I suspect that most of you already know, but I’ve spent most of the past two weeks unexpectedly out of town, and not for a fun reason.
Just before Christmas ten months ago, a nurse convinced my mother—who had refused to have a mammogram since her first one thirty years ago—to finally get the lump she’d been ignoring scanned. The mastectomy to remove the cancerous breast took place a few days later. A week after that, we learned that the cancer had spread to both of Mom’s lungs. Since her cancer—which we now knew was stage IV—was aggressive, she went through equally aggressive chemotherapy.
Who knew all of that would be the easy part?
Time went on; the roughest of the chemotherapy treatments were completed. Mom’s hair, fingernails, and toenails started growing back. About five weeks ago, we celebrated her second completely clear scan. We all breathed a sigh of relief knowing that we had more time, hopefully years.
A few days later, Mom started to act confused.
When she told me three weeks ago that the cancer had spread to her brain, she had already completed ten of her thirteen radiation treatments. I knew time was short, but I still thought we had it. At least a few months. I decided to spend her last Christmas with her.
Later that same night, she was hospitalized for a severe nosebleed. I won’t go into any more specifics other than to say that a few weeks after Mom’s clear scans, I found myself on an airplane to Montana with a single goal: get her out of the hospital so she could die at home.
If I’m honest, the week I spent getting her home and sharing her last days was beyond brutal. But I did find a few gifts. Someday I’ll write more about that time and the dichotomy that was my mother. For now, as I fly back to Seattle on my way home from her funeral, I mainly want to say thank you to the Whole Life Yoga teachers and teacher training students who have both helped me and had patience with me during the past two weeks. As I said at her funeral, the world permanently changed the day my mother was born. Mine permanently changed the day she died. I don’t know where any of this will lead me—yet—but I’m open to figuring it out.
To everyone reading this blog, I offer two learnings:
- Life on this earth is a loaner, and we don’t know how long we can keep it. Live today as if it will end tomorrow.
- Women, get your mammograms. I honestly don’t know if my mother’s story would have had a different ending with early detection, but at least she would have had a fighting chance. Life is too precious to waste due to embarrassment or fear. You owe yourself better than that.
To Mom: I’m sorry your life ended this way and that you never got to visit Hawaii or live in that little house in Seaside. Our relationship was never easy, for so many reasons. But I can say with absolute honesty, I loved you. You will be missed.