Mom update

Posted on April 23, 2009

I am so sorry I disappeared like that. It was not intentional. Everything is just so overwhelming and I am trying to cope day to day but some things fell off the back burners behind the stove and I didn’t find them until I was cleaning for Passover.

My mom is still alive, but her health is declining rapidly. I can’t believe I left my last update the way I did. I thought I had written one more.

Here is the update to bring you all current. It is possible that from this information, some readers may think they know who I am, or may be sure of who I am. I guess I can’t do much about that anymore. My “secret” of dealing with depression and anxiety now seems so small compared to losing a parent slowly and painfully from cancer. Just don’t post anything publicly, please.

My mom saw Dr. Norton, the surgeon who specializes in pancreatic cancer, in early December. He looked at her scan and determined that the pancreatic tumor had fully encapsulated her vena cava, I think it was. He could not operate. With no surgery, the only option was chemo. But before she could start chemo, she had to be assigned to an oncologist at her primary clinic.

While all of this was going on, I met with my rabbi. He said he knew how this disease progressed, and I needed to get out there to see her one more time. And he said I needed to bring my children so they could have some happy memories of her too, and she could visit with them while she was still strong.

I was very anxious about how we were going to do that. We could not afford airfare or car rental or hotel rates. I did the only thing I could think of. I prayed. And almost out of the blue an idea came to me. I could drive. I calculated costs and it was doable. It would allow us to afford a hotel, and we wouldn’t have to rent a car. But the children and I would have to go alone. My husband could not take time off work.

I pulled the children out of school and we drove across the country to spend two weeks with my mom. I am very glad we did. We had quality time with her and the children have lots of memories, both of the visit and the trip there and back. Once this idea came to me, I planned, packed, and we left within three days. I had so many things for the children to do on the drive and they used most of them. From a parenting perspective, it was very successful.

My mom had a biopsy in mid-January to determine whether the cancer had spread. The doctors biopsied tissue that was on her abdominal wall. We all hoped that was scar tissue from her hysterectomy when she had uterine cancer 2 1/2 years ago. It was not. It was metastasized cancer. The doctors determined it had spread to her liver, kidneys, and abdominal wall.

She started chemo late January and initially it did good things for her. She felt like she had more energy and was more upbeat. But it only lasted for two treatments, and after that it started wearing her out. She continued on, hoping it would do something. But her blood tests showed the cancer was spreading and multiplying and chemo wasn’t stopping or even really slowing it.

Then she developed a blood clot in her leg and severe edema–swelling–in the same leg. When tested, they found one of her kidneys had failed. She was scheduled for a stent to try to jumpstart her kidney but then she had tachycardia and she had to be referred to a cardiologist to be cleared for the stent surgery.

She finally had the stent put in on February 12 and she continued with chemo. By Feb 18 she had to get a home helper in to assist with cooking and cleaning and laundry. On March 1, Mom qualified for Medicare, so now assistance that had previously not been covered was now available to her. She saw her oncologist who said that she could continue with chemo if she wanted, but it wasn’t really beneficial. It was up to her. She decided to do one more round (three weeks).

On March 27, Mom turned 65. It was a bittersweet birthday for all of us. It was particularly hard for me not to be able to be there with her. Already December seems like it was long ago.

At the beginning of April, Mom went on home hospice. She has a hospital bed in her living room and a wheelchair and walker to help her get around. Her pain is generally manageable. She has little appetite and has lost half her body weight and is weak and easily tired.

April 10 marked five years since my dad died. April 12 (which was also Easter) was his yahrtzeit. April 19 marked nine years since my father-in-law died. It was a very difficult Passover, knowing that I am losing my mom and I am so far away and she is not just a phone call away, the way she was before she was sick. It is selfish I know, to want more time with her, to want her to be there for me, but I accept that it is also normal.

I used to call every other day but time after time she was too tired or crying too much or otherwise not up to talking to me. My counselor suggested I call twice a week, so that is what I’m doing now. I still only get to talk to her maybe once every two weeks. The rest of the time I leave voice mail or talk to her significant other, who has been a G-d send for all of us.

I talked to her on the 19th and she said, No matter what day I die, whether it’s in weeks or months or years, I want you to remember the happy times. It’s so important to remember the good times, not the date of death. She is right but it is easier said than done. It seems she knows the end is coming.

Every day I wonder if this is the day I get a phone call saying it is time to come say goodbye. I will fly out when it comes. A friend has volunteered their frequent flier miles.

I will try much harder to do better about updating. The hardest thing, actually, is that there are no words. I cannot seem to journal my way through this the way I journaled my way through my depression in 2007. The emotions are too deep, too raw. The best I can do now is report facts.

I really appreciate all of your support.


  1. gilead@israel

    i dont know you personally and i just started to read this blog and could not stop. its a tradegy that touched my heart, and i feel very sorry for you and i want to say that words you use are perfectly express your feelings even though you dont really focus on it. maybe you need to try to write true literature… and i will wait for new updates from you..

  2. Jack Steiner

    I am terribly sorry for all this.

  3. Leora

    I am glad you had the strength to write this up. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  4. corner point

    May He grant you strength and inner peace through this all….

  5. The Rebbetzin's Husband

    I echo both of the preceding comments. Thank you for taking the time to post an update; I hope that future updates will contain better news.

  6. Scraps

    There is nothing to say…”sorry” is such an inadequate word. You and your family are in my thoughts and tefillot.

  7. the Rebbetzin

    so sorry. our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

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