It was 1995. I resigned from a very lucrative position at a very secure company on February 6th, which coincidentally was the day I was christened back in 1966. Later that day, my father told me he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. I remember receiving the news. My head swam, my knees buckled beneath me and I had to grab a chair and sit down. My whole stable world was collapsing below me.
I was throwing myself into a new, demanding job in which I would sink or swim. Three months probation to prove my worth. My Dad would be starting his own demanding journey. They removed 100% of his stomach and attached his intestines to his esophagus. We didn’t know that the success rate was a mere 25%.
I fought with both him and my Mother, angry that they had given up. I was too young to recognize that enough was enough. How dare he? How dare my Mom say she wished he would die. I almost slapped her.
Shoot forward in time and I was hospitalized on February 6th, 1998, due to complications from Matthew’s birth on Groundhog Day – February 2nd. He was a big baby boy, 9lbs8oz on his birth certificate. 9lbs9oz according to his first photo – naked and wailing on the scale beside my hospital bed. Full lungs. My tailbone was broken. I was hemorrhaging … and feeling faint from blood loss. Friday, February 6, 1998 I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance for emergency surgery, barely conscious.
I loved my son before he was born. I knew he was a boy … we didn’t even pick a girl’s name. I laughed when he kicked plates off my tummy but wasn’t so fond of those toes pushing on my bladder. I fell completely and head over heels in love with him the instant he was born. When I looked at him in my arms, my first thought was how much he looked like my Dad. He most certainly proved to carry my father’s genes … he loves a good joke, skinny as a rake and musically talented. Sorry for the family ears, kiddo …
It was the morning of February 6, 2016, when my GP called me to tell me I had to get in to see the surgeon, Dr. X. By the urgency in her voice, I knew … I knew the news was bad. But I had work to do. I was just about to walk out the front door to get a train to Ottawa. I was the first speaker at an industry event, so off I went to deliver my pitch before facing reality.
I knew it was cancer. I just didn’t know it was Stage 2A/Grade 3 Ivasive Ductal Carcinoma … Triple Negative Breast Cancer.
My father never met my son. After his long battle with cancer, my father passed away at home on November 7th, 1995. The day I moved into my very first and very own home in Ajax.
My Mom decided to leave Quebec and move to Ontario. Since she had family in Mississauga, she chose to live there, rather than on the eastern side of Toronto with me. She had another wonderful 18 years with us, surrounded by family and friends. She remained a spitfire for 92 years despite smoking for 75 of those years.
One summer I took her to a cardiologist who said she had severe calcification on her heart valve and it needed to be replaced. She slowly shook her head … No. She had known 80+ year olds who had had similar surgery and withered away slowly in a hospice. She had watched my Dad, her husband lose weight, dignity and hope after his surgery.
Startled, the surgeon’s eyebrows shot up. He looked from me to her and said, “You do realize that without the surgery, you have a 20% chance of sudden death in the next five years?!”
She looked from him to me and said, “That sounds pretty good!”
The surgeon looked at me for clarification, and I nodded. I was now old enough to understand that quality of life overrode quantity. My Mother did not want to linger. We had discussed and chosen DNR – Do Not Revive.
Mom got bladder cancer and beat it. They didn’t think she would survive surgery but they went in to take a look. She was given radiation. I never went to one of those sessions with her. Single mom, trying to work full time and deal with her doctor appointments.
Mom’s heath deteriorated over the last two years. She went in and out of the hospital. Finally, the hospital called a meeting between her entire health care team, friends, family and caregivers.
I couldn’t make the two hour drive out to Mississauga so I conference called in. I still regret not going. Mom passed away that afternoon.
November 7th, 2013
Today – November 7th, 2017 – would have been my last day of radiation, but the linear accelerators are all under maintenance today. So I get a reprieve for one day.
When the emotions all pile onto a few days, it doubles their weight and burden.
I never really liked November. It reminds me of angry grey skies with driving cold blowing in winter, the first frost settles on bare brown trees in the forest. The end of life for this cycle.
November 11th we remember our fallen heros who’s legacy to us is freedom. Lest we forget.
I would have been elated to be finished radiation, but I am missing my parents. I know they will be with me tomorrow as I ring the final treatment bell. They know that I am am in so much pain, I can barely stand upright.
My radiation burns have continued to sear from the inside out … now 2nd degree burns. You know that toasted marshmallow analogy I made? The burned outer shell has slid off, leaving oozing, raw, exposed skin.
God gave me one more day so I can properly mourn. Them. Me. Us. Mine.
And then my life starts over again.
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