Three years ago, I was deeply engrossed in training for the Breast Cancer 3 Day walk. It was to be my second 3 Day event in 9 months and I was ready. I'd raised my money and helped others raise theirs. It's so much easier to walk 60 miles in three days versus raising $2,200 for the entry commitment. That is much tougher.
The first walk I did in San Francisco in October 2004 was so hard to raise money for. I had no balls when it came to asking people for money to donate to this cause. I'd gotten creative though and came through with enough extra that I was able to donate my excess funds to other walkers who hadn't yet reached their goals. The second walk was a little harder to ask people to donate for, but I'd grown bold in the asking.
Two weeks after my return from the SF 3 Day, my mother in law, Pat, was diagnosed with metastatic adenocarcinoma. We think it may have been from the breast or possibly the lung. She was not a smoker. There were hormonal characteristics of primary breast cancer and primary lung cancer. The tumor in her lung had cells so poorly differentiated that the doctors here and pathologists at the Mayo Clinic couldn't tell where it had originated. It didn't matter-it was in stage IV with metastasis to the brain, bone and liver by the time it was found. You could have knocked this whole family over with a feather the day she was diagnosed; we were devastated. This woman was the soul of our family and she was leaving us, sooner than later.
This was perhaps, the hardest eight months of our lives. That's how long we had until cancer took her from us. Truth be told, it took her much sooner. Christmas that year was bittersweet. We knew it would be our last with her. By that time, she'd completed her whole head radiation treatments and fatigue from radiation had laid her low. By the New Year, she'd begun chemo treatments and didn't tolerate them well. The cancer cells were sensitive to chemotherapy all right, the problem was her tumor burden was huge. I don't think she had more than three chemo treatments before she was completely bed bound because of them. She developed tumor lysis syndrome from this massive shedding of cells. There were clots in both legs from ankle to groin that resulted in a huge pulmonary embolism. It was all over but the waiting.
July is the month we lost her. In May 2005, she knew she was close. She asked me to make lunch for her neighbors. She wanted to get dressed in anything but pajamas for this big event but had lost so much weight that nothing fit her. Pehaps, she'd lost as much as 60 pounds in just 6 months. I dressed her in my own jeans. She used her walker and made her way to the dining room table on her own. She was saying goodbye to her friends of many decades. By June of 2005, we tried our last ditch effort to improve her strength by getting her into a rehab program. When she got to the inpatient rehab unit at the hospital, she'd completely exhausted herself and had no more to give. We went from rehab to hospice-just like that.
The hospice nurses were my colleagues and they were wonderful. They were so compassionate in their care for our entire family. Especially, my sister in law, Lori. Lori still talks about these nurses to this day. She is still thankful for them and so am I. At my first breast cancer fundraiser in a local bar, Pat had told a friend of mine that she wanted to die in her sleep at home in her bed. And so she did. Peacefully. Hospice made that happen.
I feel sad and melancholy during the summer months. Sometimes, I think it's just July that makes me feel this way. She was more a mother to me than my own and I miss her. Intensely. She helped me raise my children and with my youngest child's disability, I couldn't have done it without her. I'm grateful that I had the time to tell her how I felt before she left us-not that she would let us directly say goodbye. She'd have none of that talk.
So, Patty, this post is for you. Lori and I put away a bottle of red for you tonight. You are thought of, remembered and desperately missed.