10/15/2011

Strides for Life




This week has been a blur for me, in many ways. My mother had a stroke at the beginning of the week. I live out of state from her, actually a few states over to be more precise. Consequently, I have spent a great deal of time on the telephone talking to doctors and nurses to keep abreast of her situation. Then when you throw in the relative calls on her side of the family, there adds a deeper dimension to the week, a more emotional component.

Many of you who have followed my blog know that my mother and I only reconnected a few years ago. Therefore, most members of her family have only came into my life recently, as in the last few months, some in the last few years. Funny though, some I feel I have known for a lifetime, in a good way. This past week was a reminder of how blessed I am to know and be a part of this family. I am amazed at the out pouring of these wonderful people towards my mother, who has made her share of mistakes in life and towards me, someone new to the family picture. It is a humbling experience to know that this extended family, just introduced to me recently, could already feel so connected to me quickly.


Within twenty four hours after the first stroke, my mother suffered a second one that appears to be, if not more devastating than the first, than equally so. The stroke was in the right side of her brain so the left side of her body is affected. I researched the short and long term effects of that side of the brain, after strokes, to better understand her condition. I discovered all the changes my mother is experiencing and will experience, if God continues to give her more time. And yes, I have prayed humbly that the plan for my mom allows for more days. The memories, thus far, have been few. I would like to make a few more good memories with my mother, God willing.

I was proud of myself that most of the week, I kept pretty stoic. On Friday, I let my feelings surface as the reality of losing the opportunity to ever walk somewhere with my mother hit me. To date, she cannot walk unaided. The wonderment of what her future might look like and if she could be happy with it concerns me. My mom lives life to the fullest. That has been part of her problem, part of her weakness. Yet, at times, part of the wonderment of knowing and being around my mother.

Today, I was scheduled to volunteer for an event downtown for the annual Making Strides against Breast Cancer Walk. This event is very heartfelt to me. I first learned of it when I was diagnosed with cancer in Sept. 2007. My mastectomy was scheduled for early in Oct. so I knew walking was out of the question that year. But after I saw the news coverage, post event, I vowed to have a team the following year.

Exactly one year later, while still in chemo treatment, I pushed up my sleeves and formed a team called Make Some Noise with a group of my strong supporters. This was comprised of the folks that were there for me during my long battle to get well and stay on the ‘other side’ of the dreaded disease. I walked that walk with my head held high. I felt tears sting my eyes as I walked across the bridge into the downtown area by LP Field and saw 10,000 people all walking for the same cause, a cure for breast cancer.

Now today, after a week of fielding phone calls and praying my mother would live, I found myself back at the very same place I was at in 2008, just 3 years ago. This time, I am sitting close to two very dear friends that have volunteered with me. One is a breast cancer survivor herself and married to a cancer survivor. The other friend has a mother who just recovered from breast cancer. Both are extremely dear to me and I think understand my pain and turmoil about my mother. I sit and register folks for this walk and watch others do the same. Scores of folks come and go, families, young and old just to take a stand for cancer, just to let it be known they care about life.

I think about my mother a lot during the time I am sitting there. I reflected on my own journey, on how each donor dollar that was given to this event, prior to me being diagnosed, helped fund the drugs that were discovered that cured me. I again feel humbled and blessed. This feels good, unlike many of the emotions I have felt this past week. I watch someone full of life having fun with others there, possibly looking for a new soul mate. Yes, he is full of life and seems void of any sense of the pain and mixed emotions I feel. I am somewhat envious of the new promise he finds in anther's eyes and wonder if the following year they will be here together. But I see others wearing shirts to commemorate their mothers, their wives, their friends that have passed away from breast cancer and I am touched by their dedication. I then feel the warmth of happiness inside my soul that I have found meaning in my life also. It took me getting cancer and surviving it, but after that battle, I found the person that gave me my life, I found my mom.


I walk away from today, from the Making Strides against Breast Cancer, a survivor but a great deal more than that. I walk away a proud daughter of a woman in Michigan fighting to survive a stroke. I walk away as a girl who found her mom. I am also a grandmother who found compassion in her heart to forgive her true mother for not being all the things we have come to expect from a maternal mother in our lives. Yes, I walk away from the event feeling whole and better than before I got there, just like I did in 2008. Funny how this one event, since 2007, has impacted my life so much.


To commemorate this day, I arranged to have my mother, who is finally sitting up, alert, in bed talk to her husband. He, Wade, is a long past stroke victim and fighting Stage 4 cancer himself with a trachea and feeding tube in him from a traumatic surgery months ago. I call my mother's nurse in Michigan and tell her my plan. I then speak to my mother, who is beside herself with worry, heart ache, head pain and missing her husband. I ask Mom if she would like a little surprise. I tell her to hang up the phone and wait a minute and then pick it back up when it rings. I tell her to promise me to pick it up and someone who wants to talk to her will be on the phone. She understands and says she will but it is clear she thinks it is me that is calling back. I let her think that.


I then call Wade and practically yell at him to get a pen quickly. He is hard of hearing and moves slowly. Apparently he has trouble finding one and is telling me so, as I am saying hurriedly, please Wade, go faster! He is probably looking at the receiver thinking I am as demanding as my mother can be! Apparently he locates one and starts writing the numbers down, each one, as I shout each one out to be certain he hears it. We go through this routine several times before he gets it right. In fact, I am not at all sure he has it correct. With his titanium tongue, his speech is extremely difficult to comprehend but it sounded pretty close to the number anyways. He yells back, at one point, asking who's number am I writing? Whoops, I forgot to tell him! I tell him it is his wife, my mom, who is missing him horribly. I know Wade, he loves my mom and is sick with worry. She also was his primary care taker. He starts to choke up and I tell him there is no time for that, “She is waiting for you Wade, you have to call in just a couple minutes.” And I hang up.


I waited about fifteen minutes and called him back to ensure he got through to her. As soon as he picked up the phone, I could tell he was smiling. I could feel it coming off the receiver. I immediately said to him, “You talked to Mom right?” He was laughing when he replied that oh yes he had. He told me she cried. When he said this, he cried. My day ended with a little glimpse of heaven.
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