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I love this post too! My mom died just over a month ago and for the last 10 days or so, a woodpecker has come right to the middle of the wall, just on the other side of my sofa and has pecked and pecked this soothing and soft sound. My mother was an avid bird lover so I have also felt that it is my mom’s spirit, checking in with me, like she used to. And the day after she died, a blue jay came and hovered outside my father’s window and just looked in at him, for a long minute and my dad, a very old fashioned traditional guy felt my mom and said to the blue jay, “Hello! What do want to say to me?” and it flew away. My mom is still around – I can feel her.
This is the poem I wrote for my mother and read at her memorial on Saturday.
By Melissa Palma
I remember a wild childhood
barefoot, exploring flowers, insects and rocks on the grass, in the sun, up close
finding possums on our nature trail
swimming hanging on to wolfie’s fur
listening for woodpeckers and killdeer
crossing the country road to gather eggs from the coop and visit the piglets
eating a regular dose of ipecac with every new poisonous plant I consumed
being barefoot and happy and free
I remember mom talking to everyone around her, like at her recent appointments at the cancer center-
“I like your pin. Is that a chickadee? Have you seen any blue birds this summer? We got babies this year. Do your Baltimore oriels prefer orange slices or grape jelly? Oh yeah? You live off Huron River Drive? You must know the Finley’s. They live over there too. Your maiden name is Struble? So is mine. We must be cousins.”
and on and on and on like this, with everyone
I remember an open door
no one knocked
our house was open to anyone, a refuge from the trouble in their life
our mom was the cool mom because she let you be you
always accepting and never judging
you could be fully yourself
I remember how special she made us all feel
I remember her adventurous spirit
taking us to Mexico to ride horses on the beach
Hawaii to explore volcanoes
Chile to try native fish head soup
and just one year ago, St. John to snorkel
and mom probably had cancer but we didn’t know it yet
and we handled the hurricane with grace
fully embracing our time together
I remember talking to mom almost every day for the last 40 years
talking about plans for the day, nothing special
and how I almost called her today, forgetting for a moment that she won’t ever answer
that we can’t talk about nothing special anymore
I remember my mom’s spunk, her feistiness
her boundless energy that inevitably inspired awe
she never sat still –
not until the very end
I remember her warm smile
her dry, biting, smart ass sense of humor that she inherited from my barber grandfather
and how every summer, we went to Bois Blanc where mom and I sat with our feet dangling out the back of the rusted red truck, driving down the one dirt road, singing-
Down by the old (not the new but the old)
Mill stream (not the river but the stream)
Where I first (not the second but the first)
Met you (not me but you)
I remember being so proud of my mom
she was an incredible phys. ed. teacher
she bought sneakers in all sizes for the kids who didn’t have any
she walked around the cafeteria using reverse psychology, just daring kids to try their broccoli and not love it
she had a library in her gym of women, physically challenged and minority athletes and when students read a book, she gave them a U of M cup
I remember my mom on the ground, in the dirt, in the garden
humming silly songs in the kitchen as she made homemade spatzen to go with the sauerkraut
deadheading flowers as she walked down Main Street
teaching me, my friends, my children,
anyone near her was a beneficiary of her endless love of teaching
and I remember the expanse of her love of her grandchildren
and their love of her as they bound to her excitedly exclaiming “Nana! Nana! Guess what?” as they jump into her lap, snuggle in and feel the loving warmth enveloping their little bodies
My mom was giving, loving, caring
compassionate, laughing, sharing
I remember loving her deeply
caressing her forehead
telling her to relax, that it’d be ok
and now it is, for her
she is free from pain and fear and for that I am grateful
but right now
it doesn’t feel ok for me
I miss her
I’m sad I have to remember
wanting the past to be present
wishing for a future tense with my mom
Here is my mother’s obituary, if you would like to see it.
Thank you for the kind words,
I am very sad to share that my mother passed last night at 10:45pm. I wanted more time with her and wanted my kids to grow up surrounded by her love and support but the next few months or even longer would have been filled with so much suffering due to her cancer so I believe this was the most compassionate and humane way she could have passed away. I will miss her so much.
We made the decision (one we know that she would want) to move to comfort care so she is unhooked from all machines except oxygen and is receiving morphine to help her be more comfortable now. Thank you for the words of support. They mean a lot to me right now.
Thanks everyone. I have spent the last 30 out of 34 hours at the hospital. My mom is not responding to people or opening her eyes. Yesterday when we first arrived, she had her eyes open and she smiled when she saw my brother and I but last night and today, she won’t open her eyes or respond no matter what the doctors do to arouse her. They don’t think she’ll make it out of the hospital but she has held steady today…no major changes. CT scans show no new swelling. Chest xrays show no new information. Pulse ox is lowering throughout the day and her breathing is labored. The docs think that respiratory issues are going to be the most problematic symptom. There were a few very scary moments last night with her breathing and she does not want to be resuscitated so we might have to make a quick decision to put her on morphine and that would signify end of life care because she would not be intubated. Agh. This is scary and exhausting and awful.
I’m curious jathy1125, did your mother recover from the stroke physically and mentally or was she pretty debilitated?
Thanks again everyone. I can use all the words of encouragement I can get. And please send healing energy, prayers, whatever you believe to my mother, Ann.August 7, 2012 at 2:14 am in reply to: Why is Xeloda kicking Lauren’s butt when 5-FU did not? #63482
Pam, I am sorry to hear that Lauren is not tolerating Xeloda well. My mom was only ever on Gemzar, Cisplatin and Xeloda so it is hard for us to sort out what made her feel which side effects, but the whole 9 weeks she was on this regiment, she was exhausted and slept a lot each day and she didn’t eat barely any food at all. Fortunately she did not get any hand or foot syndrome symptoms but tomorrow she starts Nexavar and that seems to be a fairly common side effect so lots of lotion helps, I hear.
It was so nice to meet you at U of M last week! I am glad I saw pictures of Lauren and recognized her and got to say hi to you both! She is even more beautiful in person than in her pictures!
Good luck. I’m thinking of you!
Thanks everyone. I think I will just emailed Dr Z, like you said Pam, because he responds better that way. And Helen, I totally agree with you that this is the perfect time to re-group and get strong again but today was another set back on that front. My brother found a really good oncologist nutritionist specialist and we’ve been waiting to see her for 2 months. Well this morning we got the call that she has an appointment open today at 4:45pm. Great news, right? Well, not exactly. My mom and dad had dinner plans and sad today is not a good day to go and since my brother is golfing, he can’t go either. I tried to tell my mom that her health is more important than seeing these friends tonight and that she should come first. I said that they will understand if she has to cancel. I said my dad could go to the restaurant and I’ll drop her off at 7pm after the appointment. I said that this is perfect timing because she has 2 weeks off any chemo where she can get stronger and healthier. It’s perfect timing also because I just took a chef over to meet her on Tuesday (is that just yesterday?) and for the chef and the nutritionist to work together while she is NOT on chemo is a great opportunity. She said no, not today. I started to cry and said that I am working so hard to help her but she is not taking herself seriously and all I want is for her to feel better and there’s an appointment today for her that could help her feel better and she won’t go and I don’t know when we can get back in again. Ugh! I feel very frustrated right now. I told my dad that I need to step back because I can’t care more about mom than she cares for herself. I can’t be more invested in her health than she is. I said these are all just choices we get to make and it is symbolically very significant that she is choosing dinner over going to this appointment today. I’m at a loss.
Pam, thank you. I was looking at your blog and started getting teary eyed looking at your beautiful family and knowing what you are going through as well.
I was prepared for a long fight so Dr. Z’s recommendation to stop chemo today, that minute, was jolting. To not recommend some other chemo or treatment to actually fight the cancer was disheartening on top of that. And while my mom really likes Dr. Z a lot, I am always wanting to ask a lot of questions and feel rushed, like there’s no time to breathe or process or think or formulate another question before he’s gone. He is really good at responding to emails very promptly and I very much appreciate that. Today I am probably a little frustrated that it didn’t feel like he was fighting for my mom.
And yeah, I believe that tomorrow or the next day I will feel hopeful again but this is our first major blip since her diagnosis and I am just giving myself permission to feel crappy and scared for the moment.
Now I just need to figure out how to go to sleep. I think I’m a little afraid to go to bed because if I lay down with no distractions, I’ll start thinking and worrying and letting more fear enter the picture.
I often think about you and Lauren too and am sending healing energy your way.
This is so interesting…my mom got her CT results back today and the tumor was mainly unchanged (grew .02 cm, from 6.8 to 7.0) but the oncologist made it sound like after 9 weeks and 1 round of 6 chemos, that we are done trying. Period. His next recommendation is Sorafenib, or Nexavar, but with the goal of prolonging life but not shrink tumors to get to resection. We just found out about her cancer in April so to give up the goal of resection this early on was kind of shocking to me. Hmmmmmmm. Thoughts?
I’m thinking about you and Lauren and hoping that this new chemo will be more effective. I also got some bad news from Dr. Z today about my mom. Oof.
I think this forum is a perfect place to ask about you, and what we caretakers struggle with through this process. I don’t have experience with anti-depressants but I am thinking about asking about them for my mom. She is becoming more detached and distant but she also hates that foggy brained feeling so it might be a struggle to find something that is just right for her. Right now she is taking Ativan at night to help her sleep (it’s an anti-anxiety) but it makes her so sleepy she doesn’t take it during the day.
Good luck and I hope it helps!!
I’m so sorry to hear it Pam. And thank you for the positive energy. It’s strange – it feels like I was just sitting here on my sofa a few days ago writing that I just found out the devastating news that my mom has stage III cancer and now she has already completed 6 chemo txs and is getting scanned. And it is getting harder all the time. She is feeling worse all the time, eating less, getting more sluggish and sleepy, depressed, etc. And I am the primary caregiver because my brother and dad aren’t stepping it up. It feels like my summer hasn’t even started and with young kids and a school to run, I *need* a break. Even scheduling a simple social work appointment is a huge battle in my family because they don’t want to talk about it. Yes Marion, scanxiety is clearly creeping in.
Pam, hopefully there will not be a next time but if anything like that happens again, feel free to give me a call! I am a teacher and home all summer and my mom is home and lonely a lot. Hoping for positive results!
Thanks PCL and Pamela. I assumed there would be a ton of different anti-nausea and appetite enhancing drugs to try before finding the right ones for her but maybe not. I might have to ask about Remeron because the Ativan is now starting to make her feel off balance and she fell and hit her head when she missed the chair as she was trying to sit down. Wow, who knew all the drug symptoms and combinations could be so tricky? You all did probably but I’m still new to this. July 13th will mark her 3 month diagnosis on April 13th and the learning curve is tremendous.