As it nears my parent’s anniversaries (they both passed away in November 8 years and 6 days apart) all I can think of is how thankful I am for all that they’ve taught me and for the strong woman I’ve become.
Sometimes I’m weak and complain-y but for the most part I hold strong in my belief that my parent’s didn’t fight for their lives in vain.
They both fought through more than one battle with cancer before they died.
Because of their children.
They fought to be able to spend even just a few more years with us.
I have to remind myself not to judge others based on what they don’t know but sometimes i wish they could get a glimpse of this pain I walk around with everyday.
This hole in my heart.
Maybe they’d feel differently about their lives.
And I say a glimpse because I would never wish these losses on my worst enemy.
To do so would be a true evil.
My father was first diagnosed with melanoma when I was 10. He was in remission until his passing on November 15th, 2001. Which was shortly after his fortieth birthday on September 11th, 2001. He was diagnosed with end stage cancer one month before his passing. Imagine knowing that your best friend (my dad was everything to me) was going to die at any moment and you could do nothing to stop it. Imagine you are a senior in high school and already feeling very uncertain about your future. Imagine shattering into a million pieces when you walk back into your father’s room after being gone five minutes to find your grandmother standing in the doorway screaming “He’s gone, He’s gone” (in spanish of course).
Now imagine your mother, she’ll be 41 in a few months (January), alone in a room at Baystate Medical Center receiving radiation therapy for her left breast. She was diagnosed with breast cancer two months before your father received his terminal cancer diagnosis. Now imagine her alone receiving the news that her husband has passed away and having to face a bus ride back from Springfield to greenfield without family or friends to support her. Now imagine that you’ve been a stay-at-home mom/housewife for 16 years and your husband has been your best friend for even longer than that. Imagine being left with three girls dealing with their own sense of loss.
Now realize your battle isn’t over, 7 years later your cancer has come back and removal of the breast along with chemotherapy are your only options. You fight hard to accept this, you even tell your daughter that this is a sign. A sign that maybe your husband wants you by your side. You think maybe you shouldn’t fight it that maybe you should just let go. Imagine having three determined daughters who have lost a father already… you fight anyway. Months later your treatment is over and you’re “all clear”, again.
Five months later, you aren’t feeling very well so you go to the Emergency Room… only for them to find purely by accident that your cancer has spread to your lungs. A place that they had ruled out the year before. This is it, it’s your time now. You’re given a year to live or maybe several depending on how you respond to treatment.
Problem is, you don’t respond. Your body rejects everything and nothing works.
Now imagine me, the oldest sister taking on a bit more than I could chew. I took care of my mother for the last 9 months of her life. Had I not been sharing a room in a house with roommates I’d have moved her in with me. Instead I changed my hours at work, called her every morning to remind her to take certain meds, I called her to remind her to eat when I wasn’t there and god, when was I not there?
I gave up my life for 9 months for the woman who gave me mine. I’d have given up so much more.
I’d give up so much more now to have them both here to meet their grand-daughter.. to love her and know her as much as I do. I know that they’re here in spirit but a real hug.. a big family hug is what I’m after.
There is more to my parents story but there aren’t enough hours in a day to give you a good enough glimpse at it or how amazing my parents were despite the fact that they were dying.
I’ll tell you this, my father was a fighter to his dying breath. He was also my dad.. lecturing me on what winter coat I should buy for that year “Don’t buy something that fits just right because you’ll grow out of it before the next winter”. I did grow out of that coat dad.. I wish you’d have been there to buy it with me.
My mother, always with the jokes and smiles. When she passed away she actually had a smile on her face despite what a challenging day that was. That’s why her stone reads “siempre con una sonrisa”.. “always with a smile”.
Tonight, I can’t go to bed without my childhood ritual
Buenas Noches, Mami.
Buenas Noches, Papi.