My Journey Along the Narrow Way

Posts tagged ‘cancer’

My Adoption, Part V…

Ruth and I continued to write and talk on the phone from time to time. A year after I found Ruth, my Grandpa Frank (my mom’s dad) in Colorado died. I decided to go to the funeral and spent time with my uncle and aunt that lived there. My brother and my dad would be going to the funeral so I would get to see them as well. Once the plans were made for me to visit Colorado, I arranged for Ruth and me to meet in person while I was there. That was the most emotionally draining trip of my life.

I got to Colorado and was met at the airport once more by my brother and my dad. This was reminiscent of my trip back to California for my mother’s funeral. Of course, this being the first funeral I had attended since my mother’s death 11 or so years before, I was really nervous as to how my reaction was going to be. Add to that my impending visit with not only my biological mother, but also my half-sister and my biological grandfather and I was a basket case.

The first thing we did once we got settled in was to visit my grandmother in the nursing home. My mom’s mother had died of breast cancer when I was 4 years old. My Grandpa had married my Grandma Helen when I was in first grade. I just adored Grandma Helen. She would always play board games with me when they would come and visit us, and she once crocheted me this awesome afghan that is made up of about 50 different colors that I still have and love to this day.

My Grandpa is in the middle of the back row

My Grandpa is in the middle of the back row

My Grandma Helen had started getting the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease around five years before my Grandpa’s death. My Grandpa took care of Helen for several years as her disease progressed. At the same time, my Grandpa was battling prostate cancer. He had been given chemotherapy for a few cycles, but the side-effects affected him worse than the disease so he finally elected to stop taking them. He was in his late eighties at this time and the doctors agreed that since his prostate cancer was a slower growing type, getting off the chemo wouldn’t make a real big difference anyway.

Once Grandma Helen’s Alzheimer’s started getting worse, my Grandpa decided that he needed to get them both into around the clock nursing care. He also wanted to get Grandma Helen settled before she got too much worse. He did the sweetest, most sacrificially loving thing I have ever witnessed before. Grandpa got both of them into the nursing home and got it all set up with their things. He sold their house and basically got their affairs in order. Then he slowly began to pull himself out of Grandma Helen’s life. See…he knew he was going to die and he didn’t want my grandma to become confused any more than she already was.

After they got settled into the nursing home for a few months, he moved out of her room and moved next door to her. After a few months, when Grandma Helen was used to things again, he moved down the hall. He continued to visit her but as she continued to forget things he just let her forget them. It ended up being a really smooth transition for her and my Grandpa was relieved to know that Grandma Helen would be taken care of once he was gone.

We went to see Grandma Helen the afternoon before my Grandpa’s funeral. At first she wasn’t really sure who I was but after I while I started talking about my colorful afghan and she stated that she had made one for her granddaughter Debey. I told her that Debey was me and she seemed to recognize me and become relatively clearheaded for awhile. She was very happy and chatty but seemed a little sad. When we asked her why she was sad, she replied that, “That nice man Frank down the hall had died.” She had no idea that Frank had been her husband of many years. Even though it was hard to hear that she didn’t remember that Grandpa had been her husband, I was also glad for her sake that she didn’t and also that she wasn’t confused or grieving.

The next day we went to my Grandpa’s funeral. It was really a sad thing to go through but I knew that my Grandpa was a Christian and that he was going to Heaven. Even though I wasn’t saved at the time, I knew that without a shadow of a doubt.

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Falling in Love (or God’s plan for my life), Part IV…

As an aside…let me break in and talk a bit my mom’s death, as it is an integral part of my story. And it will also tie back in big-time once I start feeling the call of God in my life. I’m really putting myself out here to you guys because this was one of the most devastatingly painful times of my life.

My mom was a sweet, sweet lady – and I’m not just saying that because she was mine. She was one of those rare people that everyone loved from the minute they met her. I don’t ever remember my parents fighting. She had that “quiet and gentle spirit” naturally that I’ve never managed to learn. And she just had such a servant heart. As you may recall, when I was in ninth grade my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

My dad made me go to school the day my mom had her hysterectomy. He thought I was too young to deal with all the stress of it. So when the bus pulled up that afternoon, I just kept hanging around about a block from my house talking with my friends. I just KNEW something was really bad and I didn’t want to face it. Finally my dad sent my brother out to find me. He sat us down and told us it was cancer (they hadn’t told us it was a possibility before hand). At the time, they gave her a 25% change of survival. But somehow I knew she wasn’t going to die.

What followed was a year of treatment that only could described as hell. My mom had chemotherapy once a month by IV. For the week after treatment, she was so sick she couldn’t get out of bed. She had massive nausea and all that goes with that. The week that followed that she was still sick but could get out of bed a little bit. The third week she was getting better and the fourth week she was almost normal. Then came another round….

There wasn’t much we could do to help her. My dad was understandably consumed with my mom whenever he wasn’t at work. So my brother and I were pretty much on our own. It was at this time that I met and started dating Bud.

My mom had another surgery a year after the first and found that she was cancer free. We moved to California shortly thereafter.

A couple of months after I graduated from high school my mother began having a lot of stomach issues. She went to the doctor and after exploratory surgery was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer. This time it was in her intestines. The doctors first tried radiation for a year. After that was completed she began having more problems and she had another surgery. At this surgery, they opened her up and found the cancer was in her stomach, intestines, and bowel. The pretty much just cleaned her out and put a tube from her esophagus coming out of her body. She could eat a little just for taste but it would immediately come out of the tube. At this point they declared her terminal.

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About a month before she died, I came back to California to visit my mom. It was the most horrible and wonderful time of my whole life. She looked so thin and wasted but she had this wonderful spirit about her. We would try to say the things we need to say but we would just cry and cry and not get them out. She definitely was a peace with her impending death and knew without a shadow of a doubt where she was going. My parent’s minister suggested that my mom and I write letters to each other so we could say what we needed to say to each other. So that’s what we did. I had also brought a bunch of bridal magazines with me and I would sit on the bed with my mom and we planned my wedding as best we could.

I left California knowing that I would never see my mom alive again.

About a month after I got back home, on a Wednesday, I went to work as usual and came home at 5:00. Bud came over to visit but had to leave around 7:00 to go home and do homework. The closer the time came for him to go home the more I begged him to stay. I told him I knew my mom was going to die on that die. He kept telling me that I was just worried but I didn’t believe him. He left to go home and wasn’t gone 5 minutes when my dad called to tell me my mom had died 30 minutes before. I had to call Bud and tell him. He came and got me.

I flew to California the next morning and spent the day on the plane in shock. I couldn’t believe she was gone. She was my mother but also my best friend. God had given me to her and my dad and I couldn’t understand why He would then take her away after 19 short years. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was building up a serious grudge against God.

When I got to California I wanted to immediately go and see my mom and say goodbye. That’s when I found out that my dad had decided I was too young to see her and had already gave the okay to have her cremated. I was devastated.

The memorial service was awful. I refused to cry. Some people thought it was strange that I didn’t cry or that I was uncaring, but I knew once I started I wouldn’t be able to stop. So I concentrated on being the caretaker passing out Kleenex to the whole row of our family.

When I got back to Alabama, I tried to just go on as if nothing happened. It was much easier for me to push it out of the way than to think about it. About a week after I got back, my roommate and I decided to watch “Terms of Endearment”. I didn’t know what the movie was about. Let me tell you, once the lady died of cancer at the end, I started crying. It all came out…all the weeks of fear, pain, and tears. I cried so hard and long that my roommate called Bud to come get me. He did and I stayed at his parent’s house for several days. I think I cried 48 hours straight…..and seriously begin hating God for taking my mom away.

Part V coming soon…