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feminatristis
04-22-2016, 11:45 AM
Hi everyone. My mom died a week ago today after a very long battle with cancer. The history with cancer in my family is a long one:

1999: Dad was diagnosed with a prognosis of six months to live. He was misdiagnosed; the cancer was stage 3 testicular cancer and serious, but he underwent surgery and chemotherapy, and he survived. He went into remission and is still with us.

2003: Mom was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. She has a mastectomy. No chemo or radiation, but a complicated recovery that took about two years.

2008: Mom diagnosed with recurring stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Terminal.

2008-2016: Mom underwent countless rounds of chemotherapy, both inpatient and an outpatient. She lost the ability to drive in 2013 or 2014 (I honestly can't remember), and her mobility and vision were progressively impaired as drugs failed and tumors grew on her spine and in her brain.

March 2016: Her oncologist stopped chemo. She met with a radiologist and had three treatments between the end of March and the beginning of April.

April 2016: Radiation failed. She went into renal failure. Hospice took over.

April 15, 2016: Mom died at home.

I was her primary caregiver for many years, but not so much toward the end. We had a better support system in place in the last couple of years, and the burden was lifted, which was a relief: I'm not a natural caregiver. I would do anything for my mom, but it costs me something I can't quite name, and the years of watching her deteriorate are things I'm still not quite able to articulate very well. My SIL came into our lives a few years ago, and she has done home health care and is training to be a nurse. I thank our lucky stars every single day for her.

I am angry that radiation was even attempted, because it took what little energy she had left. I was so confused when she elected to do radiation, because mom had always feared it, almost as much as death, and she said that if it came to radiation (a last-ditch effort, in her case), she would rather let hospice come in. Of course, I haven't faced my own mortality, and I don't fault my mom for wanting to do what she could at the end. At least, I don't fault her, but it hurts. We always spoke openly about her cancer being terminal. I remember giving her "permission," so to speak, many years ago to stop treatment if she felt like it was too much; I promised her I wouldn't fault her or be upset or accuse her of giving up, and she was so relieved at that moment that she cried. She told me she had been terrified to discuss that possibility with any of us, and she was relieved to hear me say it.

Again, I'm not mad that she did essentially what her oncologist and the radiologist told her to do, but I learned in the end (and it was stated outright the day she died) that my mom never really believed her cancer was terminal. She was bitter and angry at the end -- after years of being one of the most positive people in the world and speaking very openly about her cancer -- and she never made peace with dying. She held on for days after hospice said it was over, that she had hours to live, and everything about the experience haunts me. Her breathing, the way she looked... And now knowing that she wasn't ready to go, that she was terrified and angry, when she'd always told me otherwise, showed me another side -- that haunts me too. I wish I'd never been told that (by a well-meaning friend of my mom's). I wish I could have lived believing that she truly was at peace.

Again, I'm not mad at my mom. But I'm so torn up about this. I've been bracing myself for this moment since 2008 (really, since 1999, when my dad was misdiagnosed and we thought he was dying), and I tried to be honest and open, and I thought mom was doing the same. I wish I had known what she was going through so I could have done anything for her. I feel like I failed her, and it's eating me up. I feel like I didn't ask the right questions, didn't take enough time to consider that she might just be putting on a brave face because she was following my lead.

I know it's only been a week, but I feel completely out of my head. I'm having trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating. I don't feel the relief everyone else seems to feel that this is over and my mom is no longer suffering. I can't seem to take comfort in any of this. I miss my mom.

rosequartz
04-22-2016, 12:59 PM
I'm sorry for your loss of your mom. Maybe she refused to believe her condition was terminal because it was too hard for her to accept. Maybe that was what kept her going for as long as she did. Please don't be angry with her or yourself. You didn't fail her.....her body did.