Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
My heart silently shouts "Come back to me," to the loved ones that I have lost.
I grabbed my cell phone on the first ring in the middle of that night. Calls in the middle of the night are never good. Right?
I had been dreading that call for days, weeks, maybe even months. I had hoped to be with Mom when she died but, in the back of my mind, I always sort of thought she might slip away quietly in the middle of the night.
Mom was a quiet, modest person who would not want to draw extra attention to herself. Mom died of breast cancer that had spread to her brain at the age of 84. As a 54-year-old breast cancer survivor of seven years myself, oddly a different type than my mother's, I felt that call on many levels as an adult only-child.
Mom has been gone for a little over two years now and I still miss her every day, but time helps. I miss my dad, too. He passed away from complications related to dementia a few years before Mom. Losing aging parents is a normal, horrible event. Yes, normal. Yes, horrible. I know that. I know with time, the heartache does very gradually get better and it never goes away. Count your time with aging parents as precious.
There is no way around the pain of losing people you love. We can't go over it. We can't go under it. We can't go around it. We go through it. My mind sometimes tries to cleverly figure out some sort of loophole in a situation where there will never be one. Come back to me. That is the cry of my heart. The fact that cancer took my mom and I am a two-time cancer survivor brings its own kind of anger and sadness. I know I am not the only one in that situation and it is difficult.
My mom chose hospice at the doctors' suggestions. I still remember what she said: "Well, let the party begin!" I was shattered and I asked why she wasn't reacting like me. She said, "Because someone I love isn't dying." What a precious response. After that, it felt like in the blink of any eye we shared a few special moments, some tears and then she was gone.
The take-away? Choose the best hospice care you can find. Remember, record and number those moments and know that there is nothing you can do to extend those times. Learn how you can work with the hospice people to offer end-of-life support.
My faith and loved ones help me through this. The passage of time helps, too. Still, my brain sometimes rants: Come back to me. We all have lost people we care about to cancer and other illnesses. There is no quick fix in this article. I just would request that you remember, even with your own cancer, to be aware that the people around you are also coping with stuff and learn the best techniques to cope with hospice situations. Be kind and gentle in your interactions with everyone. We are each precious and unique. We each have struggles. Let's try not to have them against each other.