC and desk to map out suppliers and make phone calls. In the afternoon I finally found something that would not only sell it, but sent it to me. I called mom to tell her the good news, not to worry, that I found the tube and everything was going to be fixed. She seemed pleased. But not half hour passed when my father called me, mom didn’t feel the right side of her body, and wanted me to come over.
We rushed over and I contacted the surgeon. He sent over a nurse to put an iv drip in mom. She kept saying she felt horrible. And at night, she stopped talking. I slept over that night. So did my sister. The surgeon came over Saturday night, and when I mentioned mom was not speaking and could not move her right side, he froze for a second and shot me a look. He summoned for us to talk to him in the hallway, it was a strong sign the cancer had spread to her brain, and was causing neurological damage. I tried to send him off with a mature smile, but I was dying just as much as my mom. We all slept over with my parents’ that night, my cousin Marihell and my sister Erika. Still no signs from mom. But Sunday morning I got up early, to answer a phone call from my cousin Cindy in the US, and when I came back upstairs mom was wide awake. Act normal, I said to myself. ¨Buenos Dias, mami!¨¨Buenos dias, she replied, loud and clear. Yessssss. I ran to her, and talked up a storm, but she stared blankly back at me.