My mom hadn’t been feeling well since the end of October 2019. We all went out for Thanksgiving dinner as she wasn’t up to making her usual feast. That was good with us. We’ve gone from a large family just down to her, dad, my daughter and me. During dinner she seemed a little spacey. Unusual for her, but we put it down to her not feeling well. By mid November she was having coughing and on and off fevers. She also was only eating intermittently, and only a bite or two when she did. She was adamant that she didn’t want to see the doctor, at least not until she felt well enough to shower. Around this time I had a horrible dream. I dreamt I was little, back at elementary school, and had lost my mommy. I’d gone looking and crying for her in dark halls and couldn’t find her anywhere. Switch scene to something terrible going on in my adult life, and the mom I’d always had to support me when things went wrong, was gone. I was panicked, and alone. I woke crying. I went and crawled in with my daughter, still crying, and told her about my dream. Later that day we drove to my parents (5 min away) and I told my mom about the dream. I, who don’t usually cry, was a wreck as I told her about the dream. She told me it was just a dream. “See, I’m here. I’m not going anywhere”, she tried to reassure me. I made her promise to call her doctor on the Monday to make an appointment. On the Monday she called to tell me she would be seeing her doctor on the Tuesday. I told her I wanted to come (to make sure she went was the part I didn’t say). On Tuesday her doctor spoke with her and didn’t seem too concerned until she listened to mom’s lungs. She then said she wanted xrays done. Once mom, dad, and I were back in the car, mom said to take her straight home as she was very tired. Instead I drove her to the X-ray lab. Both dad and I knew we wouldn’t get her back out again without a fight. Xrays accomplished, I drove my parents home. About an hour later dad called to say the doctor had called. Mom had pneumonia and he was to go right away to pick up antibiotics. He did. Whew! Mom was finally getting treatment. All would be ok. I had bought my parents a new foam mattress for Christmas, largely as the one they had was spring and very old. Mom suffered from extensive arthritis, as do I, and I’d hoped it would help her. I have one and it helps immensely. On Wednesday night I gave it to them early and helped dad set it up. I wanted her to be in the least discomfort due to the new pneumonia likely aggravating her arthritis. Thursday morning she said she loved sleeping on it! My dad brought me to a town 45 min away for my weekly nerve block treatments. Afterward, he dropped me home and headed straight home. He told me not to call mom to say he was on the way in case she was resting. 30 minutes later he called and told me to come. Mom had fallen after getting out of bed and he couldn’t help her up. She was conscious but said she’d been on the floor since shortly after he left in the morning. Her legs just didn’t have the strength to get her up. On the way over I called 911 to have an ambulance meet us there. The paramedics were great. Mom was in ok spirits, but her oxygen levels were low. We talked her into going to hospital to get checked out. She was 75 and pneumonia itself can be a killer. I did not want to lose my mommy. They took their own xrays at the hospital and confirmed pneumonia. They admitted her Thursday. Come Monday they asked dad if they could do a lung biopsy as they thought they saw something else, but that it could be related to pneumonia. He agreed but was told results could take a couple of weeks. They continued to treat mom aggressively for pneumonia. On Wednesday evening we were called back to the hospital for a meeting with mom’s doctors. Mom, dad, and I were told that she had extensive small cell lung cancer. Without treatment we would have her maybe 2 months. With, maybe 6 months to a year, provided she responded to chemo. They walked her thru the process. Mom was undecided as to go thru with it. My younger brother died 3 years ago after a long battle with lymphoma. She saw what Chemo did to him and was scared. Thursday morning I begged her to try, at least the first round. I didn’t want to lose her. I said I wouldn’t fight if after first round it made her too sick, but please, fight just for me. She advised the doctors she would try. The following Friday was my 54th birthday. I told her we would bring cake. She said she was looking forward to it. When dad and I arrived Friday morning, mom was out of it. She was shaking almost like a seizure, but doctors told us not to worry, she wasn’t in pain. ( How would they know). They said she did not respond well to the first dose and could no longer continue. They moved mom to palliative care, giving her meds to keep her pain free, the seizure type thing stopped. I opted to stay with her all day and night, I wanted to spend my birthday with my mommy, and had my daughter drive my dad home. He seemed so lost and tired. Around 10pm things started to change. Her breathing became laboured, and despite an NDR, I made them put an oxygen mask on her and give her more pain meds. I sat with her. Holding her hand and watched one of her favourite shows on my iPad, hoping she could hear. I talked about my favourite childhood memory. How I loved laying on her hip as we watched TV, her playing with my hair. I talked about many other things. At 10:30 she gasped and I said, “Mommy, you ok? Can you hear me?” She jerked her head again. Then stopped breathing. I jumped up, pulling her into my arms, shaking her, calling, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy....” Her nurse came in and put a hand on me and said, “she’s gone”. She put her scope to mom’s chest, listened, looked at me, and shook her head. That was it. I had lost in that instant my whole feeling of security. Lonelier than I’d ever felt in my life. My mom died while I held her, calling for her.....on my birthday. I will never celebrate my birthday again. Ever. Now, just over 2 weeks later, its Christmas. I’m going thru the motions for my daughter and my dads sake. I’ll be making them a Christmas dinner, though not near as good as my momma would have. She did Christmas so well, so big! Im still in shock at how it went from being pneumonia, being treated so yeah! She would get better, come home and all would be well. To having cancer then dead two days later. I’m not coping well. Not at all. I’m hiding most of my grief to help my family. But I fall apart as soon as I’m alone. I’ll never hear my mom tell me she loves me again. I’ll never be able to confide and be consoled by her again. She was the one person to always have my back, be on my side, no matter what, and now she’s gone.... I’m glad it wasnt long drawn out. I never wanted my mom to suffer. She didn’t deserve to suffer. She had such a hard life, but always so kind to any and everyone. Yet, selfishly, I wanted that 2 months to a year if that is what it had to be. I still needed my mom. At 54, I still needed my mom, and I’m just so lost. Trying to do Christmas when every Christmas song I hear I want to rage and turn from. I’m not sure I’m going to get thru this whole. I feel so lonely....I’ve never felt so lonely and lost. Just like I did in my dream. How the hell did this happen?
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Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.