Fuck Cancer

The twelve days of cancer – part 2

Continued from The twelve days of cancer – part 1

Note: The month timeframes cited in this post are based on the date my mom passed away, April 30, 2014.

5 months ago (December)… my mom, dad, Peter, Peter’s dad, and Peter’s brother were relaxing in Hawaii. We spent a week in Hawaii split between two cities on two different islands: Honolulu, Oahu, and Koloa, Kauai. The days we spent in Koloa were the days I most enjoyed. I spent hours laying by the saltwater pool watching the feral chickens with my mom while the men did men things. The drink special of the week at our resort was $5 bloody marys. Bloody marys are my all-time favorite drink and one of only two alcoholic drinks that I can think of that my mom would drink and only on rare occasions.

I remember how much satisfaction my mom had when she beat me to “our spot” at the salt water pool and had already ordered a bloody mary by the time I arrived. Then there was the time when she drank more bloody marys in the day than I did. My mom was never a big drinker. I once asked her why she didn’t drink alcohol and she responded, “I used to but then you were born and I couldn’t handle hangovers and a baby.” Proud daughter moments!

Our group went on many adventures in Hawaii but I think it is safe to say that mom’s favorite adventure was her all-day spa session which was a surprise gift for her upcoming 60th birthday. Her spa session included a pedicure, massage, and facial, lasting five magical hours. My mom absolutely loved her spa day and took photos of the “jungle-like” open-air spa and the treatments she was getting. She took the photos below during her very posh spa day.

The most unfortunate thing about the trip to Hawaii was that we didn’t take a single family photo. The only photo that was taken of my mom, dad, and I was prior to our aerial tour (I’ve emailed the company and asked for a digital copy of the photo) which was then used by the tour company as the cover of a complimentary DVD they gave us after the tour. I believe that is the last photo of my parents together though others would have to confirm that for me.

In retrospect, my mom was probably terminally ill while we were in Hawaii. This is where things get weird and confusing and unexplainable. How could she be laying on the beach, laughing, and drinking bloody marys all day long with absolutely no sign of being ill – not even a random sniffle? I’ve reviewed every single minute I was with my mom in Hawaii, looking for clues, looking for oddities, looking for signs, looking for anything and I keep coming with nothing. Absolutely nothing. There was no sign of anything being even slightly wrong with my mom. Nothing!

Glass-half-full people (aka not me) would look at this situation and think, “That’s great! She was healthy in Hawaii and could enjoy herself.” Ah, OK but the reality is, it doesn’t matter if you are a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty person in this situation. When someone you love suddenly passes away, you look for reasons and logic and clues and signs. You ask yourself constantly if there was there something that you missed or, worse yet, noticed and then dismissed for whatever reason. Did I miss a clue or sign that, if I had acted on, could have saved my mom’s life? The answer to that question is no. There were no clues or signs and there certainly are no reasons or answers or logic behind what happened. And even though I can definitely answer that question with a resounding “no,” I can’t stop my brain from asking my brain that question.

3 months ago (January)… my mom went to urgent care complaining of sinus problems. She was diagnosed with a sinus infection and sent home with a prescription for Augmentin. She stopped taking the Augmentin after six days due to side effects and the fact that she was not feeling any better. Of course, she didn’t call me in January and say, “Hey, guess what? I’ve got a sinus infection and I’ve been prescribed Augmentin!” because that would have been a ridiculous thing to do, aside from casually maybe mentioning that she was sick. The first memory I have of knowing that my mom had not been feeling well was 17 days prior to her passing away. She told me during a FaceTime call with her at 10:28 AM CST on April 13, 2014. Up until that call, I had no idea that my mom had been feeling poorly. The other thing I didn’t know was that that FaceTime call was the last time I would see my mom as the mom I’ve always known. Everything changed the day after my call with her. Everything. Life as I knew it stopped and life didn’t start again until about three weeks later.

Also in January, my dad had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. There were complications from his surgery which required my mom to care for him and she did so with ease even though she wasn’t feeling well.

Oh, yeah, then there was that whole turning 60 years old and getting her cube decorated in tin foil thing.

2 months ago (February)… I don’t recall anything notable regarding my mom in February but as I page through the 45 multi-page medical claims that have accumulated since January, I see that she went to the doctor twice but I do not know why.

1 month ago (March)… still “feeling off,” my mom returned to urgent care and the diagnosis was the same – just a persistent sinus infection. During my FaceTime call with my mom in April, she mentioned a repetitive pattern with her “sinus infection.” She felt well for a couple of days and then sick again and the cycle kept repeating itself. It is obvious as to why she felt this way now but it wasn’t at the time.

Also in March, my mom went to her primary care physician for some gastrointestinal issues she was having that she believed to be a side effect from the Augmentin she was prescribed (and stopped taking after six days) in January. Augmentin is hardcore. There is no question there but her gastrointestinal issues were more likely cancer-related and less likely prescription drug-related. Anyway, the results of the tests came back negative for naughty bacteria and other things living in the digestive tract.

So, by the end of March, my mom had been feeling sick for about two months but not any worse than having a bad cold and a possible stomach bug. It was winter in Minnesota, colds are common and it’s common for them to last longer than they would during any other time of the year. No alarms went off because her symptoms were, seemingly, nothing serious. No one, and I mean no one, could have even imagined what was about to transpire in April.

To be continued

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