My mother died on March 8, 1988. She was just a few months shy of her sixty-second birthday. Her body had just been through two weeks of certain hell on earth. It was black from the rib cage down and every organ in her abdomen had cancer cells in them. There were tubes that drained her kidneys and a bag for the feces that was accumulating in her intestines. She had an inter-venous needle in her arm that was keeping her normal cells functioning, but barely, and there was a steady drip of morphine being pumped into her veins. Her eyes occasionally would shake sideways with her heartbeat and her body would go into seizures. It was hard to watch. Very sad!
The subject matter for this article came from the assignment section of Yahoo Contributor Network. The assignment was to write about Cervical Cancer and my involvement with it. I personally have not experienced cervical cancer in my own body. Cervical cancer, however, has had a direct effect on my life from the beginning of my life.
Really, you ask. How so? Well. You see, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint, my mother’s doctor discovered a cancerous lump on mom’s cervix while she was dilating..
So. How did this day come about?
Well, it all started some twenty-six years earlier. My mother was nine months pregnant and had, on June 1, 1962, walked the ten blocks to the hospital one day because she felt like she needed to seek medical attention. You see, my mother was pregnant with me and was having the beginnings of labor pains. A few facts about my mother: in 1962, she was 36 years old. She was pregnant with her fifth child. My father was 38 when this event was began to unfold. Now in 2010, is 86 years old
My mother, realizing that she was in labor, decided to take a walk to the hospital. She walked the several blocks it took to get to Immanuel St. Josephs hospital in Mankato, Minnesota. My father was not home. He was at work, a carpenter Foreman at then, Mankato College. Now, 48 years later, the college is Mankato State University. Home of the ‘˜Minnesota Vikings Training Camp.’ The two of them, with their brood of four young children, had moved to Mankato from Duluth, Minnesota the previous winter and he had found employment at the college.
She was admitted, and it was discovered by the staff that she was, indeed, in the beginnings of labor. They ushered her to a birthing room of that time period. It was 1962.
As they prepped her for this arrival of me, the baby, they checked her for dilation. She was at a normal level. The doctor noticed that there was a lump on her cervix when he had checked the initial dilation. It was not a normal lump, so he had a biopsy ordered. It turned out to be cancerous.
My mother underwent six months of radiation treatments. My sister helped take care of me, her new baby sister. After six months, the doctors decided that they had it under control.
I grew up and moved out, got married, had my first child. Everything seemed to be okay. Things were happening like they were supposed to. My mother was a fairly attentive mother and when I moved out, she made a point of remembering my birthday. I grew used to receiving this phone call every year. Yes. Every year, on my birthday, my mother would call and tell me happy Birthday.
Until, one year, on my 25 birthday, she failed to call.
I waited all day. No call. On the next day, it was the same thing. No call. I finally called her. She informed me that she had been to the doctor, since she was having trouble with her bowel movements, she had been gaining weight and she was starting to have troubles with liquid backing up into her esophagus. They had done some testing and she had had some biopsies taken and they had discovered that her cancer had returned. It was my birthday, twenty-five years to the date that it had returned, she informed me. Not cervical cancer this time, but colon.
The doctors moved fast. She had a surgery to remove a section of her colon. There was a spot that was completely blocked her small intestine next to where her large intestine was connected. They removed nine-inches of intestine. She spent the next few weeks doing some chemotherapy treatments. The treatments made her sick and sore. After a few months, she made a life decision.
She decided to stop all treatments and let the disease progress as it wished. As the cancer spread around her body, she began to have other problems as well. She developed phlebitis in her legs. She began taking a blood thinner to keep her blood thinned out. Her legs became very sore. She began to feel suicidal and desperate. She talked to her doctor in February and asked him if there was something that they could do to increase her date of death. He said that the only thing that he could suggest was that they could do an exploratory surgery; open her up and look to see how the cancer was doing. The only thing was, since she was taking blood thinners for her legs, she might bleed to death on the table. She decided that it was the way to go.
So, on February 25, 1988 she underwent an exploratory surgery. When the doctor opened her up, he discovered that she had cancer in every organ, including her ovaries, in her abdomen. He shook his head, and told my mom and dad that he was very sorry but she had about two weeks and her organs would start shutting down and she would be dead. My sister Linda was confused, since she thought that they had removed mom’s ovaries years ago. No. They were still there.
Her children were called and they all flew home to say goodbye. There were five children. Linda, Ron, Scott, Karin and of course, me. Everyone came home and talked with her. Taking turns.
Karin, the last child, flew in from Hawaii. Unfortunately, when she arrived at the hospital, her mother had slipped over the edge of a coma, and was not responding. Our older sister, Linda, met her and I outside the room and told her to prepare for the worst. Karin went into the room bravely, Linda and I following her in. She went to mom’s side, knelt down, kissed her on the forehead and said “I love you, mom!” in a firm voice. My mother’s eyes open, her un-glassed eyes focused on her daughters face and she opened her mouth and uttered, “I love you too, Karin!”
This was the last thing she ever said to anyone. She closed her eyes again. She slipped back into the coma that she was under and passed away two days later.
My mother was older when I ‘˜got to know her.’ As mom’s go, she was a strict mother, giving me rules to follow, but, at the same time was fairly lenient. She seemed to trust me to do what was right. She definitely had a different technique of child rearing in comparison to other women, but much of it had to do with her attitude on life now that she was a cancer survivor.
My mother was a feisty, dark haired, smiling woman. She had a quick sense of humor that was at times very silly. She loved to draw, she dabbled in painting, she made hundreds of embroidered pictures. She was very good at counted cross-stitch. Over the years that I knew her, she was very involved in the creative crafts. She tried many different crafts and excelled at many.
I am definitely glad that I got to know her.
My sister Karin, the one that mom was waiting for, died in 2005. She was being treated for some low blood sugar disorder and making changes in her diet. One day, my brother Scott called me and told me that Karin had died. He informed me that she had three kinds of cancer. She had lung, kidney and bone cancers. I shudder to think of her final days that she spent alone in some depression clinic in Hawaii.
Yes, my life has been definitely affected by cervical cancer and other cancers. My daughter, now twenty-one, has been vaccinated with the shots that are supposed to decrease the risk for her. Perhaps we can prevent it from happening in this family again. Maybe the information will help another family. Thank you for letting me share my story!