My Mother's Struggles

October 20, 2012

Watching a person go through cancer treatment could easily be considered one of the hardest things for someone to do. Especially when that person is your mother. Cancer is a battle that is often times viewed upon as unbeatable, in my situation cancer was unbeatable.
When I was 3 years old, my mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which involves aggressive cells that later turn into cancer within the lining of the cervix. After finding out what was present within her body, she sought out immediate help from an oncologist. After a year and a half of chemotherapy and other treatments she was considered cancer free. This was a big relief to the rest of my family but I was not old enough to understand what was happening to my mother.
My mom went about her regular life, with her routine doctor appointments and checkups. It was only a year later when she was re-diagnosed with cancer. Everything possible within the doctors power was done. It was exactly like the first, except this time nothing worked.
A person is only able to take so much of something before it begins to physically wear them out. As for my mother, this was exactly what was happening. Due to the fact that she was no longer going to get better she decided that she would go about doing things as if she did not have any cancer cells within her. As she continued on with her life as “Normal” for the next year she was gradually starting to slow down. At this time I was old enough to realize what was happening. Unfortunately, due to my mother’s declining health a company called Hospice took over her care. It was basically an in home care system that was there to watch over my mother as she was becoming more ill and unable to walk.
Even though I was a small child, there are still parts that continue to stay vivid within my mind. I remember having conversations with my mother and aunt about me someday becoming a doctor. My mother would say comments like “When you become a doctor, will you take care of me?” I would chuckle and reply back “Your are my mom, why wouldn’t I take care of you!?” It broke my heart knowing that the “Someday” that we spoke of would not be here soon enough. So, I tried my best to make my mother feel more comfortable as she lay in her bed in tremendous pain. I knew that she would often cry, trying not to let us see her in pain. My ultimate goal was to feel more useful with the situation and help my mother. My job would be to change her urine bags after a catheter was placed, take her blood glucose, or grab her pillbox for her. All items of which were not significant but at the time it made me feel like a hero.
As I turned 6 years of age, it was time for me to start kindergarten. September became near and my mother would constantly comment that accompanying me to the first day of kindergarten was not an option. She was going to do it. She was indeed going to be able to get out of bed and attend class with me in her wheelchair. I was asked if I would be embarrassed to go to my first day of school with her in a wheelchair. Thinking back now, I would have wanted nothing more.
I still remember the first day, it was cold and rather foggy. My grandma came to pick me up to attend class with me. I was filled with excitement and nervousness as well, I could see that my mother was happy but upset that she wasn’t able to come with me on my big day. My grandma took pictures of me on the front steps before we ventured out. One of which, I still have with me to this day. At school, it was different. I recall seeing kids my age everywhere, all of which had their mothers with them, except for myself. It was a feeling of being left out.
September 28th, 1999 was a day that I will never forget as long as I breathe. I was woken up to lots of people in my house, the hospice nurses were there and they were not their normal cheery selves. I did not understand what it was that was going on until I was able to see my mother. We all knew that the day was going to come, we had been warned. It was apparent that everyone around me was crying yet trying to be strong at the same time. I was in shock. I did not cry until I was fully able to process it. As we all stood around her for a few minutes, my aunt was quick to try to make us leave the room because she did not want us to see what was going on. My father thought differently. My father was not always around for us at the time but it was important that he was there at this time. He encouraged us to know what was happening to our mother. He asked me if I wanted to go give my mother one last hug and a kiss before it was time. As I slowly walked over, unsure if what I was doing was ok, my aunt did not agree but my father still wanted me to do as I wanted. As I reached my mother’s bed, she was pale, unresponsive and was wearing an oxygen mask. I gave her one last kiss and a small hug, it was then that I began to weep. I was immediately taken into the other room where the rest of my close family sat. I was taken over to my cousin who I was closest to at the time because she was the one who had cared for us when the adults were unable to. She sat me in her lap and rocked my back and fourth as we both cried. She told us all that it was going to be okay and we would be taken care of and to try not to worry.
Later, we all come out of the room. My mother was gone. I do not remember asking or even wondering where she was. I only remember the disassembled bed. Her mattress that she had laid on for so many days was sitting up against the wall and the hospice truck outside waiting to take the remainder of her medical items.
Missing school for the next week was something that was vivid to me as well. I remember my class sent me cards and a big bag of gummy bears. All of the cards were simply stating that they were sorry to hear about my mom. They really did make a difference to me at the time. Going back to school was another story. I had a lot of counseling and was told that I had to go. I was brought into a room with a lot of toys that I was allowed to play with as I was asked how I was doing and how things at home were. It felt rather strange for someone to be asking me so many questions, although I didn’t really care at the time.
I had a best friend at school that year. Her name was Abby Gomez. She was by far one of the people that made me feel like I was a normal child. We would play on a daily basis and for some reason she had a way of making me feel so happy and young. Overall, the rest of the year I had a lot of adjusting I had to get used to.
Knowing what I do now, I feel like the experience has made me a stronger person. Not only for myself but to be able to help out others in need or others that are going through what I once went through. Today, Abby and myself are still good friends are going into the same field of study. I am going to be attending Washington State University’s Pre-Medicine program. I hope to one day fulfill my mothers dream and become a doctor. Although I wont be taking care of her as we once joked, I will be able to care for others and hopefully reunite them with their families. After all, it’s what she would have wanted.
Matthew Mendez