I remember looking at this scan last March with tears streaming down my face not needing to know the details – the image was very clear. The cancer was becoming all-encompassing, which was apparent through my mom’s seemingly rapid decline. I believe it was at this moment, for the first time, I truly felt hopeless. Leading up to this, I was researching immunotherapy options, looking at numerous clinical trials, working on her speech and physical therapy during my time as her caregiver, taking her for walks and pushing her to do the things I know she didn’t feel confident in doing any longer… I was on a tireless quest to find something to save her – and I truly believed I could. I was convinced prayer and perseverance was enough. But it wasn’t.
May is brain cancer awareness month and it’s also the month my mom passed away just last year. It’s been awhile since I confronted these feelings of loss. Writing these things down is harder than I remember. As I was going through it, it felt cathartic. But now, it’s like ripping open the stitches to a wound that has been slowly healing. For a long time, I had wanted to write. Write about my journey more in depth of the joys and sorrows of caregiving to a terminally sick parent, of losing a mother and a best friend, and of the days and months that follow that loss that leaves you feeling everything and nothing concurrently. But every time I wanted to write; my page would wind up blank. And rightfully so. It was a pure reflection of where I was and what I was feeling. Empty. I had nothing left to give and nothing more to say. For 9 months, all my energy was given to my mom and her well-being.
I thought the ‘firsts’ were difficult, but with the one-year anniversary of her passing coming up, the emotions are running much higher. The months have moved fast and slow, with welcomed distractions, but the realization that I’ve gone one year without her breaks me. And I never knew how many times a heart can break until now. With the sadness I am facing, I can also say I’ve come a very long way. I was given some great advice and it is a personal mantra I use often and share when I can… “Feel it all. Feel everything. Just don’t live there.” Something simple that resonated with me and that may resonate with you. And I think it was the most real piece of advice I had ever been given… to welcome the tears and the anger, but to not stay in that place too long. To realize it’s okay to move forward. FYI for those who haven’t lost someone, guilt is a huge part of grief and a whole different post.
I guess the purpose of my writing this is that I now feel like I have something to say. And I feel like I have more to give. So many people reached out to me on this journey and inspired me through their stories of loss or their battle with cancer. I was so consumed with saving my mom, that I didn’t know how to carry the weight of others stories and feelings on my shoulders. But now… now, I am stronger. And wiser. And a helluva lot braver. I was jaded by my experience in the sense that I believed despite my best efforts, I didn’t make a difference. I couldn’t do the one thing I set out to do – and that was to save my mom. But I now know, looking back, that in a way, I did. My presence with her every day, planning impromptu trips, taking her outside for long walks in the sun, getting caught in the rain, grabbing smoothies, watching the waves roll in on the beach… all of these things, these moments that I didn’t place a lot of value on then allowed her to live. To live life to the very fullest in the short time that she had left. I’d like to think I saved her from the despair and the confines that cancer can bring. I never let it limit her. And for me, I can finally say that’s enough.