One of those friends, Laurita, is my sister Rhonda's BFF. I met Laurita through my sister and liked her instantly. I don't recall how long ago it was that I met her; it seems that I've known her my entire life.
Laurita's mother, Ms. Jessie, passed after a battle with cancer. Laurita is a lot like her mother, warm and caring. Laurita is not a blogger, but after reading the piece she wrote about the loss of Ms. Jessie, I think that she should be. I asked Laurita if I could share her writing in my blog and she has agreed. Following are the words of my friend Laurita; I hope that they give some comfort and aid to all of you have suffered great loss.
TODAY by Laurita R.
I just realized TODAY, that I’ve been grieving for my mother since November 13, 2008. You see, that was the day mommy received her diagnosis of CANCER…SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER. We were reeling from grief on that day until she took her last breath on Monday, March 8, 2010.
Mommy was a very vibrant woman. She loved to laugh and genuinely loved people. I always teased her about never meeting a stranger. I’ve often said that she, my sister Lynda and my brother Larry would talk to a sign post if it said hello. You see they have the same outgoing personality of my mother. When she spoke to you it was genuine. Her smile was warm and inviting.
The wind was knocked out of our sail on November 13, 2008. Mommy and Leo (my younger brother) had been to all of her doctor appointments and were settling in for a nice afternoon when she received the call to return to the office. That is when the endless doctor appointments began. We knew time was of the essence when they immediately scheduled an appointment to see a surgeon to evaluate the severity (or confirm it).
We had a family meeting on that Friday evening to break the news that she indeed had small cell lung cancer. At the time it was at “limited stage” which meant it had not metastasized (spread). The grieving process began. We didn’t know how long we had with mommy so every day became even more precious. We made sure she was comfortable and did not want for anything. You see she was spoiled or should I say a pampered woman, so it didn’t take much to make her happy. Happiness to mommy was being with her children, grandchildren & great grandchildren. She lived a simple life without a lot of frills.
Mommy moved in with me and Leo and the process began. First it was chemo three times a week. It was hard and we took turns taking her to treatments and staying with her. I could never bring myself to leave mommy alone during this period. She became my baby. Yippee we survived chemo without any ill effects. Chemo resolved the spot on her lung so the next step is radiation as a precautionary measure in hopes of preventing metastases. More tests to determine the success of each invasive treatment. Then, boom, there is a lesion on your brain. It’s very small but will require brain radiation do you want to do this? Hesitation sets in because she (we) feel the cancer has taken over.
A mold was made of her head and this brought on the depression. Being the strong woman she is, she trudged on to each treatment every day for 1-2 minutes. It was hard to watch her go through this. You see, she only did it for us. We never asked but mommy decided she would do it for her children, which is how she’s always lived her life.
Okay, the chemo and radiation worked and we were in remission for 10 months. The doctors were amazed considering her health issues, high blood pressure, diabetes, emphysema, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). She was taking a lot of medication.
Mommy had numerous hospitalizations unrelated to the cancer and we started teasing her about it being her vacation spot. She hated the mention of the hospital because as soon as you mentioned the “H” word it meant she was about to spend some time there. She was tired of taking medication and the medications increased. “I spend all my money buying medicines.”
I am happy that she decided to go talk to someone other than me & my siblings about how she was feeling. We wanted to fix whatever was wrong and our hands were tied, we were helpless. We slept together as mother and daughter and would lie in the bed at night and talk about her fears. She knew I was scared but I never told her so. I only wanted to comfort her for she was my world. My heart aches and shatters a little more as each day passes.
Talking to “Missy” helped her put a lot of things in perspective. She began reading about her condition and one day she asked me “did you know I had Stage IV cancer?” I said yes, “well why didn’t you tell me?” Mommy we did but at the time you did not want to accept what was happening to you. “Oh”
The cancer robbed mommy of a lot of things. She was a beautiful woman and had great legs. She began feel she was ugly and wearing “C” as a scarlet letter on her forehead. “Why are people looking at me like that?” “Do I look sick?” No, mommy, you look just fine people are not staring at you. This went on for months. She began to lose her balance and could no longer wear high heel shoes. Oh, how she loved her high heels and looked fabulous in them. You see, she had nice shapely legs and wore her dresses right below or at the knee to show her legs. That’s the woman I remember. She felt like an old lady in low heeled shoes and didn’t feel the same anymore.
She went home for a few months and then we were dealt another blow. December 3, 2009, we received news that the cancer had returned, this time on her liver. The process begins again but for a shorter period of time. They ask “Ms. Jessie, is it still your wish not to be resuscitated should something happen to you?” Yes, she replies. This is the day my heart begins to shatter and they give me the DNR sheet that I need to keep with me at all times. I knew right then the prognosis was not good. Mommy had always said “do not hook me up to any machines or do anything to prolong my life that I can’t do on my own. “ We honored her wishes until the end.
In the hospital again, December 26, 2009-Jan. 2, 2010 we bring in New Years together at Western Wake Hospital. We are happy to see a new year, and praying that it will be uneventful. Depression really sets in. She is to begin another round of chemo treatment. Upon arriving for treatment mommy has a meltdown and decides she cannot do this again. Her doctor recommends she take some time and call them if she wants to proceed. Maybe it’s too soon after being discharged from the hospital. Another visit with Missy helps her to think through her options and mommy decides to fight to the end and see where God leads her. She was a woman of strong faith and this is what sustained her to the end.
I failed to mention that with the guidance and support of her wonderful doctors we were able to make great decisions concerning mommy’s health. She relied on us to help her think through everything but ultimately we left the final choices up to her.
Another round of chemo with no success. The cancer has grown on the liver but the good news is it hasn’t moved to any other parts of the body. THE GOOD NEWS, what does that mean? It’s grown….there is NO GOOD NEWS. I suck it up because mommy has resolved that she is at peace with this now so I guess I need to get my butt into gear. Next round of chemo treatments scheduled for March 3-4.
On Saturday, Feb. 27, mommy, Phyl (my younger sister), Dominique (my niece) and I went to breakfast. Mommy had mentioned the night before “we should start going to breakfast on Saturday mornings.” I am so thankful that we did because this was the last meal mommy would have with us. She was in a very good mood that day and ate ALL of her food. We were planning to do a little shopping afterwards which is unusual for mommy but I was just happy that she felt good enough to do so. Upon walking to the car I noticed she was walking strangely and noticed her face….oh my god she is having a stroke. Trying not to alarm her, my sister and niece and I quietly tell mommy we are going to the hospital something is going on with you. She is still in her right mind and replies “I don’t want to go”… mommy you have no choice. By the time we get to the car her face has begun twisting and her speech is slurring. We are close to the hospital and I don’t have time to call 911 and wait so I decide to take her myself.
Upon arriving they immediately rushed her in and began treating mommy. Due to the cancer they could not relieve the clot on her brain because it would cause other complications. Her stroke affected her left side which made it difficult for her to speak. She had difficulty swallowing. She would talk to us when she had the strength and then Wednesday night she STOPPED. I think she became frustrated because she could not get her words together. She could hear us and would open her eyes periodically so we continued to talk to her and kept laughter going in the room no matter how much we were hurting. I kept my usual vigil of staying with her at nights. I didn’t want her to be alone just in case she woke up and wanted to talk. We all stayed by her bedside day and night weeping, laughing and praying.
All her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren surround her with love and laughter on Saturday, March 6. Oh what a wonder sight when she opened her eyes unable to speak but just seeing her eyes open was enough for us. The love was palpable.
On Monday, March 8 at 3:15 pm, Phyl called screaming in the phone and I knew mommy was gone. I went home for a little while and feel I abandoned mommy. I know it wasn’t meant for me to be there. Phyl says she opened her eyes with tears streaming down her face and then was gone.
I’ve been grieving silently since November 13, 2008 waiting for the other shoe to drop and now the pain is REAL. We all have her love and strength to sustain us. She instilled in us to “Do What’s Right” and to trust and believe in God and he will bring us through this sorrow and pain. The grief will become more bearable in the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years to come. The circle of love we have made and the grace of God will heal and get us all through.