Stories from the Family
The Sun Shines Through
I lost my mother to pancreatic
cancer in late July 2009 after a long eight-month
battle. When she was diagnosed, she was only given
one to five months to live. I was with her from
beginning to end and I share our story and my
experience in the hope that it will help others
going through a similar situation.
Thinking back, I can still remember the
heart-wrenching sense of dread I felt upon
hearing the news:
"Cancer? I dont believe it.
I dont want to believe it... How could
this have happened? And to my own mother,
of all people?"
|Vivian with her
daughter, Steven's sister Stephanie
It was late November 2008.
I quit my job, finished my semester in college
and from then on spent my time taking care of
her. The news had clearly overwhelmed her. She
became depressed and seemed resigned to her fate.
Before, the relationship I shared with my mother
was not as close as I would have liked it to have
been, but from then on we were inseparable and
there were no secrets between us.
Like many, I had often heard
of cancer but did not know what it really was.
I scoured books and the web for all that I could
find on the disease. While her cancer was very
advanced, the more I read, the more I was convinced
that we would beat it. I shared my findings with
her as they were discovered, and soon saw that
she had developed hope and a will to fight.
December was a particularly
hard month. She grew weaker, ate less and lost
more weight by the day. The pain in her abdomen
always worsened and no medication would completely
relieve it. By the end of the month, she was nearly
bedridden. I still cant believe how quickly
her health had degenerated; I was unaware that
such a condition was even possible. She was scheduled
for chemotherapy, but not till January due to
the winter holidays. I remember this time being
extremely frustrating for us, as health care was
very slow and professional counsel was not always
By January, she was no longer
eating or drinking and could no longer endure
the ever growing pain in her abdomen, so we had
her admitted to hospital. Even that was a challenge,
as we were told upon arrival that no beds were
available. My mother was dehydrated, starved,
completely exhausted and severely depressed. She
had reached rock-bottom and was in no condition
to return home. Luckily, by the end of the day,
a bed was available. I remember thinking that
had she not been admitted on that day, a Friday,
she would not have survived the weekend and would
have died in terrible agony.
Since her diagnosis, this
was the first time she was properly taken care
of - and it showed. A suitable combination of
medication was quickly found to control her symptoms,
and with time she began eating again and growing
stronger. I lived by her side, sleeping on the
floor at night. I helped her eat, go to the washroom
and kept her spirits up. It was the least I could
do to make her life less difficult.
It was at this time that
I was introduced to meditation by a dear friend
and began attending weekly sessions. What I was
going through was extremely difficult and I was
drained both physically and emotionally. Meditation
brought true peace and happiness to my life and
helped me to help my mother further. After a session,
I would feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle the
coming week. I would also regularly talk of my
sessions with her. Although she was not very spiritually-inclined,
once she was in better shape I saw that she began
making attempts at applying its core concept,
that of living in the now, the present, to her
way of life.
Her chemotherapy sessions
began shortly after and within a month we knew
that the treatment was working. More of her strength
had returned, she had an appetite and her medication
was decreased. We began going for short walks
and by mid-March she could handle stairs. Her
doctor was amazed at her remission. She had some
very good days during this period and we spent
much of them together. By April, we began spending
time outside the hospital and she had many occasions
to enjoy the beautiful spring weather.
She was sent home shortly
after, but her abdominal pain returned after only
one week. Her chemotherapy was soon discontinued
as it was no longer working. Her health got progressively
worse, and with time, her symptoms became once
again out of control. She was readmitted to hospital.
By July, I knew that she
was nearing the end and with time I found myself
able to accept it. The last week was the hardest.
Even though she was extremely weak, we had a chance
to share a few last precious moments and heart-felt
dialogues. Her only concern was for my sister
and me. Her only request was that we take care
of each other, that we remain safe and that we
be happy. She repeated this to me many times till
her last day. The night of July 19th was her last
and I spent it sitting on her bed by her side,
my arm around her shoulders, my head against hers.
While she seemed unconscious, I felt that she
could hear me and I whispered in her ear many
a time that she neednt worry, that we would
be safe, that we would be happy. I told her again
and again that she could go whenever she felt
ready, that she neednt stay for anyone,
that everything would be fine. She stopped breathing
shortly after midnight and I knew that she had
truly left in peace.
After she had passed away,
I wondered if it would have made a difference
had she lost hope from the start and died early
instead of having chosen to fight for those many
long months. I resolved that it would have. Yes,
she had suffered, greatly at times, and yes, the
whole ordeal had required much of her. But the
time we had shared together was priceless, for
both of us, and had given us a chance to grow
closer than we had ever thought possible. In a
way, I feel that we were blessed. Whats
more, only during her last week did she reveal
to me that she was ready to die. Before that,
I feel that I would not have been able to help
her go the way that I did.
I come out of this experience
with peace of mind and no regrets. I am truly
happy that my dear mothers last months were
filled with love and joy, and that in the end
she left this world in peace. She will never be
forgotten; her spirit will live on in me and through
my actions forever.
loving memory of Vivian Saba
Oct. 25, 1952 - July 20, 2009
Hoping for a Miracle,
Ready for Death
(By Dianne Stone)
We agreed to be completely
open to trusting life and whatever it would bring,
whether the miracle we hoped for, or death.
When my beloved husband, Lenny, at age 50, was
unexpectedly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,
we entered into the most challenging time of our
lives. As he used to say, it was the best of times,
it was the worst of times. It was the best of
times because with the possibility of Lenny dying,
every moment together, every day together, became
so precious. We agreed to be completely open to
trusting life and whatever it would bring, whether
the miracle we hoped for, or death.