Tonight the Stand Up 2 Cancer Telethon airs. Donations fund research for all types of cancer. A couple of months ago, I launched a “star” to honor the memory of my parents at the Stand Up 2 Cancer Web site.
My mother was diagnosed with colon cancer in the summer of 1994. She called me after a too-long postponed colonoscopy and said, “They found a mass. A mass—it’s over for me.” I assured my mother that everything would be okay. The day of my mother’s surgery, the surgeon delivered bad news as gently as he could. My mother’s cancer was advanced.
My mother took her chemo treatments robotically. I’d take her by the arm and usher her to doctor’s appointments. Overwhelmed and devastated, my mother’s spirit died the very moment the word “mass” slipped from the doctor’s lips. By early February of 1995, my mother’s outlook brightened a bit. It was a rare good day for her. However, the doctor phoned me and told me that the cancer had spread to my mother’s liver.
When I walked into my parents’ house to deliver more bad news, I found my mother sitting up on the sofa. My dad had placed a tray table before her, and he was busily preparing a meal. Dad worked frantically, racing against time and hoping that my mother’s appetite would not wane before he served much-needed nourishment to strengthen his sick wife’s shriveling frame.
A couple of weeks later, I arrived at my mother’s house, as I did daily, and discovered that she’d burned a half-dollar-sized lesion onto her back with a heating pad. The cancer’s pain was out of control. Hospice services were a godsend at this point. As difficult as it was to watch my mother suffer, it was still heartbreaking when I saw my sweet mother draw her very last breath. She died on April 4, 1995. I have missed my mother’s companionship every minute of every hour of every day since that moment.
Ten years after my mother died, my father also succumbed to colon cancer. He’d been diagnosed almost two years before. I was alone when the doctor told me that the obstructive mass in my father’s colon called for immediate surgery. My father was a stronger patient emotionally, but he knew what he faced. He rallied a bit during chemo, and we all raised our hopes.
However, when my father became deathly ill one quiet Sunday afternoon in late August of 2005, I rushed him to the hospital. Tests proved that the cancer had returned and had again grown into an obstructive mass. My father suffered a serious heart attack during surgery. At that point, his weakened heart became more of an issue than the cancer.
My father grew tired of fighting and begged to go home. His nurse took me aside and explained that my dad wanted to go home “to die peacefully.” Hospice was again a godsend. In late October, three days after I moved into my dad’s house to care for him, he passed away. My father, the man who could do anything, was gone. I miss him so very much.
I hope that someday soon research will lead to the creation of vaccines to prevent cancer. However, technology exists today to easily screen for colon cancer. Prep for the test might be unpleasant, but early detection is the key to a cure at this point. I urge everyone to contribute to cancer research—do it today.
Go to standup2cancer.org and launch a star!