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Friday, May 27, 2011

"Why I am walking week" - Day 6 - My mother, the survivor

As most of you know, one of my reasons for walking is for my Mom.  She is a 7 year breast cancer survivor.  Yay Mom!!!  At the time she was going through this, I was not a super daughter, and not the most supportive to my eternal regret.  My mother was very private about her ordeal and really never complained about all she had to go through.  So I left it at that and pretty much stuck my head in the sand and left it there for quite a while.  I didn’t do it because I didn’t care (I love my Mom dearly and always have), just that it was hard for me to deal with, and at that time in my life I was not “grown up” enough to deal with hard things I guess…  I am ashamed of being so selfish as to not reach out to the woman who loved me and cared for me from birth, but as we all know we can’t go back and change the past, we can only go forward.  So that is one of my reasons for walking now.  I love you Mom, I am so sorry for not seeming to care about what you were going through.  But I am doing all I can to make up for it, including this blog and walking 60 miles yet again. 

Now I’ve asked my Mom to tell me all the things I didn’t know she was going through years ago.  I needed to know what I missed.  I learned that my Mom is even more amazing than I already knew…

My wonderful Dad and Mom
My Mom’s cancer was actually discovered (though not yet diagnosed) in August of 2003.  It was right before my parent’s semi - annual trip to Germany (my Mom was born and grew up in Germany, and all of her family still lives there), at her mammogram.  Her doctor called her and told her she needed to get another one done because of something abnormal, but she told the doctor that she was about to go to Germany and was told to enjoy her trip and get a repeat mammogram when she returned the next month.  And she told me she was able to put it completely out of her mind and totally enjoy her trip, not concerned at all. 

When she returned and received her 2nd mammogram, the doctor told her she had found a calcification and at the end of September the surgeon performed a needle biopsy and found that it was cancer.  After testing she was told it was caused by the HER 2 gene, which while luckily for me and my family is not a hereditary gene, can be a very aggressive form of cancer. 

At the end of October her surgeon performed an extended surgery to remove the cancer.  But it turned out that the surgery wasn’t a total success, in that the doctors could not get a “clean margin.”  So on Nov. 19th, 2003, my Mom went through her surgery to remove her breast.  This surgery was considered a success, in that they now had their clean margin.  They also removed some lymph nodes, and thank God found no sign of the cancer there.  She told me that she did all that the doctors had told her to do after her surgery, and it wasn’t too hard on her.  See, didn’t I tell you she was amazing?

My mom with her youngest grandson   
My Mom’s doctors told her that because of the clean margins, she did not need any radiation treatments, but they were recommending chemotherapy for her.  She told me that this was what she didn’t want the most.  This was the thing that she fought against.  She told me that with surgery she wanted it because she wanted the cancer out of her; to be gone.  But chemo…  My brother called her at this time and I am really grateful that he did not have his head up his…  I mean in the sand like I did, but came through for my Mom.  He told her that he knew someone with the same type of cancer and since they didn’t catch it all it spread to the lymph nodes…  So she went with the doctors recommendations, and decided to do the chemo treatments as soon as she was recovered from her more invasive surgery.

In Jan. 2004 the doctor’s did what they call a mirror biopsy to check the other breast, and luckily it came out fine.  They also did a CT scan, and MRI, and a MUGA test (a heart test).  The CT scan showed 2 cysts on her liver, so they then had to do an ultrasound.  The ultrasound showed that the cysts were not cancerous.  Whew!  And would you believe my mother is probably the only living soul that actually didn’t mind and almost liked the MRI?!?!  LOL!  She told me it reminded her of (for all you trekkies out there like my Mom and I) the “Jeffrey tubes” on the original Star Trek show!   So with all her tests giving a green light, they surgically put in a port for my mother to be able to start her chemo.

As for how she felt about all this…  She told me that she didn’t stop and think about it much in the beginning, just went with whatever came next and didn’t feel much about it.  “It’s just a part of me, so I dealt with it,” she said.   She just did what she had to do to get well again.  But the chemo was something she really didn’t want, so that made it harder for her.  She told me that she thought about all the kids who go through cancer and are so inspiring and “If they could do it, who am I to complain??” 

My mom swinging with her granddaughter
So in Feb 2004, my Mom started chemotherapy.  She had 3 sessions, 21 days apart.  She told me that the first time, she had to grip the arms of the chair to keep herself from jumping up and running out of there, but she managed to sit still and do it.  And since her treatments were in the morning and she didn’t start to feel sick till a few hours after her treatments were over, my Dad would go out and pick up something light for her to eat from Bob Evans, before the nausea would rear its ugly head.  She said she didn’t have any stories of suffering for me (like I would want that!?!?!).  Besides the nausea, was she was extremely tired like most people that go through chemo, but unlike most… she couldn’t sleep.  Ugh!  We all know how awful that is; I can’t imagine how bad it must be when you are exhausted chemo patient!  She did lose quite a bit of weight that is still off to this day from not being able to eat; she said “eating became a chore, I had to eat and I forced myself to but didn’t want to.”  And she did lose her hair, and her eyelashes (which still have not grown back sadly to this day!).  But since it was in Feb. through early spring, almost no one knew that my Mom was going through all of this.  She wasn’t spending time outside in the winter, and didn’t have too many places to go.  So it wasn’t till summer when a neighbor saw her in her wig (the wig that I have now and got the same compliments on!) and told her that she liked her new hairdo that she actually told someone.  That thought of her going through this so alone brings me to tears…

Well she had her last chemo treatment on April 8th, 2004, and is now a 7 year survivor!!!  Woohoo Mom!!!  For the first 5 years she needed a mammogram, bloodwork, and a yearly oncologist appointment.  Now it’s just a visit and a mammogram!  Hopefully, that’s all she will ever need to visit an oncologist for!  She told me it changed her eating habits for good (that and her stomach issues, but that’s a whole different blog!! LOL!), and she eats less carbs and more veggies.  I am proud of my courageous Mom.  I love you Mom.  One more time I’m so sorry, even though we were so far apart I should have been there for you.  I can’t go back to change it now, but I will do my best to make it up to you.  And I CAN and WILL walk 60 miles again for you!

This is why I walk.  

Me with the for my mother flag on the 3 day event!

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