Two year tumor update/Good bye to mom

Today marks the two year anniversary since I had the whole tumor scare. I'm feeling great and almost back to full health but the anniversary is bittersweet since by some strange coincidence, today also marked the date of my mother's funeral, which I've talked about a bit on Twitter, but I don't think I've mentioned here.

My Mom

1986family
(Flagstaff, Arizona xmas time 1986 (I think). My brother, me, mom, and dad)

Back in July/August, my mom had a mammogram and they discovered a growth that was deemed stage 1, highly treatable breast cancer. In late August they operated and the surgeons were surprised to find extended growth of the cancer into her lymph nodes, but removed it all and gave a good bill of health. Chemotherapy was set to begin soon after but further tests showed complications with her liver (also showing cancer) and ultimately it seemed her cancer was stage 4 and beyond, and her liver functions soon started to break down. By October she was having trouble walking, eating, and talking, ending up in the hosptial in the last week of that month. Last Wednesday November 9th around 8:35am, she passed away with me, my brother, and my aunt by her bedside. Today's funeral was attended by about 60 people and I got to hear lots of great stories about her from friends and family.

At the funeral I shared some memories of my mom working very hard her whole life, never really knowing how or when to relax. I meant to tell a great story of a vacation we once took as a family. It was done in our typical style of waking up one weekend at around 4am, piling in a car in half-sleep while my dad drove hours and hours north towards our destination. We'd arrive in late morning and start hitting museums, state parks, zoos, one after the other until it was quickly dinner time. I recall running into some family friends that also vacationed in a coastal town we visited and my mom asking them how their day had gone. They said they just plopped down on the beach sand and relaxed all day, doing nothing. 

I remember my mom was livid back in the car. She couldn't believe this family of friends simply sat around all day instead of doing all the activities we did. She thought they wasted their vacation but after feeling exhausted by the breakneck pace of our trip I wished we had a bit more downtime like that other family got to enjoy.

Mom at Pacific City

I spent a lot of time with my mom over the last three months (thanks JetBlue Bluepass for all those flights to Long Beach) and I finally got her to accept a ticket to fly up to Oregon and spend some time with my family. We saw the coast, we saw the falls, we ate like kings at all the finest restaurants. I took her out to see Moneyball in a theater which she enjoyed (she was a huge baseball fan) and afterwards she admitted the last movie she saw in a theater was Dances With Wolves. I like to think despite her failing health I taught her how to relax the last few months of her life and enjoy some quiet time to herself.

Today's funeral helps close a chapter in my life but also reminded me of all the good times I had with my mom, and sets the stage for moving on in my life without forgetting her. So long mom, I'll miss you greatly.

Fionamom

Tumors

In tumor news, there isn't much to tell. My tumor stabilized nearly a year ago to about 1/3 of the original size. My medications have been reduced (but not yet eliminated) and all my vital signs and energy levels are back to near normal. I can't believe it's only been two years since the diagnosis, I feel like I've lived another ten years since and it helped me re-evaluate many things in my life. I feel like the tumor scare has taught me to appreciate all the people, experiences, and things in my life and I've done my best to live a fuller life while I can. In 2012 I'm going to be doing a lot of things I've always wanted to do, and they will mostly involve travel to places all over the world (planning on Hawaii, New Zealand, Belgium, Yosemite, Italy, all in the first six months). A tumor taught me that life can be brutal and short and to relish our time here. Dreams are good to have but even better to live up to and there's no reason to put them off any longer.

6 Comments

  • Thank you for sharing.
    I remember my Mom every time I’m looking for a parking spot. When anyone in my family get’s a prime parking spot, we call it an Oma spot. (the name her grand children called her) I swear, when I get a number one spot I feel a spiritual connection with my Mom. Stupid but true.

  • Sorry about your mom.
    It’s quite amazing how these things can really crystalise what you want to be doing with your life. My husband’s mother also recently passed away from breast cancer and it has prompted us to make some serious, grown-up decisions about our future and what we want to be doing with our lives.
    When it all comes down to it, it should be all about carpe-ing the diem.
    I am so pleased that your tumour is under control – you had a good deal of imaginary internet people very concerned for a while there!

  • I recall her having a difficult time relaxing at our house. She wanted to jump in and do the dishes. We were lucky to get to know her, if only briefly. Nancy, in all sorts of ways, reminds me of my own mother….incredible work ethic, generous and, unfortunately, breast cancer. Thanks for sharing Matt.

  • Ah Matt, I’m so sorry, friend. I’m glad you got to hook your mom up, Haughey-style and I’m glad you got to spend so much time with her in the last few months. Make sure in your next six months of travels you remember to put the brakes on and get to experience the places you got and people you meet. I wish you happiness and some peace.

  • So sorry to hear this. I lost my Dad two years ago to cancer. It came out of nowhere, seemed to be in remission and then attacked with a vengeance. It was awful and not at all how I expected him to go out.
    Happy to hear that your own situation has stabilized. We just really never know what’s around the corner, do we?

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