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My mom was the strongest woman I ever knew.

She got through the illness and death of her mother when she was young, and became the surrogate mother for her siblings and the housekeeper for her father.

She got through moving with a one year old and her husband, my dad, 3,000 miles away from family and friends and everyone else she knew.

She got through the open heart surgery of her husband, my dad.

She got through the colon cancer scare and colostomy surgery of her husband, my dad.

She got through the cancer and death of her husband, my dad.

She got through the disability and dialysis and death of her son-in-law, my husband.

There was only one thing she was, I believe, scared of :
           Going to the doctor for her own medical care.


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Please, don't let that fear, don't let embarrassment or don't let the knowledge that they might something bad keep you from getting the medical care you need.

On October 3rd, I got an out of the blue text from Mom, saying, “Sorry, I can't do it after all, I've just been to the doctor and he's sending me to emergency.”

You need some background: I moved from Vancouver, where I had lived most of my life, to Ottawa on September 2nd of 2010. My mother remained in Vancouver, living with my brother and my nephew. Because of my severe hearing loss, I am not able to use a regular phone, so we communicated since I left Vancouver almost exclusively via text, with an occasional email if something was long. It was great, because it didn't matter where either of us were, and we always knew exactly what we were saying. Up until that text, Mom had not said anything about being sick, except a couple of weeks before she had mentioned a cold. Mom had not been to a doctor for anything to do with her own health in over twenty years, so my heart filled with fear.

At first, I figured she had allowed the cold to get too bad, and it had turned to pneumonia (Mom was on her way to her 72nd birthday.) or pleurocy (sp?) , because in the past that had happened. But then they admitted her and kept doing tests, so it seemed to be something else, something more serious. At the end of the week, she sent me a text which included the information that they had done a biopsy. She still had not said anything about it possibly being some form of cancer.

The next day she texted not to panic but she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which she said was highly treatable, and that she would be having chemotherapy and surgery. I asked her if she wanted me to come and she said she would love to have me there but she understood that I couldn't be. All my life, my mom has been my best friend; of course I made plans to surprise her by flying in. I am so grateful and honoured and humbled that Kossacks are among those who made it possible. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Then, as the plans were coming together, Mom texted me and said everything had changed, that she needed me right away. I knew what this meant, although not the specifics, because the only time she has behaved in such a fashion was when they came to tell me and my husband that Dad's cancer was terminal, and I knew she wouldn't tell my brother without telling me, or me without my brother. I flew to be with her as soon as humanly possible.

When I got to be with her, she told me and my brother that the diagnosis has changed, that she had either uterine and/or cervical cancer, they weren't sure which, and that it was non-operable. She was going to have the chemo, but only for pain management and symptom control.

For two and a half months, she celebrated and was celebrated. She had thousands of messages, over two hundred visitors, and a magnificent 72nd birthday party. Friends and loved ones flew in from California and Tokyo even. The final week, she could still here, and still respond, but she could no longer speak. The Friday was the eight year anniversary of my dad's death, and one of her heart sons flew in from California. When she heard his voice, her eyebrows almost went through the ceiling.

The next day, her beloved granddaughter arrived, with the great granddaughters she had never met. After they spent some time, and we took four generation photographs, we held her hand and sat around
her bed and told her to go with Dad, who she had missed with everything she was since his death. We told her we would be okay. We say songs, slow and powerful songs. After two hours, she allowed Dad to take her hand and they went off to see their new home together.

There were only TWO things she said she regretted in her life:
One was not going to Woodstock, because we were living within driving distance at the time,
and the Second was not going to the doctor to check out her symptoms earlier.

What were those symptoms?
1) She had been having trouble breathing, and she was having to stop to catch her breath on the walk to the bus stop a block and half from her house. That was unusual.
2) She had not been able to keep food down. She had been eating smaller and smaller amounts, and what she was eating was coming right back up again.
3) She was coughing a lot.

Those were the most important ones, the ones that should have been enough to get them checked out.

On Sunday, I will go into the symptoms of ovarian, uterine and cervical cancer, and other details.

Please, again, get the checks you know you should be having, and if you don't know which checks those are, please ask; your life may depend on it.

Originally posted to KosAbility on Wed May 23, 2012 at 04:14 PM PDT.

Also republished by CareGiving Kos.

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