Six years is a long time.
It's 2,190 days...52,560 hours...3,153,600 minutes...189,216,000 seconds.
Big numbers there.
Yet I remember 6 years ago today like it was yesterday.
It was the day my mom lost her battle to cancer.
Now forgive me in advance...this isn't going to be a light-hearted blog...or an in-depth opinion piece of the latest and greatest political fiasco in the news...this one is just raw. But that's where I am today. That's where I've been every February 23rd for the past 6 years.
Mom was diagnosed with colon cancer in April of 2004. She did chemo and radiation. She had a significant set-back in July of 2004...the treatment, which is a brutal assault on the body, actually led to her bowel splitting open.
She almost died then. But she fought. She held on. At one of her viewings, an old co-worker of hers, Searle Mitnick, told me that Mom held on to make sure she saw my oldest son's birth. I think he was right. That's why he carries my mother's maiden name as his middle name...he was the reason Mom kept fighting, even when all hope was essentially lost.
That set back made her treatments stop. For awhile. She was too weak to endure the chemo or the radiation. The treatment would have killed her.
She got over the bowel thing. Eventually restarted treatments. But cancer, being the wicked disease it is, was just a little bit stronger. It spread. Fast.
February 2005 rolled around. Mom was in bad shape. Weak. She took a spill in the bathroom at home early in the month and had to have a partial hip replacement. Another set back. But again, she fought through it.
February 16th, Dad got the news...the cancer had spread to a point where there was nothing left the doctors could do. Tumors were growing on her brain stem. Game over.
Dad told Mom the doctor's couldn't do anything else to treat the cancer.
She said, "So I guess that means I'm going to die".
Dad said, "We're all going to die, you are just going to a little sooner".
Mom had three requests...
1. She didn't want to die in a hospital.
2. She didn't want to be in pain.
3. She didn't want to be buried under ground.
All three requests granted. She came home on Saturday, February 19th. I didn't go over that day. I think me staying away made it seem not real...not final. I wish I would have because that was the last day she was pretty "with-it" still.
I went to see her Sunday, February 20th. She was laying on her side, I was standing in the bedroom doorway...talking to her about wiper blades for my car and me having a hard time finding them...seriously, that's all I could muster up. The only words she said were "yes" and "no" during our chat.
Dad asked me Monday, February 21st to come over and help him...every few hours, Mom had to be turned from one side to another so she didn't drown in the fluid building up in her lungs. Hospice only came in to monitor the drugs keeping Mom pain-free. Dad couldn't do it alone. And for whatever reason, Dad asked me, the youngest, to be the one to help. Reluctantly, I accepted and went to do what he and Mom needed me to do.
I won't go into too many details, but I wouldn't wish my next 48 hours on my worst enemy.
Mom had a fever. A high one. You could feel the heat coming off of her without touching her.
Her breathing was labored and gargled due to the fluid building up in her lungs.
She had an pretty good sized open sore on her back (from the radiation) that never really healed.
While moving her at one point, we dislocated her redone hip.
She was skin and bones.
Those days were 100x worse than anyone could ever imagine.
And on top of everything else, the room had a smell to it...Death.
Tuesday the 22nd I was helping to turn her before I had to run to an appointment I had that evening (I was dealing with a slew of personal issues at the time on top of everything else)...I knelt down at Mom's bedside before heading out, told her it was OK, we would take care of Dad, and to let go.
Fact of the matter was, I didn't want to have to do this anymore. I was, in essence, praying for her to pass before I had to come back and do it again.
She held on.
That night, as we were turning her, one of her eyes appeared to open...like she knew we were there. My Dad stopped, leaned down, said "Hey there, girlie...you're doing great..."...then he leaned down and kissed her head.
I'll never forget that one moment.
Dad had a split second of hope in his voice. But I'm pretty sure that was the moment that Dad said goodbye...that was the moment Dad gave up.
She made it through another night.
Wednesday morning, I stopped by before heading into work. Mom-Mom (my mother's mother who lived with my folks since I was 3 weeks old) had just gotten home from the hospital the day before...she was at her usual spot at the kitchen table having her coffee and a Tastycake or donut...I went back, helped turn Mom (for the last time, thankfully), and started to head out to work.
When I got to the kitchen, I noticed I hadn't taken off the surgical gloves - we had to wear them because of that open sore on Mom's back. Mom-Mom saw the gloves, asked why I had them on, I told her I didn't want to get messy before heading into work.
She asked, "She isn't going to make it is she?"
I said, "No".
She asked, "When do you think she's going to go?"
I said, "Today".
Here I was telling the woman that helped raise me, Mom-Mom, that her only child, my mother, was going to die...really soon. Another surreal moment I'll never forget.
I left for work. Dad came out and told Mom-Mom that he thought the end was a matter of minutes away, and if she wanted to be back there, she should come back right away.
Mom-Mom went to the bedroom, picked up Mom's hand, kissed it, and at that very moment, Mom slipped away into the hands of God.
She was gone.
It's a damn shame that most of my memories of Mom seem to be of that last week. It was traumatic for everyone. Left some scars that will never heal.
She was a wonderful woman. The best Mom I could have ever asked for. Everything she did, she did for my brothers and I, and for Dad. Mom was the glue for the family.
She talked. All the time. To everyone. She got along with almost everyone. She just had that way about her. She was down to earth.
She loved her grandkids...I know my two boys would have kept her and my dad busy...and it wouldn't have ever been a chore...I think we would have had to tell Mom and Dad that they couldn't take the kids more often than needing to ask them to! That's just how they were.
I miss her everyday.
And I hope I'm making her proud.
Rest In Peace, Mom.
Ann Rita Stone. August 15, 1944 - February 23, 2005